Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand announced that President Obama has approved an emergency declaration for Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester Counties in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Governor Cuomo officially requested the pre-landfall declaration yesterday. Many counties have already experienced severe flooding, which could get worse in coming days. An emergency declaration was declared prior to the storm for Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, and Suffolk Counties.
“While Irene has passed, the flooding still poses a serious risk,” said Schumer and Gillibrand. “FEMA made the right decision to extend the emergency declaration to counties in the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, and the Mohawk Valley. If conditions on the ground require additional emergency assistance in the hours ahead, we will do everything possible to get our first responders and emergency planners the tools they need to keep our communities safe. As the full extent of the damage becomes clear in the coming days and weeks, we’re going to fight hard to get New York every bit of assistance we deserve.”
A federal state of emergency declaration allows FEMA to initiate emergency protective measures in the wake of Hurricane Irene for the purpose of saving lives, protecting public health and safety, and preventing damage to public and private property. Specifically, a state of emergency declaration signed by the president will now allow FEMA to assist these suburban and upstate counties with: warning devices (barricades, signs, and announcements), search and rescue efforts, construction of levees, shelters and emergency care centers, and providing of food, water, ice and other essential needs, among other things.
Once emergency life saving measures are complete, New York State will conduct full damage assessments to determine whether or not the state is eligible for a Major Disaster Declaration. Under a Major Declaration, New York could be eligible for more public assistance programs than are incorporated into an emergency declaration, including debris removal, road repair, restoration of water facilities, building replacement, and individual assistance.