Region Devastated By Floods, Pataki Offers Relief Plan
On June 28 and 29, 2006, Senator Bonacic visited communities across our Senate District which were devastated by the floods of the past few days.
His stops included Port Jervis, Deerpark, Livingston Manor, Downsville, Walton, and Ulster. In addition, the Senator tried to reach and spoke by phone with local officials from nearly every municipality which suffered severe storm damage.
He also had extensive contact with the State Office of Emergency Management (SEMO), and Governor Pataki's office.
The Governor, on June 30, announced an immediate aid package of $35 million to help the flood damaged region. Details of the plan are below:
$35 Million Aid Package Provides Timely, Critical Assistance to Affected Communities Governor Formally Requests Federal Disaster Assistance for 13 Counties
Governor George E. Pataki today announced a major flood relief package that will provide crucial and timely assistance to thousands of residents affected by the recent devastating floods in the State Disaster Emergency declaration area which includes Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Orange, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan, Tioga and Ulster counties.
“We continue our efforts to help the thousands of New Yorkers affected by these devastating floods recover from its destructive wrath,” Governor Pataki said. “As we work with the federal government to assess the full extent of the tremendous damage, we must jump start the recovery process and provide quick and thorough assistance to the families and business affected by this unprecedented flooding to help them get back on their feet as soon as possible. The thoughts and prayers of all New Yorkers are with the victims of the flooding, and we want them to know they are not alone in their time of need.”
The Governor also announced today that he has formally requested President Bush to declare a major federal disaster for the 13 counties, making them eligible for federal assistance as a result of the widespread damage caused by the floods. “These floods and storms struck with ferocity and a vengeance, crippling the transportation networks and causing widespread devastation for local communities and personal hardship for thousands of New Yorkers,” the Governor said. “While we continue to do everything possible, this effort has placed a severe strain on local and State resources, making it necessary to ask for this federal assistance.”
STATE DISASTER RELIEF PROGRAM
The State’s Disaster Relief Program is designed to supplement existing federal disaster relief programs and address gaps in coverage and eligibility for individuals and families, and also municipalities who were impacted by the flooding. The $35 million package will provide timely assistance to facilitate relief and recovery efforts.
A key component of the package is up to $25 million for the State Individual and Family Grant Program, which would provide individuals, families, and small businesses with grants of up to $5,000 for documented flood losses not covered by insurance or other government programs. This assistance program, to be administered by the State Department of Labor, will use funding appropriated in the enacted 2006-07 State Budget to ensure the assistance is available in a timely manner.
In addition, the State will assume the localities’ share of costs under the Federal Emergency Management Authority’s (FEMA) Public Assistance Program. Typically, the FEMA program reimburses localities for 75 percent of the costs to repair public infrastructure damaged by major disasters, with the State and local community splitting the remaining 25 percent. Under this program, the State would pay the customary 12.5 percent locality share, providing needed budgetary relief for municipalities in flood impacted regions.
The State also will assume the local share of FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Program, which traditionally has localities paying 25 percent of the costs of projects designed to mitigate future disasters. Under this aid package, the State would cover the 25 percent costs, providing budgetary relief to affected municipalities. The Governor also will request that New York’s Congressional delegation take the necessary action to have the federal government support this program by reimbursing the State for these expenditures.
Overall, the State’s assumption of local shares for these two programs will provide approximately $10 million in financial relief to localities impacted by the floods.
The State’s Disaster Relief Program seeks to build on the numerous federal programs already in place to help those affected by floods or other disasters. Upon the declaration of a disaster, FEMA dispatches workers to set up a field office to oversee and coordinate response and recovery efforts. The federal disaster aid is provided in the following categories:
- Disaster Housing – local resources are utilized to house individuals and families whose residences have been destroyed or heavily damaged by floods. This assistance is available for up to 18 months, and also includes funds for housing repairs and other actions to make homes habitable.
- Disaster Grants – available to help meet serious disaster-related needs such as the replacement of personal property, transportation, or medical expenses, not covered by insurance or other aid programs.
- Low-interest Disaster Loans – homeowners and renters are eligible to apply to the U.S. Small Business Administration to assistance to cover uninsured property losses. The loans are available for the repair or replacement of homes, automobiles, clothing or other damaged personal property. Businesses also are eligible for property losses and economic impacts.
- Other Disaster Aid Programs – programs such as crisis counseling, disaster-related unemployment assistance, legal aid and assistance with income tax, Social Security, or Veteran’s benefits are made available to those in need. Various State and local assistance program are also available.
Although most of these programs can be initiated administratively, the Governor will work closely with the State Legislature to ensure appropriate relief and assistance is available. New York State mounted a massive response in response to the flooding, and the Governor announced a State Disaster Emergency for 13 counties on Wednesday. Thousands of personnel from numerous State agencies and National Guard soldiers are actively engaged in response and recovery operations.
More than 350 National Guard personnel answered the Governor’s call to duty and are involved in response missions. Working in unison with State Police, aviation and ground personnel have rescued more than 80 people and assisted in local evacuation, including in the Town of Conklin, Broome County, and Sidney, Delaware County.
In addition, thousands of Department of Transportation (DOT) maintenance and technical support staff are working to alleviate flood-related impacts, with more than 550 pieces of equipment engaged in this effort. DOT crews have been working around the clock reopening roads as water recede, and are beginning detailed condition assessments of roads and bridges that have been affected by high waters.