The Lead

Pa. General Assembly votes to extend Wolf’s Hurricane Ida disaster declaration

By: - September 21, 2021 5:03 pm

Flooding in Bucks County on 7/12/21 (Photo via LevittownNow.com, reproduced by permission).

The Pennsylvania General Assembly extended Gov. Tom Wolf’s disaster declaration for damage from Hurricane Ida Tuesday.

The declaration was set to expire at the end of the day, but the concurrent resolution extended the state of emergency until October 27.

The Ida declaration was extended unanimously. It is the first extension approved by the General Assembly, which allowed Wolf’s COVID-19 and opioid disaster declarations to lapse earlier this year.

Gubernatorial disaster declarations can only last 21 days after voters approved two constitutional amendments, passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, that limited the governor’s emergency powers in May as a backlash to Wolf’s COVID-19 response.

In a letter to the General Assembly last week, Wolf said extending the declaration was critical so survivors could access federal financial disaster aid in six heavily impacted counties, including Philadelphia and its collar counties.

Pa. General Assembly’s disaster response faces first test with Hurricane Ida

Senate Democratic lawmakers advocated for a further extension to Nov. 29, matching a request from Wolf in his original letter. 

But Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, said that the Wolf administration had since agreed it could address the problem within the General Assembly’s proposed extension.

If the declaration needs to be extended again, Ward said, both House and Senate would be in session that week to act.

Still, Democratic lawmakers from the southeast, such as state Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, noted that the administration’s disaster response is now “at the mercy, unfortunately, of the political process.”

The storm caused $117 million in property damage in Pennsylvania, and at least four people died.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is the Capital-Star's House reporter. He previously covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter. You can reach him at 845-891-4306.

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