Last updated: March 27. 2013 11:24PM - 1392 Views
By - smocarsky@civitasmedia.com

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Luzerne County will receive an additional $9.7 million in federal funding for infrastructure projects to help local communities recover from Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene.

U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey in a joint statement and U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright announced the award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday as part of a total allocation of $47 million to the areas throughout the state hit hardest by the flooding that followed the storms in the fall of 2011.

“The recovery process from Irene and Lee has been challenging, but this funding is a positive development in Pennsylvania’s effort to rebuild from the damage,” Casey, D-Scranton, said. “As Pennsylvania’s communities work hard to strengthen their economies, these resources will help ensure that the damage from the floods does not hold back their progress.”

Toomey, R-Zionsville, said flooding from the storms devastated large portions of Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania, some of which he witnessed himself. “Considering the substantial toll these storms took on Pennsylvania families, homes, schools and businesses, it is good to see the rebuilding process moving forward and people’s lives returning to normal.”

The more than $9.7 million Luzerne County will receive is a supplement to the $15.7 million the county received in 2012 for long-term disaster recovery, county Office of Community Development Director Andy Reilly said.

That funding was part of $49.2 million allocated in January 2012 for Pennsylvania counties that had disaster declarations in 2011.

Shickshinny, Jenkins Township, West Pittston, Duryea, Exeter, Exeter Township and Conyngham Township were among the riverfront municipalities inundated by flooding from Tropical Storm Lee in September. Other municipalities sustained roadway and infrastructure damage from Hurricane Irene.

Reilly said the new funds will be used primarily for housing rehabilitation, but “a good portion of it” will be allocated for infrastructure improvement projects.

Reilly said county officials are contacting municipalities to request input on which infrastructure projects should receive funding. They will compile feedback and a group of county officials will sort through the recommended projects, rank them and report back to county Manager Robert Lawton.

County Council will have final say on the awards and will likely vote on the projects this summer, Reilly said.

Cartwright, D-Moosic, said that in addition to assisting with infrastructure, the funding will help in rebuilding local businesses and assist with housing needs. “This funding is a huge shot in the arm for Luzerne County, and I look forward to working on making sure that Northeastern Pennsylvania remains in the forefront of securing federal grants.”

HUD Secretary Chris Donovan said that in the past two years, “Mother Nature really dealt a blow to these communities and we must continue to support them as they rebuild. … For its part, HUD is working closely with our state and local partners to build upon the work they’ve done to restore their housing, infrastructure and businesses.”

The grants, part of $514 million allocated among nine states nationwide, are provided through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program to support long-term disaster recovery efforts in areas with the greatest extent of unmet need.

Unaffected by the federal sequester cutbacks, the spending was authorized by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 29. It included $16 billion in CDBG Disaster Recovery funding. Eight days later, HUD announced a first round of aid totaling $5.4 billion to five states and New York City to assist in recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

HUD will announce additional allocations throughout the year based upon the level of remaining needs to help other states and local communities impacted by natural disasters in 2011-2013, according to Cartwright’s office.

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