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Gov. Wolf requests Federal Disaster Assistance for January snowstorm

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Governor Tom Wolf

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf has asked for President Barack Obama to declare a major disaster in Pennsylvania, in order to provide financial assistance to municipalities in 31 counties for costs associated with the historic snowstorm that impacted the state on January 22-23.

“Our numbers so far show that municipal, county and state agencies spent more than $55 million to respond to this storm,” said Governor Wolf. “In many places, it wiped out an entire year’s budget for snow response and removal, and winter isn’t over yet.”

The Governor’s letter represents an initial request for federal assistance, and the state will be able to request reimbursement for additional counties if data shows they meet the federal snow criteria.

In order to qualify for federal public assistance, counties must meet specific criteria set by the Federal Government. These criteria include:
• a record or near-record snowfall event must occur within the county;
• the costs to the county and municipalities for snow removal operations during a continuous 48-hour period and any other costs for emergency protective measures must exceed the county per capita threshold of $3.56; and
• the total costs of all counties meeting both criteria must exceed the state threshold of $17.9 million.

In the weeks since the storm, municipal and county applicants have compiled additional data on costs associated with storm response. Eligible expenses include things such as the costs associated with paying overtime, equipment rentals, search and rescue operations, and opening and operating shelters. That financial data was then sent to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which totaled the costs and presented them to Gov. Wolf.

If the Governor’s request is approved, the counties can be reimbursed up to 75% of the costs incurred on the eligible expenses.

The counties that met both record or near record snowfall totals and county costs are: Adams, Bedford, Berks, Blair, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Mifflin, Montgomery, Northampton, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Somerset, Snyder, Westmoreland, and York.

The Governor’s request also includes Cambria, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, and Union counties, as they met their record or near record snowfall totals, but have not yet met their county costs. PEMA staff continues to gather data from those counties in an effort to provide them financial assistance should the Governor’s request be approved by the federal government.

The overall estimated total costs that are associated with this request are $55,468,967, which far exceeds the state public assistance threshold of $17,910,354.

The timetable is not known for when the President will make a decision to grant or deny disaster assistance.