As I write this column, it’s a hot, sunny Friday afternoon in the Mohawk Valley. The Thruway is crowded with families passing by as they get a start on the July 4th holiday weekend. However, for many local families and businesses, it’s a time for trying to clean up and cope with the recent flooding.
Given today’s sunshine, it’s hard to believe that it was only a few days ago that intense rains led to some of the worst flooding experienced by several communities in Montgomery, Fulton and Schenectady counties (as well as in other counties to the west and south). Flooding is always a potential threat along the Mohawk and other waterways, but it’s certainly not a problem you’d expect in late June, and especially not at this magnitude.
Many homeowners, businesses and public facilities have suffered severe and extensive damage. I’m afraid they may be facing a long and costly period of clean-up, restoration and rebuilding.
On this day -- June 30th -- I am in Canajoharie, along with Assemblyman Tonko, local mayors, town supervisors, businessmen and residents. We have gathered here to meet with our federal representatives, Senator Schumer, Senator Clinton and Congressman McNulty.
We are working to tap into existing federal relief programs in order to secure assistance for those who have been negatively affected. As soon as the disaster hit, State and local officials immediately began compiling the necessary data to justify a designation of a major federal disaster. On June 30th, Governor Pataki formally submitted a request to the President to issue a Major Federal Disaster Declaration for 13 counties, including Montgomery County. It is anticipated that Fulton and Schenectady counties will subsequently be added to the list
If New York’s request is approved, families and businesses in affected areas will be able to apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance under a variety of programs. Information is available on their website at www.fema.gov. As soon as the federal designation is approved by the President, people may also call FEMA’s toll-free hotline at (800) 621-3362 to register and obtain information on applying for assistance.
In addition, Governor Pataki has announced a State Disaster Relief Program which will help supplement federal relief programs. One of the State’s initiatives will seek to provide additional assistance to affected families and businesses. Another of the initiatives seeks to help local governments by having the State pick up the local share of the costs of repairing public infrastructure.
State agencies are currently in the process of setting up phone numbers and establishing application procedures. Also, the State Insurance Department has already established a hotline to help answer insurance-related questions from victims of the flood. They can be called at (800) 339-1759 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on business days.
Finally, I want to express my sincere appreciation to the many volunteer firefighters, law enforcement officials, emergency responders, nonprofit groups and others who have worked tirelessly these past few days to ensure the public safety and to help families and businesses cope with this crisis. Your efforts were greatly needed, and are greatly appreciated.