Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Push To Boost Federal Disaster Relief Funding To Help New York Rebuild After Irene

Sep 1, 2011

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand wrote to Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew, urging the Obama administration to seek sufficient funding for the Disaster Relief Fund to cover the cost of damage to New York communities in the wake of Irene. Governor Cuomo has estimated that the damage costs in New York would exceed $1 billion, but the federal disaster relief fund currently only has $792 million available. The funds in this account are meant to be used to cover damage sustained in states up and down the east coast who were hit by Irene, as well as to fund repairs from a host of other natural disasters. With New York’s damage alone expected to exceed the total amount in the federal account, Schumer and Gillibrand are pushing to ensure that the account is boosted quickly to help fund recovery efforts in the coming months.

“Helping communities rebuild after devastating storms like Irene is exactly what the federal government should be doing,” said Schumer. “Early estimates put the damage at $1 billion in New York, and as waters recede further, who knows how high it could climb. I’m going to fight to make sure the federal dollars are available to help us rebuild, and then work as hard as I can to get New York its fair share.”

“America has always stood by those suffering from disaster and helped them to rebuild. We must stand with New Yorkers and Americans up and down the East Coast shouldering the burden this storm is leaving us with,” Senator Gillibrand said. “We need every necessary resource to help recover from this devastating storm. And that requires Washington to come together and do what’s right for these families, businesses and communities that are suffering and need the full support of our country.”

The Senators’ letter comes just one week before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee is set to begin consideration of the FY2012 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, which will help determine the funding levels for the disaster relief fund, among other homeland security accounts. The fund helps to finance recovery efforts from all sorts of natural disasters from all 50 states. Given the unexpected strain of a serious storm causing unprecedented damage in New York, the Senators are pushing to ensure that the Obama Administration seeks a sufficient amount of additional funding, to cover this unanticipated storm.

A copy of the Senators’ letter appears below:

Dear Director Lew,

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, which devastated parts of New York State, we are writing to urge you to ensure that the Administration requests sufficient funding levels for disaster relief.  We are concerned that the current amount of money in the Disaster Relief Fund will be inadequate to fully address the needs of the tens of millions of individuals across the United States, including our constituents in New York, who have been hit by a natural disaster this year. 

We are writing to urge you to provide Congress, as soon as possible, with an accurate estimate and an accompanying request of what is needed to cover the federal government’s disaster relief costs, including the costs associated with Hurricane Irene, for the remainder of this fiscal year and through FY 2012.  The United States Senate Appropriations Committee is prepared to begin consideration of the FY2012 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill next week, and it is imperative that Congress is provided with a realistic assessment of the amount of funding that is necessary to prevent a shortfall in the Disaster Relief Fund.   

It may be months before we fully know the extent of damage caused by Hurricane Irene, and it could take many more months and years for New Yorkers to completely rebuild what they have lost.  That is why it is critical to ensure that the federal government is realistic about what it could cost to rebuild, and also anticipates the strain that future disasters may have on the limited funding that is available. 

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue, and we hope that you will give this request your highest consideration.