Senators push for disaster declaration from August flooding

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand today sent a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to approve a major disaster declaration in several upstate New York counties — including Oneida and Lewis counties — following severe flooding caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred that rampaged through the regions Aug. 18-19.

In order to receive money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the state conducted a Preliminary Damage Assessment in coordination with FEMA officials on Friday, Sept. 17, and Gov. Kathy Hochul requested a major disaster declaration, pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

The request now requires presidential approval. Federal assistance through FEMA would support state, local governments, disaster relief organizations, and compensation by insurance for disaster-related losses.

“Tropical Storm Fred ravaged Upstate New York and caused severe damage across the Southern Tier, Central New York, the Mohawk Valley, and Finger Lakes regions,” said Schumer. “This immense damage totaled over $30 million in costs suffered and demands swift help from the
federal government to help
communities repair and recover. I strongly urge FEMA to approve New York State’s request for a disaster declaration as soon as possible.” 

“Tropical Storm Fred caused significant damage due to heavy rain and strong winds in Central New York, the Southern Tier, the Finger Lakes Region, and the Mohawk Valley. New York State has now been hit by three major storms in just the past few months. Coupled with the ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19, New Yorkers are facing crises on multiple fronts,” said Gillibrand.

“I am asking FEMA to promptly approve the disaster declaration and urgently needed federal assistance for state and local governments. We can’t afford to wait any longer,” Gillibrand added.

Schumer and Gillibrand said a joint federal, state, and local Preliminary Damage Assessment to the impacted areas of Upstate NY revealed that costs exceeded $36.2 million in public infrastructure damage. The senators said the impact of the storm was substantial causing major damage and the relocation of students for the start of the school year in the Jasper-Troupsburg High School in Steuben County and Staley Elementary School in the Rome.

In Steuben County alone, joint FEMA-State assessment teams identified damage to at least 122 homes and 26 businesses with a value of more than $3 million. Several homes and businesses in Rome near the flood-swollen Mohawk River, including the River Street neighborhood, also sustained damage.

Specifically, the request included Public Assistance for Allegany, Cayuga, Cortland, Lewis, Oneida, Steuben, Tioga, and Yates counties.

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