Officials tour flood-ravaged areas of Fayette
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials were in Fayette County on Thursday, touring areas damaged during recent flooding, according to Roy Shipley Jr., director of the Fayette County Emergency Management Agency.
“They're going out, one team doing the public assistance assessments, looking at roads, bridges, culverts, municipal roads and county roads and bridges and state roads and bridges,” Shipley said. “And we have a team going out (with representatives from) FEMA, PEMA and SBA (Small Business Administration), looking at individual assistance, going to homes we have listed that have filed (damage estimates) to document their damage.”
On Thursday afternoon, a meeting was held in Harrisburg to review the preliminary numbers from Fayette, Clearfield and Jefferson counties, according to Cory Angell, PEMA/OSFC press secretary.
“What we're seeing, at least enough have enough damage (for the SBA aid),” Angell said. “We're going to look at putting together those areas for the SBA loans.”
The approval would mean that aid would be available to those eligible in adjacent counties, too. For example, affected residents in Greene, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties would be eligible.
For SBA loans to be approved, 25 or more businesses and residences damaged must have uninsured losses of at least 40 percent. For example, if one has $10,000 in damage, then at least $4,000 must be uninsured.
Those who get the loans must prove they are able to pay them back.
Shipley said he believes there would be an effort by FEMA to combine damage from earlier events (Fayette and earlier damage from Jefferson and Clearfield counties) with those from damage suffered in the storms that struck Allegheny, Lawrence, Butler and other counties on Wednesday.
“It's not just our standpoint,” he said. “I think there is a good chance to meet the threshold(s) in trying to put them all together.
“From the get-go, it appears to be FEMA's intent to get it all together,” he continued. “They were in (Clearfield) and Jefferson yesterday (Tuesday) before they came here.”
One team conducting the public assistance reviews was going out in a Fayette County vehicle, according to Shipley. The other, doing the individual reviews, was traveling in a Fayette Area Coordinated Transportation bus.
“If we get the numbers (to reach the damage numbers necessary for federal aid), we'll have additional meetings as we go,” he said. “We'll get information out to the media.”
It's too early to know if there would be a disaster declaration, Angell said. PEMA and FEMA were collecting the damage figures to determine if the state would meet the criteria of $17.4 million for federal disaster declaration. Angell said it is very important that all people and businesses report their damage.
“We think we're going to move forward sooner than later, possibly by the close of business by tomorrow (Friday),” Angell said.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-626-3538.