During an afternoon press conference today at the State Capitol, senators from northeastern and central Pennsylvania unveiled details of a legislative package aimed at restoring areas severely impacted by flooding caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, according to State Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming).
Yaw joined Senator Lisa Baker (R-Wayne), Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna), Senator John Gordner (R-Montour) and Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) to announce the legislative components of the flood relief package, many of which are modeled after the 1996 Special Session addressing the severe flooding caused by the blizzard in January of that year.
“Our goal is to provide financial assistance to communities affected by flooding and provide the resources to ensure that the recovery effort will take place as quickly as possible,” said Gordner, who spearheaded the development of the flood relief package. “We've all toured our flooded communities and we have seen how hard-hit they have been by these storms.”
Yaw, who chairs the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee said, “People in my district have lost their homes, their livelihoods and sadly their lives, as a result of this catastrophic flood.” “This legislative package is a lifeline for those individuals, families, business owners and municipal governments who are in dire need of assistance. As previously scheduled, my committee will be looking at the impacts, especially on the lack of affordable housing, at our upcoming public hearing in Williamsport on October 4th.”
Among the bills announced today are measures to:
• Establish a restricted account in the State Treasury to provide additional state grant monies to individuals and families based on income eligibility and damage losses.
• Authorize $250 million for the state share of flood-related highway and bridge rehabilitation projects.
• Allow local taxing bodies to abate real estate taxes for properties substantially affected by the flood.
• Authorize a county-by-county list of highway, bridge, flood control and hazard mitigation projects that need rehabilitation.
• Give the Secretary of Education the authority to waive certain requirements for public and non-public schools that were substantially affected by the flood.
“We have a bipartisan commitment to helping our residents and local officials get back on their feet,” Senator Lisa Baker said. “There is widespread damage so we need to have a good plan in place to jumpstart our recovery effort.”
Senators John Blake and John Yudichak applauded the bipartisan effort and also pledged their assistance to the families and businesses that have been impacted by the flooding throughout their districts in northeastern Pennsylvania.