The floods that wreaked havoc on June 20-21 were bad, but maybe not bad enough to warrant FEMA’s help rebuilding, according to a metric used by the federal agency.
To qualify for FEMA assistance, the total statewide, uninsured damage from any given Pennsylvania disaster has to exceed $18.1 million.
As of Monday, it looked like the damage from June’s floods—including all regions across the state—could fall short of that figure, according to Bridgeville Borough Council President Mike Tolmer, who noted that a final decision had not yet been reached.
“We have not been given an official yes or no whether FEMA would declare a disaster,” he said. “And I’m not going to say yes or no, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to hit $18.1 million.”
FEMA measures the financial impact of a disaster using numbers gathered by county and state officials shortly after the event. Only non-insured losses count toward the total.
Some people at Monday’s Bridgeville Planning Commission meeting were concerned that they initially underestimated their losses.
Resident Mike Nixon urged Bridgeville officials to notify the FEMA now that there could be new data regarding total damages.
“It’s a lot harder after they’ve decided to get them to reconsider,” he said.
A few weeks ago, there was hope that if the damage from June 20-21 floods fell short of FEMA’s magic number, federal officials might include losses from the floods that hit Etna and Millvale less than two weeks later. However, it appears that FEMA will count those as separate events.
While FEMA assistance would certainly help Bridgeville residents, the agency’s grants tend to be limited, at best. The average payout following 2016 floods in Louisiana and Houston was approximately $5,700 per homeowner.
Bridgeville residents and businessowners impacted by the flood can still apply for low-interest loans offered by the federal Small Business Administration. Brentwood Bank is also offering small loans to victims based on credit history.
At Monday’s meeting, former mayor Pat DeBlasio Jr. asked councilmembers to approach FEMA about offering a different type of assistance—financial aid to help the borough purchase property from owners looking to leave the flood plain.