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Boback Contributes to Joint Hearing about Pennsylvania's Emergency Response Resources

HARRISBURG – Rep. Karen Boback (R-Columbia/Luzerne/Wyoming) today participated in a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness committees to examine the feasibility of establishing a state disaster assistance program.

“People in my area are really hurting from the double impact of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee,” said Boback.  “Residents who never got water in their homes were inundated during these storms, and those who did not have flood insurance have little recourse.  I am hopeful we can find a way to assist these residents; however, we must proceed with caution to ensure we do not create a program that would jeopardize our eligibility for federal disaster assistance.”

Testifiers at the hearing included:


  • Glenn Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA).
  • David Sanko, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors.
  • Ed Truitt, director of the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency.
  • Steve Bekanich, director of the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency.
  • Jeff Yates, director of public safety in Washington County.
  • Gene Dziak, director of the Wyoming County Emergency Management Agency.
  • Joseph Yudichak and Gale Conrad, supervisors in Plymouth Township, Luzerne County.
  • Frank Coughlin, vice president of Plymouth Borough Council in Luzerne County.
  • John Thomas, code enforcement officer from Plymouth Borough.


Dziak testified about the devastation in Wyoming County caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

“Because of the extensive flash flooding that occurred in these two storms, many of the creeks that flow through Wyoming County have been ravaged and made the topography more vulnerable than ever to sever flooding in the future,” said Dziak.  “Many creeks are hundreds of feet out of their banks and now flow in a completely different area.”

Bekanich thanked the Commonwealth and federal governments for the assistance provided to Luzerne County after the recent disasters.  He cited the example of a flash flooding incident that occurred in Plymouth Borough, Plymouth Township and Jackson Township, which did not qualify for federal aid, as grounds for needing a state fund. 


Cannon cautioned the committees to carefully consider the impact a state fund would have on federal aid during his statement.


“The purpose behind federal assistance is to help when a disaster is beyond the resources of a state,” said Cannon.  “If a state has a large fund committed to dealing with disasters, it might be hard for the state to argue that the situation is beyond the capability of the state or local government.  With a large disaster fund, the federal government might require those funds to be expended before giving federal disaster assistance.  Pennsylvania’s threshold for receiving federal aid is $16.5 million, which should be taken into consideration before establishing any state disaster fund.”

Sanko suggested Pennsylvania examine California’s public disaster assistance program, which stipulates that no funds for the program can be used to supplant federal funds otherwise available in the absence of state financial relief.  He proposed the idea of developing a program with no dedicated funding source so the Commonwealth could have a set of criteria ready for disaster scenarios without having a pot of money to interfere with federal disaster eligibility.

Boback, a member of the House committee and subcommittee chairman of Military and Veterans Facilities, noted that the House today designated September as Emergency Preparedness Month in the Commonwealth.  She urged Pennsylvanians to prepare in advance for disaster.  She also advised those who already experienced property damage in the recent storms to register for federal assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).


Information about disaster preparedness, FEMA assistance and Boback’s legislative priorities is available at and

State Representative Karen Boback
117th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Nicole Wamsley 

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