FEMA, Water Department officials talk flooding in East Germantown

More than 50 residents packed the Waterview Recreation Center in East Germantown last Wednesday night seeking answers from the Philadelphia Water Department and FEMA about securing assistance for flood damages.

Noting that “you all live in the old water shed where the Wingohocken Creek use to run through,” PWD spokeswoman Joanne Dahne noted that flooding is an inevitability each major storm.

Some residents responded they are fed up with a perceived lack of help from the city. One said that since 1999, she and her husband have both suffered injuries requiring medical attention while trying to get their home back in order after storms flooded their home.

“The mold was so bad that it started creeping up the walls and my husband and I had to tear down our sheet rock,” Jocelyn Davis said. “I am just really tired of the runaround from the city.”

Since 2007, the area has been hit hard with three severe storm floods that created not only damages to the homes, but health concerns as well. Frustration grew last September when a woman was found dead in the back of her car due to the severe floods.

Walt McGuckin, a FEMA Flood Insurance specialist and former Germantown resident, spoke about the benefits and importance of getting homeowner’s insurance.

He noted that Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program in 1968 to help provide a means for property owners to financially protect themselves. Attendees were encouraged to apply for public and/or individual assistance programs.

The Public Assistance Program provides funding for debris removal, implementation of emergency protective measures and permanent restoration of infrastructure prior to and after a storm.

The Individual Assistance Program provides assistance for low interest diaster loans, counseling, legal aid, funding for house repairs and more.

Not everyone was pleased with this information.

Said one resident, “People have been denied FEMA assistance because they were told they make too much money.”

McGuckin reassured residents that “if you live in a flood zone, your income doesn’t matter.”

Spokesman Michael Wade, however, clarified that it is not exactly that clear-cut.

“One reason someone may or may not receive funding from FEMA is if they already have homeowner’s insurance. However, when someone is denied FEMA, they do receive a letter in the mail explaining what other benefits they may qualify for,” said Wade, who mentioned an appeals process exists.

The PWD also offers a Basement Protection Program (PDF) to assist residents with repairs from the flooding conditions in basements due to heavy rainstorms. It requires a property’s water bill to be current, or the amount owed not exceeding $75. Again, attendees weren’t pleased.

“There are a lot of stipulations with this program. If they put the repairs on your pipes and your pipes break, they are not liable for it,” Davis noted. “It was also said that in order to receive the Basement Protection Program a person must be up to date with their taxes. This is not fair because regardless whether you pay your taxes or not you still get flooded.”

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