Press Release

Schumer & Gillibrand Announce: Bill Expected to Pass This Week Contains Billions in Disaster Aid Funding to Help Recovery from Lee and Irene

Nov 15, 2011

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that legislation expected to clear both Houses of Congress this week includes billions of dollars in disaster funding, which would help New Yorkers recover from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee. Nearly $40 million of this funding is expected for New York State, as called for in the Gillibrand-Schumer amendment they fought to pass to help businesses and farmers recover and rebuild from the storms.

“Several months have passed since these storms walloped Upstate New York, but our work to rebuild and recover continues,” said Schumer. “We worked hard to ensure that this bill includes aid that will keep businesses in New York, and help our farmers recover from devastating losses. I strongly urge Congress to approve this bill as quickly as possible, so that aid can get out the door and on the ground in Upstate New York where it belongs.”

“America has always stood by those suffering from disaster and helped them to rebuild,” said Senator Gillibrand, New York’s first member of the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years. “New York’s farmland endured some of the worst of these storms, and much of our farmland is badly damaged. When our farm families suffer, our whole state and whole economy suffers. We need to provide our agricultural communities with all the resources we need to dig out and rebuild from these devastating storms.” 

The Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Science, Transportation and Housing & Urban Development appropriations bill on the floor this week contains the following money that could be used to aid in the recovery: 

$123 Million For Emergency Conservation Program (ECP)

The ECP is coordinated through the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) to provide emergency funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to repair farmland damaged by natural disasters, and to carry out emergency water conservation measures during severe drought. Conservation practices include removing debris, restoring fences and conservation structures, and providing water for livestock.

For land to be eligible for ECP resources, the natural disaster must create new conservation problems that if left untreated would impair or endanger the land, materially affect the land’s productive capacity, represent unusual damage, and be so costly to repair that federal assistance is or will be required to return the land to productive agricultural use.

ECP program participants receive cost-share assistance of up to 75 percent of the cost to implement approved conservation practices determined by county FSA committees. Individual or cumulative requests for cost-sharing of $50,000 or less per person, per disaster are approved at the county committee level, $50,001 to $100,000 is approved at the state level, and over $100,000 is approved at the federal level. Technical assistance may be provided by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). 

$216 Million For Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP)

The EWP was established to help conserve natural resources following natural disasters by relieving imminent hazards to life and property caused by floods, fires, drought, windstorms and other severe weather. The EWP responds to hazards including debris-clogged streams and channels, undermined and unstable stream banks, jeopardized water control structures and public infrastructure, wind-borne debris removal, and damaged upland sites stripped of protective vegetation by fire or drought.

Protection efforts can include purchasing floodplain easements to restore, protect, maintain and enhance the floodplain, including wetlands and riparian areas. It can also conserve natural values, including fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention and groundwater recharge, and safeguard lives and property from floods, drought and erosion.

NRCS may bear up to 75 percent of the construction cost of emergency measures. The remaining costs must come from local sources, and can be in the form of cash or in-kind services. Public and private landowners are eligible for assistance but must be represented by a project sponsor, such as the state, local government, or conservation district.

All EWP work must reduce the threat to life and property, be economically, environmentally and socially defensible, and come from a sound technical standpoint. 

$1.66 Billion for Federal Highways Administration Emergency Relief Program

The Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief program provides funding for the repair of federal-aid highways or roads on federal lands that have been seriously damaged by natural disasters. Funding can be used for such purposes as establishing emergency detours, removing debris, providing temporary bridges or ferry service, regarding roadway embankments and surfaces, restoring pavement surfaces, reconstructing damaged bridges, and replacing signs, guardrails, fences, and other highway infrastructure.

$400 Million For Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would specifically use this funding for disaster recovery. HUD gives states and localities the flexibility to meet a variety of needs, from assisting individual homeowners and business owners, to buying out properties to make way for more robust flood protection in the future, to developing infrastructure to rebuild homes and business zones away from flood danger.  

$200 Million For Economic Development Administration (EDA)

EDA would use this funding to provide financial resources and technical assistance to help rebuild economic development plans following a disaster and grants to build new infrastructure (e.g. business incubators, technology parks, research facilities, basic utilities such as water treatment) that foster economic development to retain or attract jobs to the region.