August 27, 2014

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge FEMA To Reconsider Decision To Deny Steuben County Federal Disaster Assistance For Major June Storm – County Did Not Have Time To Recover From May Storms & Should Receive Disaster Assistance To Help It Rebuild

Schumer & Gillibrand Urge FEMA To Reconsider Its Position & Make Damages Caused As A Result of June 8th Storm Eligible for The Same Disaster Assistance As Storms From May - Senators Say County Did Not Have Time To Recover & Rebuild From May Storms, So Disaster Declaration Should Be Amended

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reconsider its decision to prevent Steuben County from being reimbursed for damages caused by a massive storm on June 8th. Steuben County and New York State had been seeking to add the June 8th storm to an already-approved FEMA disaster declaration for storms and severe flooding that hit the region between May 13th and May 22nd. The disaster declaration for the May storms allows the county to be reimbursed for damages that occurred during that time period, but since the June 8th storm falls outside of that time period, the County is not eligible to receive federal disaster aid for damages that occurred as a result of that storm. The June 8th storm is estimated to have caused about $1 million in damage. Steuben County and the State have asked for the incident period of the disaster declaration to be extended to include the June 8th storm, but FEMA has denied this request. In a letter to FEMA, Schumer and Gillibrand said the County did not have sufficient time to clean up following the May storms, which meant the June 8th storm only made the damages worse, and said local taxpayers should not be forced to pick up the tab to clean up. The Senators urged FEMA to reconsider its decision and extend the disaster declaration incident period to include the June 8th storm so Steuben can get the federal help it needs to rebuild.

“Steuben County was hit hard by storms this Spring, and it is not right for FEMA to pick and choose which ones should be eligible for federal disaster reimbursements,” said Senator Schumer. “The June 8th storm hit only a few weeks after the storms in May, and the county did not have sufficient time to clean up the damage. $1 million is a big price for Steuben and its taxpayers to pay for storm clean-up, and they should not have to pay it. FEMA should be picking up the tab and helping Steuben recover from the devastation.”

“Recent storms tore through the Steuben area leaving unprecedented damage and rising clean-up costs,” said Senator Gillibrand. “FEMA funding is much needed and is critical in helping this community pick up the pieces and start recovery efforts. Without this funding, local taxpayers will be buried in costs as they foot the bill. Steuben deserves these critical FEMA resources and I will continue to work with my colleagues and localities to ensure they are able to make a full recovery.”

Severe storms and flooding hit New York State from May 13-22. Following these storms, a disaster declaration was issued for Steuben and 10 other counties in New York’s Southern Tier and Western New York in May. Continuous rain and major flooding on June 8th, however, caused about $1 million in additional damage in Steuben County. So far, FEMA has denied requests to make these damages eligible for federal reimbursement by adding them to the disaster declaration that was approved for May 13-22.

Extending the time period of the disaster declaration to include the June 8th event would allow the many municipalities within Steuben County and the County itself the ability to fix infrastructure without putting a stranglehold on their budgets.  In a small county, and in the many municipalities where damage occurred, these costs will be borne on the backs of local taxpayers.  The additional costs would be crippling, especially because they occurred during the peak of construction season.

A copy of the letter from Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate is included below:

Dear Administrator Fugate,

We write to express our support for Steuben County’s request for an extension of the incident period of the disaster declaration for severe storms and flooding in the State of New York (DR-4180) from the 13th to the 22nd of May to include the storm event on the 8th of June.  As you may recall, a disaster declaration was made for Steuben and 10 other counties in New York’s Southern Tier and Western New York in May after devastating flooding.  Continuous rain and major flooding on the 8th of June caused about $1 Million in additional damage in Steuben County.

Extending the time period of the disaster declaration would allow the many municipalities within Steuben County and the County itself the ability to fix infrastructure without putting a stranglehold on their budgets.  In a small county, and in the many municipalities where damage occurred, these costs will be borne on the backs of local taxpayers.  The additional costs would be crippling, especially because they occurred during the peak of construction season.

As continuous rain between the May flooding and the June flood event made construction very difficult, it is important that the disaster declaration be amended so that the county can make the necessary repairs to roads damaged on the 8th of June. We urge you to approve this request. 

Sincerely,

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand