U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that, following their aggressive push, President Trump has approved New York State’s request for a major disaster declaration following the severe Halloween thunderstorm and floods that battered counties throughout Upstate New York from October 31st through November 1st.
Specifically, FEMA will be providing disaster Public Assistance (PA) funding to Chautauqua, Chenango, Clinton, Cortland, Erie, Essex, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, Saratoga, Tioga and Warren Counties. Individual Assistance (IA) funding requests for Erie, Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer, and Oneida Counties are still pending. On November 18th, Schumer and Gillibrand wrote to FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor to prioritize and immediately complete their preliminary damage assessments for the 18 counties and approve New York State’s request for a disaster declaration as soon as possible. Schumer and Gillibrand then joined a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling on President Trump to approve the disaster declaration as soon as possible on December 3rd.
During the Halloween storm, 12 counties received at least 3 inches of rain, which is nearly a month’s worth in most Upstate areas, and 27 counties received flood warnings and flash flood warnings. Furthermore, winds blew between 60 and 70 miles per hour, knocking down countless trees, destroying private property and leaving hundreds of thousands of Upstate New Yorkers without power. In the Mohawk Valley, hundreds of residents were evacuated and many properties remain uninhabitable. The storm even tragically took the life of a priest, Father Tom Connery, in Herkimer County, who was trapped in his vehicle during one of the flash floods.
“This Halloween, our state, from one corner to the other, saw severe damage after being ravaged by heavy rain, flooding and tempestuous winds. This federal aid is absolutely critical to allow these Upstate communities to recover and rebuild – and will ease the burden on New York taxpayers,” said Senator Schumer. “I am pleased that the feds heeded our call by agreeing to help these harshly impacted communities with Public Assistance, and I urge FEMA and the administration to immediately unlock Individual Assistance as well to help property owners recover.”
“I’m pleased that the administration has approved a major disaster declaration, which will allow FEMA Public Assistance funds to flow to communities in 18 counties across Upstate New York that suffered extensive damage due to storms in October,” said Senator Gillibrand. “While this is a positive first step, it is past time for New Yorkers to get the help they need to recover, and the Trump Administration must not drag its feet in providing critical aid to individual households as well. With the estimated damage costs of these storms reaching tens of millions of dollars, our communities can’t afford to wait any longer. I will always do everything I can to help New Yorkers get the urgent support they need.”
When a disaster declaration is declared, grant assistance is made available to state and local governments, as well as certain non-profit organizations, to reimburse costs incurred for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities. This funding is available on a cost-sharing basis; FEMA generally covers 75 percent of the eligible costs for permanent and emergency work. Schumer and Gillibrand previously wrote to FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, calling on the agency to support and approve New York State’s request for federal aid.
A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter to FEMA appears below:
Dear Acting Administrator:
We write to urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to expeditiously complete New York State’s Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) for both Public Assistance and Individual Assistance in 18 counties across New York State impacted by severe storms and flooding from October 31st through November 1st, 2019.
After a deadly storm crossed Upstate New York around Halloween, wet weather produced conditions that devastated a large swath of the state. The assessment requested by New York State would determine the qualifying damage for Public Assistance in Chautauqua, Chenango, Clinton, Cortland, Erie, Essex, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, Saratoga, Tioga and Warren Counties, as well as for Individual Assistance in Erie, Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer, and Oneida Counties. Areas in a dozen counties got at least 3 inches of rain, which is nearly a month’s worth in most Upstate communities. These downpours brought high winds and caused widespread flooding into November 1st, leading the National Weather Service to issue high wind warnings, as well as flood warnings and flash flood warnings for 27 counties in Upstate New York. Tragically, a priest in Herkimer County was caught in his vehicle during one of these flash floods and was killed. With more than 240,000 buildings and homes without power at the peak, hundreds forced to evacuate and more than 50 roads closed, New York State deployed 200 members of the National Guard and New York Utilities were estimated to have had 5,000 workers engaged in damage assessment, response, and restoration efforts. Many homes and businesses in the Mohawk Valley remain uninhabitable, forcing residents to rely local assistance for shelter and food. As communities across Upstate New York continue their recovery from this unexpected and deadly storm, we urge FEMA to expeditiously complete New York State’s PDAs in the 18 counties listed above.
We are grateful for the prompt attention that the federal government has historically give in responding to disaster impacting New York State. In that spirit, we strongly urge you to complete the state’s Public Assistance and Individual Assistance PDAs in 18 counties across New York State.
The lawmakers’ bipartisan letter is below:
Dear President Trump:
We write in strong support of the State of New York’s request for a major disaster declaration for the widespread damage and flooding caused by heavy rains and strong sustained winds on October 31, 2019 and continued until November 1, 2019. Enclosed is a copy of the Governor’s request.
These punishing storms caused significant damage across Upstate New York, including sustained damage leading to displaced residents, uninhabitable homes, destroyed roads, and the tragic death of Father J. Thomas Connery of Glenville, NY. A joint federal, state, and local Preliminary Damage Assessment completed on November 25, 2019 revealed that damages and eligible costs exceeded $33 million.
Reflecting the statewide damage from these heavy rains and strong sustained winds, Governor Andrew Cuomo requested that you declare a major disaster on November 26, 2019, pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288), including hazard mitigation statewide and Public Assistance for Chautauqua, Chenango, Cortland, Erie, Essex, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Oswego, Otsego, Saratoga, Tioga and Warren Counties and Individual Assistance for Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer, and Oneida Counties.
There is no doubt that this damage has overwhelmed state and local governments, and that a major disaster declaration is necessary. Federal assistance programs will be critical, so that our communities can recover from the flood damage. We thank the Governor and the State for their work thus far and strongly support the request for a major disaster declaration in the areas impacted by this storm event.
We appreciate your swift attention and consideration of this request and stand ready to work with you and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver support and resources to the impacted communities.