City, County, and Federal Delegations Continue to Push for FEMA Federal Disaster Declaration

February 1, 2024

Today, Mayor Paige G. Cognetti and Scranton City Council, and Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wyoming Counties, sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to grant Governor Josh Shapiro’s appeal of a December 2023 decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deny Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wyoming Counties a major disaster declaration following serious flooding on September 9, 2023. Senator Bob Casey, Senator John Fetterman, and U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright also sent a letter to President Biden pushing for Northeastern Pennsylvania’s eligibility for a major disaster declaration.

Scranton officials emphasized how the City has steadily improved its financial standing and how the events of September 9th are likely to impede further progress. “The total Public Assistance request for Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wyoming counties is $24.85 million, of which Scranton’s damages total $7.3 million. While small dollars compared, unfortunately, to many weather-related disasters, the impact of these expenses on our fiscal situation will be burdensome,” the letter reads. “We are committed to repairing our stormwater infrastructure, having allocated nearly one-third of our American Rescue Plan funding toward stormwater from the outset of the program. In 2023, we got our credit rating upgraded, and we are tracking well to a more stable financial future. We do not want these efforts to get derailed by this storm event.”

The letter from Lackawanna County Commissioners Bill Gaughan, Matt McGloin, and Chris Chermak stressed how aging infrastructure has further exacerbated cost differentials between pre-disaster construction and replacement, writing: “FEMA is not validating additional cost to repair or replace infrastructure to current standards.” The Commissioners reinforced the City’s plea for assistance, highlighting how American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds would have to be further reallocated from capital infrastructure improvement projects to flood emergency response and recovery: “The reallocation of this funding for flood emergency response efforts will limit the amount of funding available for mitigation projects intended to prevent flooding events such as this, and the future viability of these projects would be unknown without the assistance of the ARPA funding,” says the County’s letter. 

“We have already spent approximately $2.5 million for emergency work that could not wait,” said Mayor Cognetti. “We are committed to repairing and modernizing our stormwater infrastructure, as laid out in our American Rescue Plan allocations, shown in our neighborhood stormwater projects in Keyser Valley, East Mountain, Minooka, North Scranton, and West Scranton, and highlighted by our work to form a multi-municipal stormwater authority. We will keep advocating for this Disaster Declaration and Public Assistance both for the City’s financial stability and for our ability to withstand future extreme weather events.”

Click here to view the accompanying letters.

Last modified: February 7, 2024

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