Senate Approves Bill to Establish Small Disaster Assistance Program

(HARRISBURG) – The State Senate unanimously approved legislation on Monday to establish a state-sponsored Small Disaster Assistance Program for local disaster relief, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).

Scarnati, who strongly supported the measure, explained that Senate Bill 720 would provide state grants to help local governments and municipal authorities recover from localized disasters that fall below the $17.5 million threshold for federal aid.

“While many victims of disasters such as Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and Superstorm Sandy were eligible to receive federal disaster assistance, smaller scale emergencies such as recent flash flooding have impacted our area but were not covered,” Scarnati said. “Although judged to be ‘small’ by federal standards, these disasters, such as horrific flooding, overwhelmed many municipalities and put a huge financial strain on our communities.”

Senate Bill 720 would provide grants to cover damage from flash floods, fires, tornadoes, and other natural and manmade disasters that do not qualify for federal aid.  The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) would be responsible for prioritizing projects and determining how funds are allocated.

According to Scarnati, currently more than 20 states have some sort of state disaster assistance program, which is designed to fill the constantly increasing gap between private insurance and federal aid.  Money from the program will be distributed through the municipality, borough or township that is impacted.

“Having a Pennsylvania Small Disaster Assistance Program in place is particularly important for rural areas like ours, where a flash flood or major snow storm can devastate communities and wreak havoc with a community’s budget,” Scarnati said.  “Throughout recent natural disasters it was truly encouraging to see so many individuals working together to return things to normal as quickly as possible.  My hope is that with this legislation we can help make recovery from any future disaster a little easier.”

Senate Bill 720 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT: Kate Eckhart  (717) 787-7084