Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee delivered a powerful one-two punch to the six counties in my district in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
I joined Governor Corbett and other federal, state and local officials in assessing the damage. We talked to many heartbroken and newly homeless victims. Seeing homes and businesses filled with toxic water, several firehouses wiped out, and vehicles destroyed or damaged beyond repair, the magnitude of this flood was apparent.
Irene and Lee struck only weeks after Plymouth Township and Plymouth Borough in Luzerne County were heavily damaged by a flash flood in early July. The devastation was not costly enough to reach federal thresholds for disaster assistance. As a result, many victims –and the town–may be forced to absorb these uninsured losses.
For many victims who were already unemployed, under-employed, or struggling to make their mortgage payments, these disasters could not have come at a worse time. We will work in a bipartisan manner to get some help for the many struggling families who lost everything: their homes, their businesses, their irreplaceable family keepsakes, and their sense of security.
Before Hurricane Lee and Tropical Storm Lee struck, I proposed a state disaster assistance program. Federal aid programs through FEMA and the Small Business Administration may not be enough to cover uninsured losses and infrastructure damage.
The Senate and House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committees have a September 27th hearing planned to figure out the best way to structure and finance such a fund.
During this hurricane, high winds caused extensive power outages that left hundreds of people without power for a week or longer.
A joint hearing with the Senate Consumer Protection Committee will be held on October 18 to see why it took so long to restore power, and why residents had difficulty getting answers about when crews were to begin work.
A third hearing will involve a top-to-bottom review of our emergency management system, from PEMA and the regional counter-terrorism task forces, to the county haz-mat teams and municipal emergency responders. The purposes of this mission are clear: prevent disasters, protect lives, and minimize damage and losses when the worst happens.
State government will never be the ultimate insurer. But when disaster strikes, it is a core function of government to protect lives and property, restore public safety and infrastructure, and provide victims with the necessities of life when an emergency robs them of everything they need and value.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson