Lawmakers propose renewing Pennsylvania disaster declaration for storm damage
Two Republican lawmakers introduced a resolution Wednesday that renews the statewide disaster declaration in Pennsylvania after touring neighborhoods hard hit by the remnants of Hurricane Ida earlier this month.
Reps. Shelby Labs, R-Doylestown, and Todd Stephens, R-North Wales, acknowledged it will take well beyond the initial 21-day declaration to clean up the devastated communities in the state’s southeastern corner.
“The damage to the homes, schools and businesses was so extensive it will take weeks, if not months, until everyone is whole,” Labs said. “With the governor’s emergency order set to expire, it is the Legislature’s responsibility to extend it to fully allow residents and local businesses the time to assess and apply for all the financial help they are entitled to.”
Ida dumped up to 6.5 inches of rain in some parts of the state earlier this month, triggering widespread flooding and sporadic tornadoes that killed four people in Montgomery and Bucks counties. The administration estimated collective storm damage totals $117 million so far.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed a statewide emergency declaration Aug. 31. He also secured a federal disaster declaration from President Joe Biden on Sept. 10. It provided additional funding to individuals and nonprofits in need of recovery aid.
Stephens agreed that extending the declaration, which is set to expire next week, is the only “clear” choice. In May, a majority of voters adopted constitutional amendments that limit emergency orders to 21 days, unless the General Assembly agrees to an extension.
“Pennsylvanians want and expect us to work together with the governor for the betterment of the people of Montgomery County and the Commonwealth,” Stephens said.
Stephens led the House Majority Policy Committee through the damaged neighborhoods Wednesday. Chair Martin Causer, R-Coudersport, said flooding and a tornado in the region left behind “especially severe” damage, including downed trees and buildings with entire roofs torn off.
“The damage is extensive,” Causer said.
House Resolution 139 was referred to the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, which meets again Monday.
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