HARRISBURG, Pa. -- When disaster strikes, the first response is to help individuals in distress. Emergency aid workers make sure people have shelter and food to sustain them.
Urgent public needs, such as debris removal from roads to clear the way for emergency vehicles or extra police protection to direct traffic when signal lights are out, are addressed just as quickly.
Long-term recovery takes more time, as individuals, businesses, state and local governments assess damages and losses and estimate the work that needs to be done. The most expensive and time-consuming projects can be the permanent repairs to infrastructure, which are funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Public Assistance Program, with the participation of state and local governments.
The application process is just beginning in five southeastern Pennsylvania counties made eligible for public assistance for permanent repair or replacement of facilities damaged by Hurricane Floyd in September. President Clinton declared the area a major disaster on Sept. 18.
Public Assistance funding for both emergency and permanent work is available for governments and certain nonprofit organizations - schools, utilities, health and safety operations, for example - that provide essential governmental services to the community in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. Lancaster and York counties were included for emergency assistance only.
"We're still early in the process of identifying sites and working with applicants seeking funding," said Jack Schuback, FEMA's federal coordinating officer for the Pennsylvania disaster-recovery effort.
"All of the kick-off meetings with Pennsylvania state officials and local applicants should conclude this week," Schuback said.
To date, FEMA officials have identified approximately 250 applicants eligible for Public Assistance. Among the biggest projects are needed repairs to the Pepper Middle School in Philadelphia and Chester High School in Delaware County. "Both schools suffered damages in excess of $1 million after flooding in the basement and first floor," Bob Churchman, state coordinating officer, said.
Other projects in the five-county area include water distribution and waste-water treatment plants, public transportation, roads and repairs to publicly owned recreational facilities.
"We expect approximately 1,000 projects to total around $15 million in uninsured costs," Churchman said. For approved projects in this disaster, FEMA will pay 75 percent, the state 22 percent and local entities 3 percent.
Questions about the Public Assistance Program should be directed to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency's toll-free number, 1-800-424-7362.
Public Assistance at a Glance
FEMA's Public Assistance Program provides reimbursement for costs incurred for:
- debris removal from public property
- emergency operations
- repair of damaged roads and drainage systems
- repair of public buildings and repair or replacement of contents
- repair of utilities
- repair of parks and recreation facilities
The federal government provides 75 percent of the funding, with 25 percent from the state and local governments.