July 08, 2014

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce FEMA Has Issued Disaster Declaration For 11 Upstate Counties, Which Will Unlock Critical Federal Funds That Will Help Upstate NY Recover From Recent Storms & Flooding

Flooding in May Caused More than $28 Million in Infrastructure Damage in Upstate NY - Senators Wrote to FEMA in Support of a Major Disaster Declaration To Help Reimburse Up To Eleven Counties that Experienced Significant Rainfall and Flooding Last Month

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced New York State’s request for federal support to help communities across upstate New York recover from recent severe flooding has been approved. Specifically, the Major Disaster Declaration for 11 impacted counties includes Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Delaware, Herkimer, Lewis, Livingston, Ontario, Otsego, Steuben, and Yates. Back-to-back severe storms in May and June caused significant flooding, forcing residents to evacuate their homes, destroyed personal property, and damaged critical infrastructure such as roads, culverts, and power lines. The cost of damage to public infrastructure totaled approximately $28 million. The Senators urged FEMA to take immediate action and work with the affected counties and New York State to quickly approve this FEMA Declaration.

“Cities and towns in eleven counties across Upstate New York were devastated by severe flooding earlier this year, and this disaster declaration will enable them to get the funds they still need to recover,” said Senator Schumer. “I am pleased that FEMA has approved New York State’s application for disaster relief, as it is the federal government’s responsibility to step up to the plate and provide these cities and towns the resources they need to recoup the cost of the damages to their communities, roads, power lines and other critical infrastructure.”

“Communities across upstate New York sustained damage after severe storms washed away roads and flooded homes and main street businesses,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This federal assistance will help jump start recovery efforts across upstate New York and provide impacted communities with the resources they need to get back on their feet.”

Severe storms, which occurred on May 13th and again on May 15-16, caused extreme flooding and extensive damage to public and private property across New York communities.  On May 14th, New York State declared a State Disaster Emergency for various counties, and certain municipalities were also declared local states of emergency. Farms were completely inundated for days, roads were closed, power lines knocked down, and highways were closed and thoroughly damaged. Sink holes opened up on area roads on properties and hundreds of vehicles and several commercial buildings collapsed or were washed away. With costs mounting for local municipalities, senators called for swift action to release much needed resources so that rebuilding efforts can begin.

The Public Assistance Program provides grants to state and local governments and certain nonprofit entities to assist them with the response to and recovery from disasters. Specifically, the program provides assistance for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and permanent restoration of infrastructure.

Full text of the senators’ letter to President Obama and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate appear below:

Dear Mr. President,

We write today in strong support of New York State’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration as a result of severe storms that caused major flooding, impacting many communities across upstate New York.  We urge you to take immediate action to work with the affected counties and the State of New York to quickly approve this declaration.

Back-to-back severe storms, which occurred on May 13, 2014 and again on May 15-16 caused extreme flooding and extensive damage to public and private property across Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Delaware, Herkimer, Lewis, Livingston, Ontario, Otsego, Steuben and Yates Counties in New York.  Significant flooding caused by several inches of rain during a short time frame forced many residents to evacuate from their homes in the middle of the night, destroyed countless amounts of personal property, and rendered critical infrastructure such as roads, culverts, and power lines significantly damaged or inoperable. The additional powerful bursts of rain from another storm falling in already saturated areas swelled creeks and caused additional flooding.   

On May 14, 2014 New York State declared a State Disaster Emergency for various counties, and certain municipalities were also declared local states of emergency because of the storm’s severity. The storm, which impacted over 150 homes and dozens of businesses destroyed a substantial amount of personal property.  Flooding through several counties and in particular Yates, Ontario and Livingston counties devastated homeowners, local businesses, farms, and critical infrastructure.  Farms were completely inundated for days, roads were closed, power lines knocked down, and highways were closed and thoroughly damaged. Sink holes opened up on area roads on properties and hundreds of vehicles and several commercial buildings collapsed or were washed away.

As requested in previous letters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with New York State agencies, responded to the storms quickly, performing damage assessments across the affected areas.  To date, the Preliminary Damage Assessment for the total cost of damage is greater than $28.2 million.  This includes debris removal, emergency response and infrastructure damage.  This amount exceeds the State threshold established in 44CFR.  With costs mounting for local municipalities, action must be taken swiftly to release much needed resources so that rebuilding efforts can begin.

As you are aware, New York State has yet to fully recover from Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and Superstorm Sandy, and federal assistance through the Stafford Act is necessary to fully recover from the losses experienced in last month’s storms and preserve safety of our citizens and infrastructure against future disasters. We are grateful for the prompt attention that you and the entire federal government have given to quickly responding to disasters impacting New York State, and for your commitment to cutting bureaucratic red-tape so that assistance can be provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. In that spirit, we strongly urge you to approve the State’s request.