HARRISBURG, Pa. -- State and federal disaster officials are urging Pennsylvania property owners to do whatever is necessary to make their homes and businesses safe and habitable right now, and not to wait for buyouts from the government.
"Buying up property through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) can be a long process," says Jack Schuback, the federal disaster coordinator in Pennsylvania. "Funding for this program is limited, and unfortunately, not everyone who wants a buyout will get one."
When people do rebuild, Schuback says they should rebuild better and safer. Many communities have enacted ordinances that require higher building standards for structures that are rebuilt in the floodplain.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also reminds property owners that if they receive disaster assistance to make repairs, they must use the money only for that purpose. They should also keep receipts to show how the money was spent. That can also be important if they want to be included in the buyout program at a later date.
The purpose of HGMP projects is to reduce the risk of future losses by moving people out of harm's way and returning flood-prone areas to their natural state. The program is supported by an additional fund established for each federally declared disaster. By law, that fund is limited to 15 percent of what FEMA spends on other assistance programs for that disaster.