Barletta Provides Update on Status of Disaster Declaration Process
WASHINGTON – In response to today’s announcement that the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) has requested a formal assessment of damage costs related to a recent snowstorm that crippled communities across northeastern Pennsylvania, Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) provided an update on the process for obtaining a presidential disaster declaration to release federal funds to affected municipalities. Last Thursday, Barletta sent Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf a letter urging him to officially request that the president issue a major disaster declaration. PEMA today began the process of requesting a presidential disaster declaration by requesting a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA), which is jointly conducted by local, state, and federal officials. The PDA occurs prior to the governor’s request for a disaster declaration in order to determine the costs and damages caused by the snowstorm. The information collected by the PDA will be included in the governor’s request to the president.
“As a former mayor, I know how hard it is for local communities operating on fixed budgets to recover financially from massive, unexpected snowstorms,” Barletta said. “Since the storm hit, my office has been in communication with local officials across northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as representatives from the governor’s office and the president’s administration, to determine how the federal government can help municipalities recover damages.”
“By law, members of Congress cannot request that the president declare a disaster to release federal funds,” Barletta added. “That request has to come from the governor, which is why I sent Governor Wolf a letter last week urging him to do so. I am pleased that the process is moving forward with the preliminary damage assessment. My office will remain engaged with local, state, and federal officials throughout this process to ensure that we make every effort to provide our communities with much needed relief.”
Explanation of Presidential Disaster Declaration Process
In 1988, Congress passed the Stafford Act to support state and local governments and their residents in the wake of disasters. According to the Stafford Act, “All requests for a declaration by the President that a major disaster exists shall be made by the Governor of the affected State.”
Prior to the governor’s request, it is standard protocol for state, local, and federal officials to conduct a PDA to estimate the extent of the disaster and its impact on individuals and public facilities. The PDA team is comprised of personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), PEMA, county and local governments, and the U.S. Small Business Administration. PEMA sets the schedule for when the joint PDA will commence and conclude, in coordination with the availability of local officials. PEMA will work with local officials to schedule assessment meetings. At these meetings, the PDA team will evaluate the types of damage and emergency costs incurred by local governments, the impact to public utilities, individuals, and businesses, and the costs associated with the storm. This information will then be included in the governor’s request to the president for a major disaster declaration.
Barletta has requested that FEMA notify his office of requests from the Commonwealth for federal assistance. Barletta also requested that PEMA notify his office of any conference calls regarding requests for federal disaster assistance, as well as PDA meeting times between local, state, and federal officials so that a representative from his office can attend.