In the News

Houlahan Explains Disaster Declarations, Damage Reports, Aid

Originally Posted in Patch. 

WEST CHESTER, PA — U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan is urging residents to report property damage from Hurricane Ida as she and other officials document the storm's wreckage for purposes of disaster declarations and recovery funding.

"Hurricane Ida swept through our community last week, leaving behind extensive damage and a long road to recovery for many caught in its path. As the sun rose Thursday morning (Sept. 2), our first responders — on little or no sleep at all — were still hard at work clearing roads and helping residents. So let me begin by thanking each and every one of them; without a doubt, their actions saved lives. I'm sending this quick update to consolidate resources for families and businesses directly impacted by the severe storms and flooding, said Houlahan (D-6th).

Houlahan said she has been asked frequently about the difference between local and federal disaster declarations. She explained there are two levels of emergency declarations: the state level, issued by the Governor, and the federal level, issued by the White House.

She said the reason it is important to get a federal emergency declaration is that it means the disaster area can tap into more resources to help schools, small businesses, and families recover.

"After the storm, I met with local police officers, firefighters, and emergency coordinators to see the damage firsthand," Houlahan said. 

"Please know I'm doing everything I can to help speed up the process to get our Commonwealth such a federal declaration, including pushing necessary data to the Governor and White House and urging them to help activate the full resources of FEMA behind our efforts. Please continue to send pictures and accounts of the storm damage to your local municipality."

Houlahan asked residents in Chester County to send photos and accounts of storm damage. A form to do that can be accessed here.

Chester County was hit hard in last week's storm as Hurricane Ida moved into the Northeastern United States. Houlahan was present Wednesay at the Resource Center for Hurrican Recovery set up in Downingtown's United Sports Training Center, 1426 Marshallton Thorndale Road. It is open Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 7 p.m.

"Some reports have areas such as Downingtown receiving more than 10 inches of rain; southern Chester County near Oxford had a tornado; numerous roads and bridges were damaged; the list goes on. As a result, our team put together some resources," Houlahan said.

Those who've had property damage should report it, she said. The damage assessment phase is still ongoing. Damage can include:

  • Individual property destruction
  • Clean-up needs
  • Public property
  • Damage to businesses and non-profits

This must be done at the local level, Houlahan explained. For an area to be eligible for a federal disaster declaration, it must meet a certain damage threshold, determined by existing federal formulas.

"So, if you haven't done so already, please contact your municipal emergency coordinator to report damage. You can do that using these links for Chester or Berks. FEMA and PEMA teams are currently deployed with these local officials to ensure accurate damage assessments are reported so that relief can be delivered as quickly as possible, Houlahan told constituents.

People in need of housing assistance should call 2-1-1 in Chester County. Many in Coatesville and other areas were out of housing and temporarily sheltered in schools, as agencies worked to find them shelter.

Remember, businesses should also report damage to municipal emergency coordinators."In the event our Commonwealth receives a federal disaster declaration, there are additional programs that offer loans to business owners in affected areas," Houlahan said. She directed businesses here for information.

PennDOT is still conducting assessments of impacted roads. This process will take some time to complete, Houlahan reported.

"We know this is a difficult time for our community. As always, we invite you to call our office or message us through our contact form about this or any other issue. It is the honor of my lifetime to serve our community in Pennsylvania. Please take care and be well," Houlahan said.