HARRISBURG, September 19, 2011 – – State Sen. John P. Blake today joined a bipartisan group of state senators to announce a legislative package aimed at helping Pennsylvania residents recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
“The amount of damage caused and the number of lives affected by this catastrophe is overwhelming,” Blake said. “I knew, and my colleagues knew, that we needed to step up to try to help those families who lost so much in these recent flooding events. This package of bills will supplement the considerable amount of federal aid already making its way to flood victims and make available much-needed state assistance so that families, small businesses and entire communities within federally declared disaster areas can begin to recover. We are hopeful for swift passage of this bipartisan legislative package.”
In Blake’s 22nd legislative district, the Borough of Duryea was devastated by record flooding surpassing the levels of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. While the river has receded, the cleanup and rebuilding process is only now beginning. The destruction in Duryea was so extensive that Vice President Joe Biden visited Chittenden Street to tour the damage and speak with residents.
Blake commended Duryea Mayor Keith Moss; the PA National Guard; local Emergency Management personnel; and the hundreds of volunteers who came out to assist their neighbors in need. He also noted that due to Duryea flooding, the Lower Lackawanna Sanitary Authority, servicing 35,000 residents from six municipalities, was still without full operating power as of this morning and students from Holy Rosary School in Duryea remain at St. Mary’s School in Avoca.
The package of legislation announced at today’s news conference included bills that would:
- establish a restricted account in the State Treasury to provide additional state grant monies to individuals and families based on income eligibility and damage losses;
- authorize $250 million for the state share of flood-related highway and bridge rehabilitation projects;
- allow local taxing bodies to abate real estate taxes for properties substantially affected by the flood;
- authorize a county-by-county list of highway, bridges, flood control and hazard mitigation projects for state Capital Budget funding; and
- give the Secretary of Education the authority to waive certain requirements for public and non-public schools substantially damaged by the flood.
Blake was joined at the news conference by Senators John Yudichak (D-Plymouth Township), John Gordner (R- Berwick), Lisa Baker (R-Lehman Township) and Gene Yaw (R-Loyalsock Township).