Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce Fema Has Approved Major Disaster Declaration For New York State For Lake Ontario Communities Impacted By Severe Flooding

Nov 14, 2017

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that following their push, the Trump Administration has issued a Major Disaster Declaration for New York State as a result of damages caused by flooding along Lake Ontario. Counties approved so far for the declaration include the following: Jefferson, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence and Wayne Counties. The declaration releases FEMA public assistance and hazard mitigation funds to cover emergency work, repairs and replacement of disaster-damaged facilities, as well as make long-term improvements to reduce the impact of future disasters.

“This is a massive and well-deserved shot in the arm for many lakefront counties that we fought long and hard to secure. It will provide federal funds for many counties hit hard by the relentless lake flooding, but we will keep up the pressure until we secure the same support for both Monroe and Cayuga Counties. Residents along Lake Ontario dealt with record-high lake levels and it has caused them to close businesses, caused damage to homes and eroded shoreline protections. This is great news for Jefferson, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence and Wayne Counties giving them the crucial funds they need to recover,” said Senator Schumer.  “I am pleased FEMA heeded our calls by agreeing to help affected communities; rest assured I will keep pushing to get the same designation and support for Monroe and Cayuga so that all counties affected by Lake Ontario’s high waters get the funding they need and deserve to get back on their feet,”

“This Major Disaster Declaration for New York State is an important step to help the communities near Lake Ontario recover from the record flooding this past year,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This designation unlocks important FEMA funding to repair damaged infrastructure and helps ensure that the Lake Ontario shoreline is better protected against future flooding. I will continue to do everything I can to make sure that the residents hurt by this severe flooding have all the resources they need to fully rebuild.”

Schumer and Gillibrand explained that, with this disaster declaration grant assistance will be 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.  

Recently, Schumer in a one-on-one meeting with the FEMA administrator urged him to swiftly approve New York States request for a major disaster declaration for communities affected by flooding along Lake Ontario. On May 18th Schumer and Gillibrand wrote to then-Acting FEMA Administrator Fenton to urge FEMA to be ready to act on any Disaster Assistance request if or when submitted by New York State and on July 6th to FEMA Administrator Brock Long to reiterate his request. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have long pushed for all available federal flood recovery assistance since the flooding first began this spring:

  • Called on IJC to Increase Dam Outflows – Senators Schumer and Gillibrand wrote to the IJC May 2nd urging the IJC to use their authority under Criterion H14 to take every and all actions possible to mitigate flood risks to at-risk homeowners – including increasing maximum possible outflows at the Moses-Saunders dam to lower Lake Ontario water.
  • Secured Army Corps of Engineers Assistance – Senator Schumer wrote to the Army Corps of Engineers May 2nd to request the Army Corps activate and mobilize to help join in the flood protection efforts.  In reply to Senator Schumer’s letter the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on May 3rd issued a Declaration of Emergency designation order, allowing the USACE to activate their Emergency Operations Center to (EOC) to assist the NYS agencies response efforts and deploy technical assistance teams.
  • Secured Expedited Approvals for Emergency Flood Protection Construction –   Senator Schumer in a May 3rd letter calls on the Army Corps of Engineers and the NYS DEC to issue a joint “General Permit” that will allow property owners, towns, villages, and counties impacted by flooding to make emergency storm protection measures without going through the longer study and review permit process.  The Army Corps agreed with Senator Schumer’s request and issued the Joint Permit, allowing towns or property owners to quickly do things like repairing or reinforcing break walls or other shoreline protection.
  • Arranged for Army Corps of Engineers Technical Teams to Deploy to Irondequoit, Greece, Webster, Hamlin and other towns – As a result of the Army Corps’ Declaration of Emergency that Senators Schumer helped secured, the Army Corps deployed engineers and technical expert teams to Towns including Kendall, Hamlin, Greece, Irondequoit, Webster, Sodus, and Huron beginning on May 12th to instruct State Emergency personal on the best way to design flood protections.  Also, the Army Corps deployed over 170,000 sandbags to NYS towns and homeowners.
  • Called on Federal SBA to Approve any Assistance Request by NYS – Senator Schumer writes to the U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator on May 9th to quickly approve any forthcoming requests for SBA homeowner and business disaster loan assistance if and when requested by New York State.
  • Called on FEMA to Approve any Assistance Request by NYS – Senators Schumer and Gillibrand wrote to the FEMA Acting Administrator on May 18th to be ready to act should New York State make an official request to the federal government for disaster assistance.
  • Helped Secure Nearly $10M Federal CDBG Block Grant money going to Communities for Flood Damage repairs – $10 million in funding announced in May is almost exclusively funded with Federal CDBG block grants Schumer helped secure for New York State in the federal budget.  This federal CDBG funding is being allocated by New York State to towns and communities to repair roads, floodwalls, and public infrastructure
  • Led Charge for Army Corps to Approve Town of Greece’s Erosion Mitigation Project Application – Senator Schumer wrote to Army Corps June 14th to push the Army Corps to accept Greece’s application to partner with the Army Corps to pursue the development of an Erosion Mitigation project to protect the Town’s coastline.
  • June 25th – Schumer Met with Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo to reiterate his support to push for any and all available federal assistance.
  • July 6th – Schumer writes to FEMA Administrator Brock Long to reiterate his push for FEMA to act on any disaster assistance application submitted

A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s initial letter appears below:

Dear Administrator Long:

We write to urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stand ready to support any expedited requests from New York State for disaster assistance for communities affected by ongoing flooding along Lake Ontario. With lake levels not expected to recede for weeks, making it very difficult to get a full accounting of damage incurred, we urge FEMA to stand ready to support any forthcoming requests for expedited assistance without a full field damage assessment.

As you know, the United States’ Lake Ontario coastline has experienced ongoing severe flooding for several months now, with record-high lake levels caused by historic precipitation and spring melt-off. The flooding has shut down businesses, damaged homeowner property and public infrastructure, and eroded away land and shoreline protections. Relief is still not yet in sight, as Lake Ontario is forecasted to slowly decrease but remain at high levels throughout the summer.  Therefore, FEMA should be prepared to work with New York State and be as flexible as possible should the state submit an expedited request for disaster assistance for the communities impacted by the Lake Ontario flooding.

As costs continue to mount for homeowners, counties, and municipalities, federal assistance from FEMA could be vital in ensuring that communities are able to repair damage, clean up debris, and undertake crucial mitigation work. We are grateful for the attention that the federal government has historically given to quickly responding to disasters impacting New York State. In that spirit, we urge you to stand ready to support any requests from the state for expedited disaster assistance.



Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senator