Governor Andrew Cuomo returned to Herkimer County Wednesday morning to announce the state will provide $16 million to homeowners, business operators and farmers in five upstate counties slammed by recent severe flooding.
Cuomo said Herkimer and Montgomery counties will receive $4 million, Madison and Oneida counties will receive $3 million and Niagara County will receive $2 million as he signed an executive order to create the Mohawk Valley and 2013 Upstate Flood Recovery Program. The program, he said, is intended to provide immediate recovery assistance to flood victims and to address gaps in coverage.
“While the federal government has approved public assistance funding for flood damaged public infrastructure in these affected communities, we must take quick and decisive action to help the property owners that have borne the brunt of the floods,” said Cuomo.
Preliminary surveys indicate 500 homes and at least 150 businesses suffered some level of damage as a result of the June 28 to July 4 flooding. Dozens more were destroyed.
Cuomo said while the damage from the floods was severe in many communities, the financial and property loss from the floods was below the amount needed to trigger Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal assistance. To meet local needs, he said the funds for the recovery program will be made available through an appropriation of state funds for emergency purposes made by the legislature this year.
“I said if the federal government for some reason doesn’t see fit to help, then the state government will. And the state government will. We said we will, and we will,” said Cuomo to an auditorium full of local officials. “The state is going to fund what the federal government should have funded, in my opinion. And the state is going to fund individual assistance to the homeowners who suffered damage and lost their homes.”
He added there is no line item for the program in the state’s $135 billion budget, but “that’s why we’re working with the legislature. The money will come from the budget.”
“It’s a form of hope for people who have suffered as a result of this catastrophic event,’ said Herkimer County Legislature Chairman Vincent Bono. “The governor promised the state would be here if FEMA and the federal government didn’t deliver, and he lived up to that promise. I ask the county residents to remain patient, as the rebuilding process is going to take time. It is my understanding centers will be established to assist residents with the application process and representatives from the Department of Homes and Community Renewal will be available to assist homeowners as they begin to rebuild, but those services are not going to be available overnight. Today’s announcement was good news for our homeowners, businesses and farmers, but they still need to remain patient.”
Page 2 of 3 - Under the program announced Wednesday morning, homeowners, small business owners and farmers or farm operations in the designated counties may be eligible to receive grants, subject to the documentation of flood-related damage and uninsured losses.
Homeowners may be eligible for up to $31,900 in assistance, while small business owners and farmers or farm operations may be eligible for up to $50,000 in assistance.
For homeowners, eligible costs include the repair or replacement of damage to roofs, windows, doors, siding, flooring, insulation, foundations, well and septic systems, electric systems, fuel tanks, heating and water systems and appliances, as well as remediation of environmental hazards. Homeowners whose properties were destroyed by the floods may also be eligible for a buyout — which would pay 100 percent of a home’s pre-storm value if a homeowner chooses to walk away — of their damaged property.
For businesses, eligible costs include reimbursement for losses to inventory, equipment, materials, fixtures and furniture, as well as design, construction, rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged structures. For farmers or farm operations, emergency funding is available to help with farm capital repair and replacement needs.
“I thank the governor for standing with our residents and businesses not only through the storm, but in the days that have come after,” said Herkimer Mayor Mark Ainsworth.
Ilion Mayor John Stephens said the $4 million in funding for Herkimer County will “go a long way in helping affected business owners, homeowners and farmers cover significant costs and recover from the devastation caused by this unprecedented flooding.”
“Our residents were stunned and outraged to hear FEMA would not provide assistance to homeowners that lost so much during the flooding. We are grateful that we have a governor that will not let our communities down,” said Little Falls Mayor Robert Peters.
State Senator James Seward, R – Milford, thanked Cuomo for his quick action.
“It was good to know we were not alone in this struggle and that we will not be alone going forward,” he said. I look forward to working with the governor and other state officials further to fully redevelop our overall disaster readiness and response.”
Assemblyman Marc Butler, R – Newport, said he was pleased to join Cuomo and his legislative colleagues in pledging $16 million worth of flood aid.
“We must move quickly to help our neighbors during this very difficult time. I am happy that our region is getting the attention and services it needs,” he said. “Hand-in-hand our community will pick up the pieces, rebuild and be stronger because of it.”
“When we learned FEMA funds would not be available to individuals, we were all frustrated and disappointed. Gov. Cuomo turned that frustration into results by making state funds available to those who were affected by the destructive flooding in our area. Mohawk Valley families lost more than just their homes and personal belongings — they lost peace of mind. It is the job of a public official to restore that peace of mind, and I am proud to say we are doing that today,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D – Utica.
Page 3 of 3 - Seven counties that were also declared disaster areas were not included in Cuomo’s announcement. They are Allegany, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Franklin, Otsego and Warren. The governor said the five counties receiving aid as being the “hardest hit.”
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer on Wednesday said he continues to push FEMA and Albany to appeal the federal decision that could help individuals in all the counties.
“I’m very glad the state is stepping in as far as homeowners are concerned,” he said.
Schumer said his office is contacting local officials to double check reports of “significant damage” to homes and businesses, which could reverse FEMA’s decision.
Cuomo said he felt FEMA was wrong in its decision, but he has not appealed.
“We had conversations with FEMA and I believe they think they are doing the right thing. They may be doing the right thing from their rules and regulations. On a human level, I believe these people need assistance, and that’s why we are here today,” he said.
For application materials, homeowners, business operators and farmers may go to www.nyshcr.org/Programs/NYS-Flood. Affected homeowners, businesses and farms may also call the New York State Flood Helpline at 1-888-769-7243 for information on how to receive assistance under the state flood recovery program.
“We’re going to take this negative and make it a positive,” said Cuomo. “We’re your neighbors and we’re going to be here. We’re going to do what we have to do to help you. When one person has a problem, everyone is there, one for the other.”
Contributing: The Associated Press