U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that, following their push, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved New York State’s request for a major disaster declaration following the severe thunderstorm and floods that battered counties across the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region and the Southern Tier from August 13th to 15th of this year. During this thunderstorm, up to nine inches of rain fell in some areas over the span of a few hours, causing creeks and waterways to overflow that then swept down trees, roads, property, and debris. Specifically, FEMA will be providing disaster assistance funding to Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Seneca and Tioga Counties. On August 20th Schumer and Gillibrand wrote to FEMA Administrator Brock Long to stand ready to approve federal assistance if requested. Schumer and Gillibrand then urged FEMA to approve New York State’s request for federal disaster assistance on September 18th of this year, after damages from the storm crossed the $28.29 million federal aid threshold.
“This is an important and vitally-needed shot in the arm for the Rochester-Finger Lakes and Southern Tier communities that were ravaged by the devastating flooding this August. It will provide critical federal funds for seven flood-impacted counties throughout the two regions, greatly enhancing recovery and rebuilding efforts,” said Senator Schumer. “I am pleased that FEMA heeded our call by agreeing to help these harshly impacted communities, and will always fight to secure crucial federal assistance whenever New York State is hit by severe weather.”
“I’m grateful that FEMA has approved New York State’s request and will provide the federal assistance necessary for communities in the Rochester-Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions to recover from this summer’s storms,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Many of these communities were severely flooded and are still recovering from the damage. I pushed for this disaster declaration because it will provide much-needed federal funding to help expedite the recovery process. I will continue to work with FEMA to make sure that our communities receive the support that they need to rebuild.”
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 Brock Long, 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 Administrator Long:
We write to urge you to expeditiously approve New York State’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration and Public Assistance for the 8 counties across southern New York impacted by severe storms and flooding from August 13th to August 18th 2018.
After over a month of persistent rain storms, wet weather produced dangerous conditions that devastated southern New York. The declaration proposed by New York State would grant Public Assistance to Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Columbia, Schuyler, Seneca, and Tioga Counties. From July 22, 2018 to August 21, 2018 these counties faced up to 20 inches of rain. The prolonged rain produced heavy rainfall, flash flooding, tornados and strong winds. The ground quickly became saturated and heavy rain caused high-velocity running storm water. Rushing flood waters were exacerbated by the mountainous region’s varied elevation. Roads throughout the state were blocked during the storm with debris and water leaving bridges and roads damaged from erosion. FEMA State offices estimate there is $36,530,321 million in infrastructure and debris removal costs.
Throughout the past year New York State has faced severe negative impacts due to flash flooding. Following the summer flooding of 2018, three nor’easters in March, and severe tornado-producing storms in May, state and local government resources have become severely strained and are struggling to recover from this most recent incident. Since July of this year, state of emergencies have been declared in 14 counties due to the dangerous series of wet weather including the counties of Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Monroe, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Wayne, and Yates. The severity of this incident requires federal assistance to go beyond the capabilities of the state and local governments.
We are grateful for the prompt attention that the federal government has historically given to quickly responding to disasters impacting New York State. In that spirit, we strongly urge you to expeditiously approve the state’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration and Public Assistance for 8 counties across New York State.