Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

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Following Year of Unprecedented Natural Disasters, Gillibrand Fights to Protect Investments that Help New York Communities Increase Preparedness, Reduce Costs, Damage of Disasters

Gillibrand Urges Senate Homeland Security Appropriators to Continue National Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund, Disaster Relief Fund

April 17, 2012

Washington D.C. – Following a year of disaster declarations in 41 of New York’s 62 counties, including back to back tropical storms, the Department of Homeland Security budget faces devastating cuts to funding for the National Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund, which supports efforts to reduce the cost and damage of disasters. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today is urging Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Committee leaders to protect this important funding, as well as investments in the national Disaster Relief Fund.

“New York State endured some of the very worst of last year’s epic storms – costing us farmland and crops, destroying homes, businesses, roads and bridges,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Our communities shouldn’t have to shoulder that financial burden alone, and hazard mitigation is one of the best tools we have to reduce these costs when disaster strikes. We can’t afford to lose this important investment that can go a long way in preventing big costs down the road.”

Last year, disaster declarations were issued in 48 states. 41 of New York’s 62 counties received disaster declarations from storms, flooding, blizzards, ice storms and other severe weather. Over the last 10 years, 31 different disasters have triggered Presidential declarations across New York State, costing billions of dollars in clean-up efforts to rebuild infrastructure.

  • In New York City, 11 disaster declarations have been issued in the last 10 years.
  • In Western New York, 8 disaster declarations have been issued in the last 10 years.
  • In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, 9 disaster declarations have been issued in the last 10 years.
  • In Central New York, 19 disaster declarations have been issued in the last 10 years.
  • In the Southern Tier, 24 disaster declarations have been issued in the last 10 years.
  • In the Capital Region, 23 disaster declarations have been issued in the last 10 years.
  • In the North Country, 12 disaster declarations have been issued in the last 10 years.
  • In the Hudson Valley, 22 disaster declarations have been issued in the last 10 years.
  • On Long Island, 10 disaster declarations have been issued in the last 10 years.


Hazard Mitigation Fund
The National Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund provides grant access to state, county and local governments to mitigate the potential effects of future disasters, including the protection of critical infrastructure, and flood hazard risks. Federal studies have shown that for every dollar spent on pre-disaster mitigation, three dollars in recovery costs are saved.

In January, members of Senator Gillibrand’s staff, along with FEMA officials and representatives from SUNY New Paltz organized a workshop for local town supervisors, officials and community leaders to apply and qualify for federal funding under FEMA’s five hazard mitigation programs. These federal grants, distributed through state agencies, would go toward retrofitting local roads, bridges, and buildings to minimize damage from natural disasters and protect critical infrastructure.

Senator Gillibrand’s full letter to Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Committee leaders:

Dear Chairman Landrieu and Ranking Member Coats,

I am writing request continued funding for the National Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund at a level that is consistent with previous appropriations.  This program was cut from the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request, despite the important assistance that it has provided for state and local governments across the United States.

Communities across much of my state were ravaged by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee at the end of last summer.  These storms caused severe flooding throughout the Northeast, and resulted in upwards of $1.3 billion in federal disaster assistance to New York.

As you know, the National Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund provides grants to state, counties and local governments to mitigate the potential effects of future disasters.  Pre-disaster mitigation strategies are cost-effective and vital to protecting against the loss of life and property in the event that a major disaster strikes.  This funding is used to meet a broad range of needs, including the protection of critical infrastructure, including transportation infrastructure, public buildings, and protecting against flood hazard risks.  These investments save federal dollars in the long-term, as federal studies have shown that for every dollar spent on pre-disaster mitigation, three dollars are saved in disaster recovery costs.

Continuing this important program will ensure that these communities are able to plan before a disaster strikes.  Thank you for your consideration of this request, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that our states have the resources that are necessary protect against the treat of future natural disasters.


Disaster Relief Fund

Senator Gillibrand is also working to protect investments in the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, which provides public and individual assistance to designated counties. While New York State was getting hit with back to back natural disasters in Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, the Disaster Relief Fund was depleted to less than $800 million, undercutting the nation’s effort to fund recovery relief efforts at a critical time, and forcing Congress to pass emergency disaster relief legislation, led by Senators Gillibrand and Schumer.

FEMA's individual assistance program includes a range of programs, such as home repair, temporary housing, grants for serious disaster-related needs and expenses not covered by insurance or other assistance programs.

Public assistance is federal aid made available to public and certain nonprofit entities for emergency services and the repair or replacement of public facilities damaged in a natural disaster. Qualifying municipalities and entities can use public assistance funding for debris removal and cleanup, emergency protective measures to save lives and prevent further property damage following a storm and to repair washed out and heavily damaged roads and bridges. Local governments can also utilize this source of funding to repair water control facilities including dams and levees, to repair public buildings and equipment damaged from the storm, repair utilities, and repair or restore public parks and other recreational facilities.

Senator Gillibrand’s full letter to Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Committee leaders:

Dear Chairman Landrieu and Ranking Member Coats,

I am writing to request that you include sufficient funding for the Disaster Relief Fund at or above the President’s requested amount of $6,088,296,000 as you prepare the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.  As you know, this funding is critical to ensuring that the federal government has the necessary resources to come to the aid of communities across the United States when a disaster strikes.

Nearly eight months ago, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee devastated portions of New York State, leaving many communities under water and causing damage that will require years to rebuild from.  To date, FEMA has estimated that the federal cost of rebuilding these communities in New York will top $1.3 billion.  In addition to these storms, New York currently has had 16 major disaster declarations over the past five years, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.  When Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee hit last year, the Disaster Relief Fund had less than $800 million available and was in severe jeopardy of becoming completely depleted, a situation that would have left millions of Americans without this vital assistance.

A natural disaster can strike anywhere, at any time, and no state or community is immune.  With state and local budgets stretched incredibly thin, most communities cannot absorb the devastating blow of a catastrophic event and rely on the lifeline provided by the Disaster Relief Fund.  We have a responsibility to ensure that sufficient funding exists to both rebuild from recent disasters and ensure that we can meet the immediate needs of communities, families and individuals when the next disasters strike. 

Thank you for your continued attention to this important issue, and I hope that you will give this request the highest consideration.