August 30, 2011

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge President To Swiftly Declare New York Counties Federal Major Disaster Areas; Irene Caused Millions Of Damage To Homes, Business, & Critical Infrastructure

Schumer, Gillibrand Push FEMA to Promptly Make Federal Assistance Available To Twenty-Six NY Counties Following State’s Request, Severe Rain and Flooding Have Caused Severe and Widespread Land and Property Damage

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand wrote to President Barack Obama and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, urging the immediate approval of New York State’s recent request for a major federal disaster declaration in response to Irene, which caused unprecedented damage throughout the state. The affected counties include Albany, Bronx, Clinton, Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Kings, Montgomery, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Rensselaer, Richmond, Rockland, Schenectady, Schoharie, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster, Warren, Washington and Westchester.

“All across the state, Irene has caused millions of dollars of damage to land, residences, and critical infrastructure,” said Schumer. “I strongly urge President Obama and FEMA officials to immediately issue a disaster declaration for the twenty-six counties affected because the bottom line is that residents and counties should not and cannot shoulder this financial burden on their own. This federal assistance will help New York get back on its feet, and I’m going to fight as hard as possible to bring every last available dollar to the state.”

“Roads, bridges, homes and businesses are getting washed away across our state, and New Yorkers are suffering,” Senator Gillibrand said. “We need these counties declared a disaster area so we can get every available federal resource on the ground to help the families and businesses of our state recover. I will keep fighting to make sure New York receives all the federal aid we need to recover from this devastating storm.”

The state is currently seeking aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster assistance for the following categories of aid: 1) Individual Assistance for citizens who suffered losses, including the Individual and Households program, disaster unemployment insurance, and Small Business Administration loans; 2) Public Assistance to reimburse communities for debris removal, emergency response efforts and restoration of public infrastructure to counties in New York State; and 3) Hazard mitigation grants which support projects that reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property from natural hazards and their effects.

A copy of the Senators’ letters to President Barack Obama and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, appears below:

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

The Honorable W. Craig Fugate
Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20472

Dear President Obama and Administrator Fugate:

We are writing to strongly support New York State’s request for an expedited Major Disaster Declaration pursuant to Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-507, and implemented by 44CFR §§ 206.26.

As you are aware, communities across New York have suffered catastrophic damage as a direct result of Tropical Storm Irene, and to date, six fatalities in the state have been confirmed.  At least four towns and villages are underwater.  At least twenty-six counties have been impacted by the effects of the hurricane, including Albany, Bronx, Clinton, Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Kings, Montgomery, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Rensselaer, Richmond, Rockland, Schenectady, Schoharie, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster, Warren, Washington and Westchester.

Locations within these counties are experiencing significant flooding, damage to homes and businesses, continued power outages, and large-scale infrastructure damage causing road, bridge and highway closures.  According to the New York State Department of Transportation, some localities remain inaccessible for evaluation. 

Designating Irene a major disaster for New York is vital to the millions of New Yorkers living in the affected counties.  It would allow for communities to be reimbursed for the cost incurred for debris removal, emergency protective actions taken, and would help repair water control facilities, buildings, and public utilities. Furthermore, a declaration would provide individuals with assistance for housing, food, crisis counseling, disaster unemployment insurance, disaster legal services, and SBA loans for small business owners.

The Governor has concluded that due to the enormity of this event, the amount of infrastructure damage far surpasses the state threshold of $25 million required for a major disaster declaration.  We support the governor in this determination. 

Thank you for your continued attention to this urgent crisis, and for the steps that you have already taken to approve a pre-landfall emergency declaration for several New York counties.  We hope that you will give this request your highest consideration, and ensure that all necessary federal resources are immediately available to assist with New York’s recovery from this devastating hurricane.