Luzerne County has already started the process to secure federal money for some Winter Storm Stella cleanup expenses.
“We want to do everything we can do to get funding for these municipalities,” said county Emergency Management Agency Director Lucille Morgan, noting many municipalities were financially stressed before the storm hit.
Morgan emailed information about the application procedures to emergency management coordinators in all 76 county municipalities Friday afternoon.
But she wanted to make clear there are no guarantees.
The statewide threshold to qualify for federal snow assistance is $18.2 million in eligible snow plowing, salting and removal expenses, including a benchmark of $1.158 million in Luzerne County, said Morgan.
Even if these monetary requirements are met, President Donald Trump ultimately decides whether or not federal funding is released, she said.
The county already met the first eligibility step of experiencing a record or near-record snowfall, she said. In addition to Luzerne, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) has identified seven other counties that will be eligible to participate if funding is granted, and more may be added, Morgan said.
She will inform municipalities as soon as PEMA schedules a webinar on identifying and documenting eligible expenses. It will likely be held at her agency’s building on Water Street in Wilkes-Barre next week. Data collection forms and formulas will be distributed at that session, she said.
The deadline to submit paperwork seeking reimbursement has not been set but is expected to be the week of March 27.
Data was not requested sooner because many municipalities “are still recovering,” she said.
Municipalities must select a 48-hour snow removal and response period for reimbursement because the federal government has lowered the previous allowance of 72 hours.
Morgan advises municipalities to select the “most expensive” time span, which may be the days after the storm when they were forced to bring in outside contractors and equipment to help remove snow.
Overtime for employees can be counted toward the threshold, but regular hours for municipal workers are not eligible, she said.
“We tried to stress before the storm for everyone to keep good records,” said Morgan.
She will reach out soon to other entities that may be eligible for reimbursement because they have different eligibility requirements, including public and parochial schools, certain nonprofits and private colleges, universities and hospitals.
In other weather-related business, Governor Tom Wolf announced Friday the Game Commission will aid Wilkes-Barre with snow removal. The agency is providing dump trucks, backhoes and snowplows operated by commission employees, a press release said.
It also said PennDOT loaders and dump trucks have been loaned to Hazleton.
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Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.