U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stand ready to add Cayuga County to New York State’s disaster declaration that was approved for communities impacted by Lake Ontario flooding last month. The Senators said Cayuga County was adversely affected by Lake Ontario’s repeated flooding and added that the current disaster does not include all flood-impacted communities. The Senators said that while initial disaster declaration for Jefferson, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence and Wayne Counties is helpful, it is vital that Monroe’s appeal is also quickly reviewed and approved.
“Simply put, the feds should not leave Cayuga County out to dry. For months, Cayuga County residents and business owners were ravaged by high waters, the continued flooding caused them to close businesses, caused damage to homes and eroded shoreline protections,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why I’m putting FEMA on notice. With the damage assessments now completed, FEMA must be ready to add Cayuga County to their current disaster declaration so that this community has the resources they need to recover and rebuild.”
“Every day that passes, the burden on families and businesses in Cayuga County trying to recover from the substantial flooding they suffered this year continues to grow,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Now that the damage assessments have been revised to show that the damage meets FEMA’s threshold for assistance, there is no reason to hold back from providing the federal aid necessary to rebuild.”
Schumer and Gillibrand explained President Donald Trump issued a Major Disaster Declaration for the State Of New York as a result of damages caused by flooding along Lake Ontario. The declaration ordered federal assistance to Jefferson, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wayne Counties but did not include Cayuga County. The Senators said while this declaration provides crucial resources to many New Yorkers, it, unfortunately, does not cover all communities adversely impacted by the floods. Schumer and Gillibrand are committed to supporting all flood-impacted communities and called on FEMA to be ready to add Cayuga to New York’s disaster declaration.
According to Cayuga County, while damage totals to local and county-owned property equaled about $85,000, which is below the county’s per capita impact indicator for a federal disaster declaration, damages to state property of about $150,000 appear to bring Cayuga’s total damage above the indicator. Therefore, Schumer and Gillibrand are urging FEMA to be ready to quickly review and approve New York State’s expected appeal to add Cayuga County to the disaster declaration.
Additionally, the Senators stressed that FEMA must work to approve this appeal as quickly as possible. While FEMA may take up to 90 days to act on an appeal, the Senators argued Cayuga sustained significant damage and costs continue to mount and it should not have to wait until March 2018 before FEMA will act on this appeal. Cayuga sustained significant negative impacts from the flooding event and timely FEMA federal assistance is vital in ensuring immediate repairs and long-term recovery. Schumer and Gillibrand said FEMA federal assistance is vital in ensuring immediate repairs and long-term recovery in Cayuga County.
Schumer and Gillibrand explained that if Cayuga County is added to the disaster declaration, grant assistance would 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. After any severe storm or flood, the first step in the declaration process is for the state to request a Preliminary Damage Assessment, during which FEMA representatives join state, local, and other officials to survey damage across storm-impacted counties to help determine whether the cost of the disaster meets the criteria for a federal disaster declaration. Schumer said Cayuga’s forthcoming request for FEMA aid must be reviewed and approved.
Additionally, Schumer along with Senator Gillibrand have long fought for resources for flood-impacted communities. In November, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand announced that following their push that the Trump Administration issued a Major Disaster Declaration for New York State as a result of damages caused by flooding along Lake Ontario. Counties approved for the initial declaration included the following: Jefferson, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence and Wayne Counties. The declaration released 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.
In August, 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. Schumer later wrote 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 personnel 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 Letter Appears Below:
Dear Administrator Long:
On November 14, 2017, President Donald Trump issued a Major Disaster Declaration for the State Of New York as a result of damages caused by flooding along Lake Ontario from May 2, 2017, through August 6, 2017. The declaration ordered federal assistance to Jefferson, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wayne Counties. While we appreciate your support of New York State’s major disaster declaration request to provide critical funding to help communities repair damage and recover, unfortunately, the declaration did not cover all communities adversely impacted by the floods. Therefore, I ask that you stand ready to review an expected forthcoming appeal from New York State to amend the disaster declaration to include Monroe and Cayuga Counties.
As you know, the Lake Ontario Coastline in New York experienced ongoing severe flooding with record-high lake levels caused by historic precipitation and spring melt-off. The president’s November declaration releases FEMA public assistance and hazards 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 aid is integral to repairing homes, reopening the business, restoring public infrastructure, and implementing shoreline erosion protection.
As you know FEMA officials joined local and state officials over the past few days to conduct field damage assessments on the ground to tabulate eligible damage costs in order to verify that costs have met or exceeded the county’s per capita impact indicator, which in the case of Monroe County is $2.68 million. According to Monroe County, the field damage assessments revealed that the cost of damages in Monroe has exceeded the $2.68 million county threshold. In anticipation of a forthcoming appeal submission from New York State that includes this final joint assessment breakdown showing that Monroe’s damages total more than $2.68 million and thus met the per capita impact indicator, we urge FEMA to swiftly act and amend the disaster declaration to include Monroe County.
Similarly, in anticipation of an additional forthcoming appeal submission from New York State, I ask that you also include Cayuga County in the disaster declaration. According to Cayuga County, while damage totals to local and county-owned property equaled about $85,000, which is below the county’s per capita impact indicator, damages to state property of about $150,000 appear to bring Cayuga’s total damage above the indicator. Therefore, we also urge you to stand ready to quickly review New York State’s anticipated appeal and amend the disaster declaration to include Cayuga County.
While FEMA may take up to 90 days to review appeals like these, I request FEMA act on these appeals expeditiously as soon as the appeals are submitted given that both counties sustained significant negative impacts from the flooding event. Costs have continued to mount for the counties and timely FEMA federal assistance is vital in ensuring immediate repairs and long-term recovery for these communities.
We are grateful for your attention to this issue and longstanding support for New York State.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
United States Senator