HARRISBURG, Pa. -- More than $1.1 million in federal funding has been approved for property acquisitions that will permanently remove flood-prone properties from harm’s way. Additional projects will be approved as the application process continues and program requirements met.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the funds were being obligated through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). Fourteen properties in one Pennsylvania County will be demolished from this program. Property owner participation in the program is voluntary with sponsorship through their local municipality.
A summary of the projects and the federal cost share follows:
- Wyoming County: $1,187,000
Tunkhannock Township, 6 properties
Tunkhannock Borough, 5 properties
Meshoppen Township, 3 properties
HMGP funding is made available to encourage states and municipalities to take steps that will reduce the impact of future disasters. The funding represents 15 percent of the total federal cost of the response and recovery. An estimated $66 million is expected to be available to Pennsylvania for the property acquisition program as a result of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
“Typically, the funding for home buyouts doesn’t become available until at least 18 months after a major disaster declaration, which in this case, would be around March 2013,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer Thomas J. McCool, “but after Irene and Lee, it was obvious many homeowners needed a permanent solution to repeated flooding as quickly as possible.”
“Getting to the point when funding is initially obligated typically takes a great deal longer than the eight months it has this time.” said Commonwealth Coordinating Office John Forr. “Buyouts involve not just the homeowners, but local, state, and federal officials as well. Everyone sensed the urgency and did their part.”
Forr said county and municipal officials involved in this effort should be commended for their timely efforts to have hazard mitigation plans approved and adopted, which helped move the process along that much faster.
An application for a buyout is prepared by local officials with input from the community. The state receives and reviews applications to ensure they meet the acquisition requirements prior to submitting them to FEMA for approval. FEMA then reviews the applications to ensure they are eligible under the program, are environmentally sound, and are a cost-effective use of funds.
Once FEMA gives its approval, the acquisition process begins. The communities purchase the homes, the buildings are removed or destroyed, and the land is cleared. The site is then preserved as open space with no permanent structures in perpetuity.
“The process saves taxpayers the continuing costs associated with repetitive flooding,” McCool said, “and it saves homeowners a lot of heartache.”
The project is funded 75 percent by FEMA, with an additional 22 percent from the Commonwealth and the balance from other non-federal sources.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.