Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge FEMA To Stand Ready To Quickly Approve Disaster Declaration For Lake Ontario Communities Impacted By Severe Flooding

Jul 7, 2017

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today again urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stand ready to quickly approve any request from New York State for a major disaster declaration for communities affected by flooding along Lake Ontario. In a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long, Schumer requested that FEMA stand ready to approve any forthcoming requests from the state for expedited assistance for municipalities affected by Lake Ontario’s continued flooding.

“For months, residents along Lake Ontario have been ravaged by high waters. Now with lake levels not expected to recede for weeks, it is absolutely crucial that we get them the resources they need,” said Senator Schumer. “I’m putting FEMA on notice now to be ready to support any requests for federal assistance so that communities have the resources they need to recover and rebuild.” 

“The residents near Lake Ontario have experienced record flooding this past year and are urgently in need of FEMA assistance,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I urge FEMA to unlock federal disaster funds as soon as they are requested by the governor so that families and businesses near Lake Ontario can rebuild and recover from this devastation, and I will continue to do everything I can to make sure that the communities hurt by this severe flooding have all the resources they need to fully rebuild.”  

Schumer added, ” Residents along Lake Ontario have dealt with record-high lake levels and it has caused them to close businesses, damaged homes and eroded shoreline protections. And with no end in sight it is critical that FEMA does its part to help affected communities, should the state request disaster assistance. That is why I am reaching out to FEMA to be at the ready, because too many communities have taken a punch to the gut.” 

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.  Today, Schumer and Gillibrand doubled down on that push and in addition urged FEMA Administrator Long to also be ready to support any requests for expedited disaster assistance. Typically, after a severe storm or flooding event, the first step in the disaster declaration process is for state, local, and FEMA officials to perform a Preliminary Damage Assessment, where damages are assessed and tallied up. A state can also request expedited disaster assistance without the need to perform field damage assessments, in instances where the damage is of unusual severity and magnitude. The Senators urged FEMA to be prepared to support an expedited request for a disaster declaration for the communities along Lake Ontario, should the state request it.    

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.  

Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have continued to push for all available federal flood recovery assistance since the flooding first began earlier this spring:

· Called on IJC to Increase Dam Outflows – Senators Schumer and Gillibrand writes 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 – Senators Schumer and Gillibrand 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 and Gillibrand 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 personal on the best way to design flood protections.  Also, the Army Corps deployed over 170,000 sandbags to NYS towns and homeowners.

· Calls 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. 

· Calls 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

· Leading 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 – Met with Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo to reiterate his support to push for any and all available federal assistance. 

A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter appears below:

Dear Administrator Long:

We write to urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stand ready to support any expedited requests from New York State for disaster assistance for communities affected by ongoing flooding along Lake Ontario. With lake levels not expected to recede for weeks, making it very difficult to get a full accounting of damage incurred, we urge FEMA to stand ready to support any forthcoming requests for expedited assistance without a full field damage assessment.

As you know, the United States’ Lake Ontario coastline has experienced ongoing severe flooding for several months now, with record-high lake levels caused by historic precipitation and spring melt-off. The flooding has shut down businesses, damaged homeowner property and public infrastructure, and eroded away land and shoreline protections. Relief is still not yet in sight, as Lake Ontario is forecasted to slowly decrease but remain at high levels throughout the summer.  Therefore, FEMA should be prepared to work with New York State and be as flexible as possible should the state submit an expedited request for disaster assistance for the communities impacted by the Lake Ontario flooding.

As costs continue to mount for homeowners, counties, and municipalities, federal assistance from FEMA could be vital in ensuring that communities are able to repair damage, clean up debris, and undertake crucial mitigation work. We are grateful for the attention that the federal government has historically given to quickly responding to disasters impacting New York State. In that spirit, we urge you to stand ready to support any requests from the state for expedited disaster assistance.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senator