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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: February 26, 2013 03:46 PM
From: Senator Lisa Baker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Establishing a State Disaster Assistance Program

While many of the victims of Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and SuperStorm Sandy were eligible for federal disaster assistance, other smaller-scale emergencies have wreaked havoc upon families, businesses, and municipalities, but were ineligible for federal aid.

Knowing the costs of recovery from localized disasters can be steep, I am reintroducing a bill to establish a state disaster assistance program, similar to programs in many other states, including Florida, Virginia, California, and New York.

This legislation would help victims of flash floods, fires, tornadoes, and other natural and manmade disasters which fall below the federal threshold for aid, such as the localized floods that wiped out sections of Luzerne County two years ago. Although judged to be “small” by federal standards, these disasters overwhelmed many municipal, household, and corporate budgets. Under my bill, which was Senate Bill 1585 of last session, state assistance would be limited to grants to help repair damage to primary residences, personal property and public facilities.

Grants would be derived from $16 million in revenues from the Johnstown Flood Tax, established in 1936 with the express purpose of aiding flood victims. Unexpended funds would lapse to the General Fund.

During a September 2011 hearing by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP), the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, and others testified to the need for such a program.

Thank you for your consideration of this legislation.

Introduced as SB720