BOSTON — State Sen. Jo Comerford and state Rep. Natalie Blais have filed and launched new legislation, titled “An Act Creating a State Disaster Relief Fund for Emergency Management.”
“It rained in July and August across the Commonwealth,” Comerford said. “This bill creates the first-ever emergency disaster-relief program in Massachusetts. We are all wrestling with the reality that Massachusetts is one of a few states that does not have a framework in place to respond to disasters in our municipalities. I am grateful to Representative Blais for her partnership in finding a way to support our communities as they recover financially from emergency disasters.”
Blais added that “natural disasters can happen anywhere, whether you’re a small community or a large city. We have felt the devastation of our constituents and our partners in municipal government as they worked tirelessly to repair and rebuild their communities. I am proud to partner with Senator Comerford, as well as colleagues and municipal officials from around the Commonwealth, on this legislation.”
The launch event also highlighted communities across the Commonwealth that were impacted by disasters in recent years.
“In July, we had rainstorms here in excess of six inches per hour,” Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra said. “These days were extremely stressful and, frankly, frightening, as we sleeplessly watched our very old and insufficient infrastructure strain to hold. We are still dealing with the impact of what happened during that time.”
Carolyn Shores Ness, chair of the Deerfield Selectboard, noted that, “geographically, Deerfield is at the bottom of a bowl. We have been historically and will be at risk for flooding, despite our best efforts to prepare for these events. Communities across the Commonwealth are being devastated fiscally and overwhelmed by these gap storm events that are occurring.”
Linda Dunlavy, executive director of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, added that, “when you have eight to nine inches of rain in less than an hour, it causes damage that cannot be entirely predicted or prevented with good planning and preparation. So this bill is so critical to help our municipalities after an emergency, so they can get back on their feet and begin to recover emotionally, physically, and financially.”