Cuomo says FEMA should pay for Lake Ontario damages
‘I think it’s only right that the federal government comes to the table and antes up and helps us pay for this disaster.’ – Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo made two stops at Lake Ontario communities on Thursday, announcing a relief package for residents, businesses and municipalities that have damaged property from the high Lake Ontario.
The governor also said the state intends to seek reimbursement from the federal government. Once the damages exceed $27.3 million statewide, New York can seek a federal disaster declaration and funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“In a situation like this where you reach a threshold amount in damage, which I believe we’re going to meet, the federal government has a program to come back and reimburse,” Cuomo said, speaking at the Sunset Bar & Grill in Wilson, Niagara County. “And we’re going to pursue that aggressively because I believe this is a federal responsibility. We pay federal taxes and they should pay.”
Speaking later in Irondequoit, Cuomo said this about FEMA:
“I think it’s only right that the federal government comes to the table and antes up and helps us pay for this disaster.”
Local state legislators and Congressman Chris Collins on Wednesday, during an event at the Green Harbor Campground and Marina in Carlton, said they would press Cuomo to seek federal aid for relief.
The controversial International Joint Commission, a binational group that regulates the water levels in the Great Lakes, has faced criticism for the record-breaking water levels at Lake Ontario. Cuomo said big rainfall is the main factor in the high waters, but he said the IJC’s role needs to be studied.
“There’s no doubt that God put the water there,” Cuomo said in Irondequoit. “Everybody agrees with that. An extraordinary amount of rain, that filled the lake. The second question was what do the regulators do and how did they react as they saw the water level rising? And I think at a minimum, their actions should be studied with the advantage of hindsight because my guess is something like this happens again and we don’t want to have the same mistakes again.”
Cuomo has called upon President Trump to immediately appoint new leadership to the IJC, which is responsible for regulating water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The Governor is requesting that President Trump to replace the two sitting Commissioners and to fill a vacant Commissioner seat. All three U.S. Commissioners are appointed by the President and must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
“We’re calling on President Trump to replace those appointees on the IJC, put appointees who know what they’re talking about, who know the Great Lakes, and he can do that immediately,” the governor said.
Cuomo at the news conferences on Thursday detailed a $55 million package approved by the State Legislature last week. The relief package includes $45 million for Lake Ontario flood victims, and $10 million to reimburse Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany counties for damages sustained as a result of the severe storms and flooding in July 2015, and for Monroe County for damages resulting from the severe storm of March 2017.
Cuomo praised the state legislators from throughout the state for supporting the flood relief package.
“We are one state, one people,” he said. “And with the New York State legislature, we have Democrats, we have Republicans, we have liberals, we have conservatives, we have everybody in that New York State Legislature. But at times like this, when things are at their worst, New Yorkers are at their best. And this Legislature stepped up and did what I find most admirable. They put the politics aside and they acted in the best interests of the people of the state of New York. And we’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are New Yorkers first and we act in the best interests of the people of the State of New York. And that’s what we did with this bill, $55 million from your neighbors in the state of New York.”
$15 Million for Homeowners
The legislation increases the original program size from $7 million to $15 million and the maximum award from $40,000 to $50,000 and expands eligibility to include all primary homeowners, as well as non-primary homeowners with income up to $275,000. Homeowners that sustained direct physical flood-related damage will be eligible to receive up to $50,000 under this program. Program assistance will reimburse homeowners for eligible losses, including repairs to and restoration of structures, equipment, and other physical damage.
The program is being administered through not-for profit housing organizations seeking to help homeowners affected by the flooding. Homeowners seeking assistance are encouraged to contact the not-for-profit organizations serving their county to determine eligibility, ask questions, and apply for program assistance (click here) or contact LakeOntario@nyshcr.org or 518-474-2057. The HCR offices are open Monday through Friday, 9-5.
$15 Million for Small Businesses, Farms, Homeowner Associations and Not-for-Profit Organizations
The legislation increases the program size from $5 million to $15 million and the maximum award from $20,000 to $50,000 and expands eligibility to include farms, homeowner associations, owners of multiple dwellings, and not-for-profit organizations, in addition to small businesses.
Small businesses, farms, homeowners associations, and not-for-profit organizations that sustained direct physical flood-related damage will be eligible to receive up to $50,000 under this program, while owners of multiple dwellings will be eligible to receive up to $20,000. Program assistance will calculated at 50 percent of eligible loss, compensating eligible entities for repairs to and restoration of structures, equipment, and other physical damage and declines in revenue in excess of 15 percent as a result of closures or reduced business.
The program is being administered by Empire State Development. Applications and program guidelines are available by clicking here. Eligible entities interested in participating in the program are also encouraged to ask questions and express interest at ESD offices or contact LakeOntario@esd.ny.gov or 518-292-5348. The ESD offices are open Monday through Friday, 9-5.
$15 Million for Counties, Cities, Towns, Villages and Special Districts
The legislation increases the program size from $5 million to $15 million and expands eligibility to include flood mitigation and construction of resiliency measures in addition to infrastructure repair and restoration. Counties, cities, towns, villages and special districts that sustained direct physical flood-related damage are eligible to receive up to $1,000,000 for repairs to and restoration of municipal infrastructure and systems and up to $500,000 for flood mitigation, construction of resiliency measures, or flood control projects.
The program is being administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal. Applications and program guidelines are available by clicking here.
Eligible entities interested in participating in the program are also encouraged to ask questions and express interest at HCR offices or contact LakeOntario@nyshcr.org or 518-474-2057. The HCR offices are open Monday through Friday, 9-5.