The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 8, 2012

Local victims of Sandy face uphill battle for federal aid

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— MIDDLEBURG - While a few Valley residents work to recover from Hurricane Sandy, at least three families displaced by Tropical Storm Lee more than a year ago continue to live in temporary housing provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Derick Shambach, director of Snyder County’s emergency management services, said he’s taking applications for federal and state assistance to help residents whose property sustained damage last week because of strong wind and power outages.

He’s not holding his breath, though.

Because the federal government has not issued a disaster declaration for Pennsylvania resulting from last week’s hurricane aftermath, no assistance is available for county or state governments, said Ruth Miller, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency deputy press secretary.

Union County EMA Director Michele Sanders said significant structural damage occurred in parts of the county, but she doubts it’s enough to garner help from the government.

“I know of one resident who has no means to repair their property,” Sanders said. “But, unless the president declares the commonwealth a disaster, there is no avenue for us to apply for assistance.”

Still, she’s preparing paperwork to support the need and encourages residents who were affected by the storm to contact officials in their municipality.

Shambach said the damage was fairly minor in Snyder County, primarily roof damage and issues stemming from a prolonged period without electricity and road closures.

More than 6,000 homes and businesses lost power for one to five days when the storm blew through the area on Oct. 30.

“I’m trying to justify (homeowners’ need for financial assistance), but I don’t think it was severe enough,” Shambach said.

Meanwhile, three of the 10 FEMA trailers provided to Snyder and Montour residents forced from flooded homes in the wake of Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011 remain occupied.

FEMA spokeswoman Josie Pritchard said the displaced residents are visited monthly to see how their search for permanent housing is going. They will be allowed to remain in FEMA housing until March, she said.