Press Release

Following New York State’s Major Disaster Declaration, Schumer, Gillibrand Urge President Trump To Approve Widespread Disaster Assistance

Mar 23, 2020

Today, Democratic Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urged the Trump Administration to approve all disaster assistance requested by New York State. The state received the nation’s first Major Disaster Declaration (MDD) granted in response to COVID-19. Yet despite the declaration, Public Assistance and Individual Assistance remain under review by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In a letter sent to President Trump, the senators stressed the urgent need for approval of additional resources, including access to the Individuals and Households Program, Disaster Unemployment Assistance, and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP). These programs would grant New Yorkers greater access to direct housing, unemployment and re-employment, medical, and child care assistance. 

“While we are pleased the administration heeded our call to award a Major Disaster Declaration to New York, it is critical now that FEMA approve all the requested Public and Individual Assistance to get New York the dollars it needs to fight the coronavirus,” said Senator Schumer. “We need to do more for New Yorkers who are in desperate need of support while they or their loved ones are affected by this devastating disease. The Trump administration must approve all disaster assistance still under review by FEMA, ASAP.” 

“New Yorkers are at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak and we must respond to their urgent need for the disaster assistance required to fight this public health crisis and take care of their families,” said Senator Gillibrand. “President Trump’s Major Disaster Declaration left out critical funding and assistance requested by New York State. I urge the current administration to quickly approve the items still under review by FEMA.” 

The letter comes after U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand successfully pushed for expedited consideration of New York State’s request to the Trump administration for a Major Disaster Declaration (MDD). The MDD officially provides the state with federal funding in addition to the over $6 billion for New York the Senators secured in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Schumer and Gillibrand argued that the MDD is necessary for the fight in the nation’s coronavirus epicenter, especially with hundreds of new confirmed cases since New York state declared a State of Emergency. The MDD unlocks New York state’s access to the full funding of the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) and ensures that the Federal Emergency Agency (FEMA) has the full resources and authority to address the outbreak in New York.


Full text of the letter can be found here and below.

March 21, 2020

The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

I write today to thank you for granting New York the nation’s first Major Disaster Declaration (MDD) in response to the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, and I urge you to approve the Public Assistance and Individual Assistance still listed as under review by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). New York is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak and it is imperative we provide New York State with all the assistance requested during these critical hours.

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5207 (the Stafford Act) authorizes the president to grant a MDD for any natural catastrophe that the president determines has caused damage of sufficient severity and magnitude. On March 20, the president granted the nation’s first MDD in response to the COVID-19 outbreak right here in New York. 

This MDD provides two categories of aid, Public Assistance through the Category B – Emergency Protective Measures, and Individual Assistance in the form of Crisis Counselling. While this is an important step in helping New York combat the COVID-19 outbreak, New York State also requested access to additional Public Assistance, Individual Assistance, and Hazard Mitigation in its MDD request.

Specifically, New York requested access to Public Assistance Category A – Debris Removal. Additionally, New York State also requested access to the Individuals and Households Program, Disaster Unemployment Assistance, and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP). The Individuals and Households Program would allow FEMA to provide many types of assistance including: Financial Housing Assistance, Direct Housing Assistance, Medical Assistance, and Child Care Assistance to New York. Additionally, TSA would provide additional housing support for those impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak in the state.

Furthermore, Disaster Unemployment Assistance would allow FEMA to provide unemployment benefits and re-employment services to New Yorkers, something that is deeply needed as the economic impacts of this outbreak continue to grow.

Finally, D-SNAP would allow the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide temporary food assistance for households affected by this outbreak and is available to anyone who was living in the impacted area at the time of the disaster. 

New York State also requested Hazard Mitigation which would allow the state access to the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, funding to take the lessons learned from the COVID-19 outbreak and address future pandemics more effectively. These programs are necessary to saving lives and protecting health and public safety in New York and I urge you to expeditiously approve this assistance. 

As of March 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported COVID-19 cases across New York, including: 644 in New York City, 380 in Westchester County, 131 cases in Nassau County, 84 in Suffolk County, 23 in Albany County, 22 in Rockland County, 15 in Orange County, 10 in Monroe County, 9 in Saratoga County, 8 in Ulster County, 7 in Erie County, 5 in Schenectady County, 2 in Allegany County, 2 in Greene County, 2 in Onondaga County, 2 in Putnam County, 2 in Tompkins County, 1 in Broome County, 1 in Clinton County, 1 in Delaware County, 1 in Herkimer County, 1 in Montgomery County, 1 in Ontario County, 1 in Rensselaer County, 1 in Sullivan County, 1 in Tioga County, and 1 in Wyoming County. While the immediate health risk to the majority of the New Yorkers is thought to remain low, the challenges of community spread have already begun to strain state and local government responses, particularly health departments. New York State and local officials are working hard to mitigate the outbreak and protect New Yorkers and ongoing federal resources are badly needed to support those efforts.

Again, thank you for granting the MDD for New York in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. While this is an important step in helping New York combat this virus, I urge you to expeditiously grant the remaining assistance requested by New York to ensure this state at the epicenter of the outbreak has access to all the resources the federal government can provide.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter, if you have questions please do not hesitate to contact my staff.     


______________________________                                  _____________________________

Charles E. Schumer                                                              Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senator                                                          United States Senator


The Honorable Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States of America

The Honorable Peter Gaynor, Administrator of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Honorable Thomas Von Essen, Regional Administrator of FEMA Region 2

Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo