Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge The Small Business Administration To Be Ready To Swiftly Approve Disaster Declaration For Southern Tier And Finger Lakes Counties That Were Severely Impacted By Last Month’s Flooding

Jul 16, 2015

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today urged the Small Business Administration (SBA) to be ready to swiftly approve any forthcoming requests from New York State for federal support in light of the severe flooding in communities across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes, if the damage assessment meets the federal threshold. Specifically, Schumer and Gillibrand wrote to SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet following a tour done by SBA officials in the region to perform a survey of the damage. If a disaster caused physical damage to 25 homes or business structures in excess of 40% of the uninsured value, the state can apply to the SBA a Disaster Declaration. Once awarded, the SBA can offer low-interest loans to renters, homeowners, and businesses to make repairs, replace household items, or clean up debris in the designated counties and in any contiguous counties. 

“Severe flooding has damaged roads, destroyed homes and wreaked havoc on businesses in Tompkins County and throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Regions. That is why it is absolutely critical we get federal resources on the ground as soon as possible, so that Tompkins County and the other impacted counties and communities can recover and rebuild after this severe weather,” said Schumer. “So we want the SBA to stand ready to approve a federal disaster declaration and provide all forms of available aid for impacted municipalities, farmers homeowners and businesses. This federal disaster assistance is necessary because it will give reassurance to our communities that the federal government will be there to help respond and recover.”

“These SBA disaster loans are a welcome and necessary relief for many homeowners and the businesses in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes that were hurt by the significant damage caused by the flooding last month,” saidSenator Gillibrand. “These funds will help give a significant boost to the recovery efforts in the region and help everyone in the area get back on their feet.”                       

Severe flooding occurred the night of Sunday, June 15, and some communities remained in a state of emergency through the following day. Schumer and Gillibrand said affected communities received more than four inches of rain over the course of twenty-four hours. Significant flooding forced some residents to evacuate their homes, destroyed personal property, and caused structural damage to homes and businesses. While checking on residents in Newfield in Tompkins County, firefighters realized that the last road in or out had been flooded, and were forced to evacuate more than twenty people, who were taken to a shelter at the local high school. Numerous roads and bridges still remain closed.

In the event an SBA declaration is requested and approved, the SBA can provide qualified recipients with low interest loans up to $40,000 to renters and homeowners to replace personal property, $200,000 to homeowners to repair, replace, or clean up damaged homes, and up to $2 million to business owners to repair damaged businesses. Interest rates are set quarterly but currently can be as low as 2.188% for homeowners and as low as 4% for businesses.

Schumer and Gillibrand outlined the SBA disaster loans available if the federal threshold is met:

·         Home and Personal Property Disaster Loans: Renters and homeowners alike may borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace clothing, furniture, cars, appliances, etc. damaged or destroyed in the disaster. Homeowners may apply for up to $200,000 to repair or replace their primary residence to its pre-disaster condition.

·         Business Physical Disaster Loans: Businesses of any size and most non-profits can apply for up to $2 million in loans that may be used for repair or replacement of real property, machinery, equipment, fixtures, inventory, and leasehold improvements.

·         Economic Injury Disaster Loans: Small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most non-profit organizations of all sizes suffering substantial economic injury may be eligible for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan of up to $2 million to meet necessary financial obligations – expenses the business would have paid if the disaster had not occurred. 

A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter to the SBA appear below:

Dear Administrator Contreras-Sweet:

We write in strong support of the communities in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Regions that were recently impacted by severe flooding and ask for your assistance in aiding the affected communities. We understand that the SBA has conducted a survey of the damage in Tompkins County, and we appreciate SBA’s responsiveness to this important matter. Should the level of damage exceed the threshold and New York State request an agency-level physical disaster declaration or any other assistance from the SBA, we urge you to swiftly approve that request.

Severe storms caused extreme flooding and extensive damage to private property across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Regions last month. According to the National Weather Service, some communities received more than four inches of rain over the course of twenty-four hours. Significant flooding forced some residents to evacuate their homes, destroyed personal property, and caused structural damage to homes and businesses.

As costs begin to mount for homeowners, residents, and business owners who must clean up debris, replace personal property, and repair uninsured structures, the availability to tap low-interest federal loans from the SBA will be vital. Residents and homeowners should not be doubly faced with high interest loans simply to ensure they can repair their homes or keep their stores open for business. This is particularly critical for businesses that rely on the summer tourism season that is now underway.

We are grateful for the prompt attention that you and the entire federal government have given to quickly responding to disasters impacting New York State, and for your commitment to cutting bureaucratic red-tape so that assistance can be provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. In that spirit, we strongly urge you to approve any forthcoming requests for SBA assistance as New York recovers from these storms.