September 14, 2020

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge President Trump To Support Major Disaster Declaration For New York State In Wake Of Tropical Storm Isaias

Federal Relief Would Help Impacted Counties in New York City, Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley

Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand wrote a letter to President Trump in strong support of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration for New York State. In the letter, they also encourage the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to continue working closely with the state to complete the outstanding Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDA) for several counties across New York including Dutchess, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland and Westchester counties.

According to information provided by the state, $48 million in state and local costs were identified for infrastructure repair and debris removal in Nassau and Suffolk counties. 

“In the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias, New Yorkers have suffered lasting power outages, and homes, businesses and public infrastructure have been damaged—all while the economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to ravage our communities,” said Senator Schumer. “It’s crucial for the president to act swiftly and approve the Major Disaster Declaration for New York so the state and local governments can get the federal assistance they need to alleviate the effects of this damaging storm.”

“The recovery work after Tropical Storm Isaias continues for New Yorkers who were heavily impacted by heavy rain and strong winds,” said Senator Gillibrand. “These same communities struck hardest by Isaias were already struggling to beat back the economic impact of COVID-19. We are asking the president and FEMA to step in and promptly approve this urgently needed federal assistance for state and local governments. New Yorkers can’t afford to wait any longer.”

Tropical Storm Isaias moved through New York on August 4, 2020. Over the course of the storm, heavy rains and damaging winds caused widespread power outages, road closures and damage to homes, small businesses, and public infrastructure. The majority of the storm's impact was felt in New York City, Long Island, and the Lower Hudson Valley, which saw the highest rainfall totals.

During the course of the storm there were public transportation service disruptions and suspensions with the Long Island Rail Road, Staten Island Railway, Metro-North, MTA, and New York City and Staten Island Ferry Service. Many state roads were closed in the counties of Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester due to fallen trees and other wind- and flood-related damage. 

Read the full text of the letter here or below:

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Dear President Trump,

We are writing in strong support of Governor Cuomo’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration for New York State, under the provisions of Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5170), for Public Assistance Categories A-G for Nassau and Suffolk Counties and statewide Hazard Mitigation for damage caused by Tropical Storm Isaias on August 4, 2020. We also encourage Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to continue working closely with the state to complete the outstanding Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDA) for the Dutchess, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, and Westchester Counties.

As was described in the Governor’s request, Tropical Storm Isaias produced severe and damaging weather, including heavy rain and strong winds, across a number of counties in New York City, Long Island, and the lower Hudson Valley.  These severe weather conditions resulted in widespread loss of electricity across the region, as well as numerous road closures from debris and other dangerous conditions, and damage to private and public property and infrastructure.  Immediately after the storm, a State Disaster Emergency was declared for the affected counties.  

Starting last month, FEMA Region 2 conducted a joint PDA with New York State for eight New York counties: Dutchess, Nassau, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester.  According to information provided by the state, $48 million in state and local costs for infrastructure repair and debris removal were identified for Nassau and Suffolk Counties in the joint PDA.  We are told that the state and FEMA are still working to complete the PDAs for the other counties and we encourage you to stand ready should they request additional support for the affected counties.  Even without these other counties, the damage in Nassau and Suffolk exceeds both the countywide per capita threshold, as well as the statewide threshold for Public Assistance. 

Given the fiscal constraints already facing our state and counties prior to Tropical Storm Isaias, we urge you to promptly approve this urgently needed federal assistance by declaring this event a major disaster.  Thank you for your attention to urgent matter. 

Sincerely,