Gov. Tom Wolf reiterated his strong disagreement with the federal government’s decision not to issue a disaster declaration after heavy flooding and landslides hit western Pennsylvania this spring.
During a Thursday news conference in the South Side, Wolf confirmed he will appeal the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ruling.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he can show FEMA officials the damage in communities like Bridgeville, Bethel Park and Millvale to give them a better understanding of how badly the reimbursements are needed.
“(The rejection) didn't surprise me. There's too much going on right now,” said Jackie Geis, whose Millvale home was destroyed by a landslide that began in March.
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“I kind of, sort of, felt like, well, that's what's going to happen. That's the way everything is happening.”
Channel 11 learned Wednesday that FEMA rejected Pennyslvania's request for $22 million in aid to help pay for recovery from a series of landslides from February to April that impacted communities throughout Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.
“We've really been devastated with some of these occurrences. I don't know what FEMA was looking at,” Fitzgerald said.
Wolf echoed that sentiment while visiting the IBEW union in the South Side.
“I have appealed it. I vehemently object to them turning this down,” he said.
Wolf is hoping FEMA will reconsider its decision, but he admits what the agency will do next is an unknown.
“I think, at times, FEMA has made the right decisions. In this administration, who knows? I don't know,” he said.
It's unclear when FEMA will hear the state's appeal, but if it's rejected again, the cost would be felt acutely in western Pennsylvania.
“It's an impact the local taxpayers are going to have to bear,” Fitzgerald said.
This request for FEMA aid is unrelated to major flooding that ravaged Millvale, Sharpsburg and the South Hills over the last several weeks. County leaders are hopeful any future requests for help won't be impacted by the rejection.
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