Flood recovery still has major impact in area
MUNCY – Although it has been seven months since one of the worst floods in history ravaged this area, many property owners are still trying to recover. Some owners remain homeless.
Those affected were able to get some financial relief from FEMA and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, but for many it wasn’t nearly enough. That is why STEP, Inc. literally stepped in with a flood recovery program to assist those who need it most according to Rachelle Abbott, Director of Planning for the organization.
“Local corporate contributors are what made this program a reality, and it is having a dramatic impact on flood survivors,” she said. The Homes In Need Flood Recovery Project in Lycoming County is funded through the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit Program, and it is administered under the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
This program offers corporate tax credits for the sponsors. “Local solicitation for contributions to the program was an overwhelming success,” she said. So far a total of nine contributors gave $283,000 with additional funding coming from the First Community Foundation. Abbott also said that the program was developed in conjunction with the Disaster Recovery Center, the Lycoming County Long Term Recovery Committee, and the County of Lycoming Hazard Mitigation Planner.
Over 40 affected property owners have tapped into these funds. The first home was on North Main Street in Muncy and is near completion, although the owner did not want to be interviewed at this time. “Five other homes are ready to go, with many others within the application and site visit stage,” said Abbott.
What the program does for the homeowner is to provide them with labor and materials to make the necessary repairs so that their homes can once again be habitable. “This program will assist flood survivors who will be able to return to their homes after necessary repairs such as mechanical, electrical, shell, or heating system repairs have been completed,” Abbott explained. “Flood survivors who have not received sufficient financial assistance from FEMA, their insurance company, or other agencies to make the necessary repairs will be given priority.”
She assured that STEP is working closely with other government agencies so that there will be no duplication of efforts.
The new program is structured to use the resources under STEP, Inc. which involves pairing an experienced Housing and Building Initiatives residential crew with STEP’s Youth Build crew that is part of the Pennsylvania Workforce Development program. The crews install essential heating, electrical, plumbing and other basic repairs necessary for occupying the home. Afterwards a site visit meeting necessary standards certifies the homeowner to return.
Another program working with STEP, Inc., is the Affordable Housing Gap Funding Program. It provides the gap funding necessary to access temporary housing in Lycoming County, such as a hotel or apartment, until the rehabilitation work is finished. “This program coincides with FEMA’s time frame for temporary housing assistance, which is two months with an option of extension for a maximum of 18 months after displacement,” replied Abbott.
Applications are still being taken, and to receive one for any of these programs, contact Joe Campagna at 570-601-9509, or for more information visit STEP, Inc.’s website at www.stepcorp.org.
Corporate sponsors for the Homes In Need Recovery Project are Blaise Alexander, Infinity, M&T Bank, Beiter’s, Sims Agency, Larson Design Group, Woodlands Bank, Keystone Group.