$2M disaster relief program part of code under dispute by Corbett
HARRISBURG - A $2 million sum to create a state disaster relief program is in the new state fiscal code under dispute by Gov. Tom Corbett and lawmakers.
The money would carry out a top priority of Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20 - to provide state assistance to municipalities and individuals to help pay for damages to primary residences, personal property and public facilities caused by natural and man-made disasters that aren't eligible for federal disaster aid.
Baker hopes to win Senate passage this fall of her bill to create this program under the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). The measure is in the Appropriations Committee.
The impact of severe, localized floods that caused damages in Luzerne County in recent years spurred the bill. While the financial losses were substantial, they fell short of meeting the threshold criteria for federal disaster aid, Baker said.
A provision in the fiscal code complements Baker's bill by providing the $2 million under PEMA to "help repair damages to primary residences, personal property and public facilities."
State aid would only be available in a disaster area when a presidential disaster declaration is not in effect under this provision.
The governor has put a hold on spending this money by placing it in budgetary reserve, and the disaster program is being evaluated, said Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni.
When he signed the $29 billion budget last month, Corbett vetoed more than $70 million in legislative spending citing the revenue deficit and the Legislature's decision not to contribute part of its own surplus to help balance the budget. The veto includes legislative-backed earmarks in the fiscal code.
And, the governor put a number of legislative-added items like the disaster relief money in the reserve for review. The review will give time for the state to monitor monthly state revenue collections to ensure funding is available, according to the administration.
The Senate is considering legal action to challenge Corbett's actions regarding the fiscal code bill.
Municipalities need state disaster assistance because the damages from a disaster that doesn't qualify for federal aid can often amount to two or three times the annual municipal budget, Baker said.