July flood victims in Lower Bucks to share in more than $1.5M in aid

Source: Bucks County Courier Times

Two months after once-in-a-lifetime flooding damaged roughly 500 homes in Lower Bucks, state lawmakers in the most heavily affected communities have obtained more than $1.5 million to help under and uninsured residents recover.

The Neighborhood Flood Assistance Program will distribute $1.75 million in grants that do not have to be repaid to homeowners and renters impacted by the July 12 flooding, the first in a series of rare and devastating weather events to hit Bucks County this summer.

Grants ranging from $500 to $5,000 will be available to qualified homeowners and renters with priority given to addresses in the storm’s hardest hit communities of Bensalem, Bristol and Bristol Township. Priority will also be given to those who were left with homes that were deemed uninhabitable, officials said. Landlords are not eligible.

What’s next?

The Bucks County Redevelopment Authority will administer the relief program, and the first round of grants is expected to be awarded before the end of September.  The program will run until the funding is exhausted.

Applicants will need to provide proof of property damage and costs incurred that are not covered by insurance or other assistance programs. More information is available on the authority’s website, along with guidelines and how to obtain online or paper applications.

Representatives Tina Davis (D-141) of Bristol Township, Rep. John Galloway (D-140) of Falls,  and Philadelphia Reps. Michael Neilson and Michael Driscoll and Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-6) of Bensalem obtained $2 million to fund the assistance program. The money comes from the Department of Community and Economic Development through the Local Municipal Relief appropriation.

At a press conference Wednesday, the bipartisan group of lawmakers said that the flooding and aftermath will remain etched in their memories. and made them more determined to work together to find money for direct flood relief. “I know some people thought we forgot them,” Tomlinson said. “We didn’t forget them.

“While most of the money will go to Bucks County, $250,000 will be subcontracted to the Salvation Army of Philadelphia to assist homeowners in northeast Philadelphia who also had flood damage.

The grant program will be a life preserver according to flood victims who lost vehicles, belongings and even a place to live, when a thunderstorm stalled over Lower Bucks dumping 6 to 10 inches of water over four hours. Residents say recovering from the storm damage has not been easy. Most did not have flood insurance and homeowner and renter policies typically do not cover flood damage.

Many had anticipated they would receive more help from the federal government in the form of FEMA grants that do not have to be repaid. But Gov. Tom Wolf did not issue a disaster declaration for the July 12 storm since the damage to public infrastructure would not meet the state’s $19.2 million threshold to be eligible for federal disaster funding, a gateway to FEMA individual assistance grants for homeowners and renters. The only federal help made available was low-interest loans for those who qualified through the U.S. Small Business Association. Seventy-eight 78 home loan applications were received for SBA home loans totaling $3.04 million.

Bensalem resident Bob Viereck and his fiance Christina Coyne lost everything in their rented first-floor condo at Lafayette Gardens, a 66-unit complex in Bensalem that was heavily damaged after the nearby Poquessing Creek overflowed its banks. He obtained a $25,000 SBA loan to begin to replace his lost belongings, but it is costing him $7,000 in interest.  He is hoping to use grant money to pay down the interest.

“I gotta pay them for my tragedy,” he said. “They’re making money off my tragedy.” Grant money would be a godsend for Bensalem resident Jermaine Hoskins who lost his home, his vehicle and most of his belongings when his Lafayette Gardens unit flooded. Hoskins has only recently found a new place to live, but he is waiting to hear if he will qualify for assistance with upfront rent and security deposits.  He works full time while attending graduate school, but coming up with a big chunk of money is difficult when you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, he said.

“It’s difficult to stay afloat for that reason. I just got off the phone with a relative discussing my financial troubles,” he said. “When you lose everything, every, every, every thing, and what you are being communicated to is not optimistic, that just drains so much hope.”

Source: July flood victims in Lower Bucks to share in more than $1.5M in aid

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