Ida's costs could reach $95 billion. On top of COVID-19, 'it's one more painful thing.'
The declaration means residents can apply online at disasterassistance.gov for federal aid for temporary housing, home repairs, and other disaster-related expenses. It is available to people whose losses aren't covered by insurance after they fill out an application and their home damage is documented.
But the red tape required to get there still had many people distraught and desperate, wondering when help would arrive.
"We're uprooted," said Kimberly Capparella, 51, who said she and her husband had paid thousands for hotel stays and food so far for their family of five. Surging floodwaters ruined the fully furnished basement and first floor of the Norristown home they've lived in for 30 years, she said.
"I got nothing from nobody yet," Capparella, a hair stylist, said Thursday, choking up as tears welled in her eyes. "I'm hoping from FEMA."
A 'very slow' process
The storm's flooding and tornadoes hit an unusually widespread area, leaving thousands to figure out cleanup and insurance. Pockets of Montgomery and Chester Counties seemed to have the most displacement — in many cases, in lower-income neighborhoods where residents are predominantly renters.
Hundreds more who were able to stay in their homes were also facing cleanup. Repairs can be particularly tough for flood victims, said Bucks County emergency services director Audrey Kenny, because tornadoes are more likely to be covered by insurance. In Bucks, for instance, 131 of the more than 600 affected homes had major damage, though only 11 families were displaced.
"These are very personal and difficult catastrophes for people to work through," she said. "I mean, they're knocking out basements, getting rid of anything destroyed from the water and the things that are in the water, river mud. There are things that cannot be restored back to what they were, they can't be brought back."
New Jersey and New York, also hit by Ida, received disaster declarations from the White House on Monday. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, in Bridgeport on Wednesday, said he didn't know why they had gone through the process more quickly, though state Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, said he understood it was because a flyover assessment of New Jersey proved the damage.