President Joe Biden on Friday approved a major disaster declaration for Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia, and York Counties, allowing people across the region to apply for direct aid if they were severely impacted by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency officials estimated the storms caused more than $100 million in public infrastructure damage, far more than the $19 million threshold for public assistance from the federal government. After preliminary on-the-ground assessments of the damage in the affected counties, Gov. Tom Wolf, who toured damage in Montgomery County earlier this week, requested the federal disaster declaration on Wednesday.
Wolf, acknowledging Biden’s approval of his disaster request, said in a statement Friday night: “Pennsylvanians continue to recover from this deadly storm, which is why my administration made it a top priority to quickly seek federal assistance. I’m grateful our president has responded swiftly, and the federal government worked with state and local officials to conduct damage assessments and determined that Pennsylvanians are deserving of this critical federal aid. Pennsylvanians will now have opportunities to receive financial assistance, which will go a long way toward replacing and restoring their property.”
New Jersey and New York received federal disaster declarations Monday. PEMA officials said it took more time for them to gather data about widespread damage in the commonwealth, delaying Wolf’s request. But some affected residents and local officials had grown impatient this week for Biden to make the declaration, needing the federal aid to be unlocked.
Friday’s declaration now not only expands the areas in the region where residents can apply for direct relief for uninsured or underinsured damages, but also allows governments there to be reimbursed for storm-related repairs to public infrastructure and other response measures.
It also lets FEMA quickly open disaster recovery centers in the hardest-hit areas, something Wolf said Wednesday he expected to come soon. At the facilities, people will be able to get help applying for and checking on the status of federal aid, connecting with housing and rental resources and other agencies, and replacing important documents lost in the storm.
Residents in the counties under the declaration can apply for the federal aid at disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362. Those with homeowners, renters, or flood insurance are advised to file those claims as soon as possible, because only damages or losses not covered by insurance may be eligible for federal relief.