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 quickly approve any request from New York State for a major disaster declaration following winter storms Riley and Quinn. In a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long, Schumer and Gillibrand requested that FEMA stand ready to approve any forthcoming requests from the state for a disaster declaration for Hudson Valley counties that were impacted by the storms. As communities across the Hudson Valley dig out and begin their recovery from the second severe winter storm in less than a week, the Senators urged FEMA to be prepared to participate in a Preliminary Damage Assessment with state and local officials, should the state request it.
“Communities across the Hudson Valley were ravaged by winter storms Riley and Quinn, and it is absolutely crucial that we get them the resources they need to recover,” said Senator Schumer. “FEMA needs to stand ready to swiftly approve any forthcoming requests from the state for assistance to help these communities recover and rebuild.”
“The Hudson Valley needs immediate help after winter storms Riley and Quinn devastated communities throughout the region,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I urge FEMA to immediately approve any requests for funding in order to ensure communities can quickly and fully recover.”
If a disaster declaration is declared, 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% of the eligible costs for permanent and emergency work. After any severe storm, 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 and Gillibrand urged FEMA Administrator Brock Long to be prepared to support any requests for aid from New York State.
A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter appears below:
Dear Administrator Long:
We write in strong support of communities in the Hudson Valley region of New York affected by two consecutive severe winter storms this week. We urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stand ready to work with affected counties and New York State, if requested, to determine whether damage meets the statutory threshold for FEMA disaster assistance, and if it does, to make assistance available as expeditiously as possible. We also encourage FEMA to consider the impacts from both storms together if the state makes any requests for federal assistance.
On March 2, New York was hit by a fatal winter storm, Riley; some areas of the state saw more than three feet of snow, along with brutal winds approaching nearly sixty miles per hour. Hurricane-force gusts grounded flights up and down the Northeast corridor and knocked down countless trees and power lines throughout the Hudson Valley region. On the night of Friday, March 2, more than 323,00 New Yorkers had lost power. Just days later, on March 7, the region was pummeled by another strong winter storm, Quinn, which resulted in blizzard-like conditions and knocked out power for more than a hundred thousand additional customers. Tragically, these storms were responsible for multiple deaths. During these storms and in their aftermath, normal daily activity has come to a standstill, with dozens of school districts closed for days, business and government offices shuttered, and local crews working around the clock to clear roadways. As communities across the Hudson Valley dig out and begin their recovery from the second severe winter storm in less than a week, we urge FEMA to stand ready to participate in a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) with state and local officials, should the state request it.
We are grateful for the prompt attention that the federal government has historically given in responding to disasters impacting New York State. In that spirit, we strongly urge you to approve any forthcoming requests for FEMA assistance from New York State as affected communities begin their recovery from these severe winter storms.
Charles E. Schumer