Casey Calls for Full Federal Review of Economic Impact of Flooding from Irene and Lee

Casey: 6 Months After Historic Flooding, Progress Has Been Made but Federal Agencies Need to be Accountable

DURYEA, PA – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today called on FEMA and the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) to chart a comprehensive, coordinated roadmap to flood recovery and to conduct a full review of the economic impact the flooding had on eastern Pennsylvania.

“We’ve made progress in the past six months, but to ensure the recovery continues we need a detailed plan of action to hold the federal government accountable for getting the job done,” said Senator Casey.

In a letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Commerce Matthew Erskine, Senator Casey wrote, “As Pennsylvanians return to their homes and businesses and continue to rebuild, it is imperative that the federal government help assess the economic impacts of this devastation and develop a plan of action to help these communities fully recover.  This assessment should focus on identifying additional federal resources to further help with recovery efforts.” 

Senator Casey was joined by resident Ann Edwards and Principal Kathleen Gilmartin of nearby Holy Rosary School, which is gearing up to open for the first time since it was damaged in the flood.   

While FEMA is the primary agency in charge of helping local governments weather the storm and providing emergency funding for repairs, the EDA fills a “second responder role.” Specifically, EDA can be tasked with the following projects in the wake of a major disaster:

1. Economic Impact Assessment: EDA assists the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through a mission assignment protocol to help evaluate the economic impact of the disaster.

2. Strategic Planning: EDA offers financial resources and technical assistance to help regions to organize, develop and implement a recovery strategy following a disaster.

3. Infrastructure Development: EDA offers grant funds to build new infrastructure (e.g. business incubators, technology parks, research facilities, basic utilities such as water treatment) to retain or attract jobs to the region. NOTE: EDA cannot rebuild existing public infrastructure damaged during the disaster; that is FEMA’s responsibility.

4. Business Loans: Through EDA’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program, non–profit and governmental entities can apply to establish an RLF which in turn makes below market–rate loans to businesses to help recovery.

Senator Casey’s letter to FEMA and the EDA is below:

Administrator Craig Fugate
Federal Emergency Management Agency

Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Erskine
U.S. Department of COmmerce

Dear Administrator Fugate and Deputy Assistant Secretary Erskine,

As you know, the Commonwealth has suffered from unprecedented flood damage throughout eastern Pennsylvania.  I recognize and appreciate the important work that your agencies have done to help my home state recover from this disaster.  It is my understanding that the Economic Development Administration can assist FEMA in assessing the economic repercussions of the storms and developing a comprehensive recovery strategy.  Now that six months have passed since the storms first hit the region, this assessment and subsequent action plan is crucially needed to ensure that the region’s long term recovery needs are met. I write today to call on your agencies to work together to assess the region’s needs moving forward and develop a plan to ensure that these needs are addressed.

Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee wreaked havoc on homes, small businesses and infrastructure throughout eastern Pennsylvania.  The damages have had a detrimental impact on the Commonwealth’s fragile economy.  Despite a committed and coordinated response by federal and state agencies, we still have considerable work to do.  Too many residents are still not back in their homes and too many businesses are still struggling to get back on their feet.  Numerous roads and bridges are still damaged or closed and need immediate work to ensure Pennsylvanians can safely travel on them.  Debris that has accumulated in streams and tributaries still needs to be removed and much needed repairs to regional flood protection must be completed.  Flood forecasting and warning systems need to be upgraded and improved.  Due in part to your efforts, counties throughout eastern and central Pennsylvania have made significant progress in the months since the storms, and the federal resources have helped ease the burden facing these communities.  However, much work remains to be done and we all must stay focused on ensuring a strong recovery.  

As Pennsylvanians return to their homes and businesses and continue to rebuild, it is imperative that the federal government help assess the economic impacts of this devastation and develop a plan of action to help these communities fully recover.  This assessment should focus on identifying additional federal resources to further help with recovery efforts. 

Thank you for attention to this matter and I look forward to continue to work with you. 

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

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