U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to approve any request from New York City and State for a major disaster declaration following the severe flooding caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida that rampaged through the New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley regions on September 1st. The senators specifically referenced New York City as being particularly battered by the storm, getting a record 3.15 inches of rain in Central Park over the course of just one hour and over 10 inches of rain falling in various communities.
In the evening on September 1st, Governor Kathy Hochul declared a State of Emergency in New York State within the counties of Bronx, Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester in response to major flooding due to Tropical Depression Ida. Schumer and Gillibrand requested that FEMA actively prepare to issue a disaster declaration for the storm-ravaged New York City, Long Island and Hudson Valley communities, and additionally, to be prepared to participate in a Preliminary Damage Assessment with state and local officials, 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 percent 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 to be prepared to support any requests for aid from New York State.
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the president to issue “major disaster” or “emergency” declarations before or after catastrophes occur. The decision to issue a disaster declaration is at the discretion of the president, and must be requested by the governor of the state. These declarations unlock federal aid through FEMA that is broken into two broad areas: Individual Assistance (IA) that aids families and individuals, and Public Assistance (PA) that is mainly for emergency work such as debris removal and permanent repairs to infrastructure. When assessing the degree of PA damage, FEMA considers six factors: estimated cost of the assistance, localized impact, insurance coverage, hazard mitigation, recent disaster, and programs of other federal assistance. Regarding the cost, FEMA has certain thresholds that have to be met to qualify for PA specific to the state and the counties in question.
A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter appears below:
Dear Administrator Criswell:
We write in strong support of New York City and the surrounding suburban counties, including Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, Sullivan and Ulster that were recently deluged by Tropical Storm Ida. Last night, September 1, 2021, the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida paralyzed the New York City, Long Island, and Hudson Valley regions, dropping an unprecedented amount of rainfall, battering the local infrastructure, trapping thousands of New Yorkers, and tragically taking the lives of a number of our citizens. We urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stand ready, if requested, to immediately work with affected cities, counties, and New York State to determine whether the damage meets the statutory threshold for FEMA disaster assistance, and if it does—to make assistance available as expeditiously as possible.
Given the scope and historic nature of this storm– with New York City getting a record 3.15 inches of rain in Central Park over the course of just one hour and over 10 inches of rain falling in various communities – we are confident that a FEMA disaster declaration and assistance will be necessary to meet the urgent need of thousands of New Yorkers and their communities that experienced significant amounts of damage, injury, and in some cases, loss of life. Governor Kathy Hochul declared a State of Emergency for New York, Bronx, Kings, Queens, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Ulster, and Sullivan counties to address the subsequent flood of homes, highways, roads, subways, and other public infrastructure.
As New York begins to recover from this storm, we are once again reminded and deeply appreciative of the prompt attention that the federal government has historically given when responding to disaster impacting New York State. In that spirit, we strongly urge you to approve any forthcoming requests for FEMA assistance from New York State with all due speed as affected communities begin their recovery from these storms.