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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 21, 2012

SCHUMER: FEDERAL FOOT DRAGGING IS PREVENTING MILLIONS IN FLOOD AID, ALREADY APPROVED BY CONGRESS, FROM REACHING THE CAPITAL REGION – CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF FUNDS TO HELP REGION REBUILD & CONTINUE RECOVERY FROM TROPICAL STORMS



After Last Fall’s Tropical Storms, Schumer Fought to

Secure $200 Million for EDA Disaster Funding To Help Region Recover – Funding Has Been Approved, But Can’t Go Out Until Bureaucratic Guidelines Are Set

Storms Wreaked Havoc on The Capital Region, Causing Millions in Damage —Schoharie and Greene Co. Infrastructure, Main Street and Mohawk Valley Businesses Are Still Severely Damaged & In Need of Critical Investment

Schumer: This Process Has Taken Far Too Long Already, We Must Cut Through The Red Tape & Get Much Needed Aid To The Capital Region

 

Today, standing at the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors Chamber, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called for the immediate release of critical disaster funding for Schoharie County and the Capital Region, which was devastated by last fall’s tropical storms. A Schumer-backed bill that passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law contains $200 million in economic development funding for projects in disaster areas like New York’s Capital Region, but the funding cannot reach specific projects until Senate and House Appropriations Committees have approved guidelines for how the money can be spent. The Catskills and Schoharie and Mohawk valleys, especially in small rural towns like Schoharie, were hit extremely hard by Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, in some instances washing away entire city blocks. The overflow of the Schoharie Creek as a result of Tropical Storm Irene caused millions in damages to Schoharie’s businesses, homes, and infrastructure, and months after the initial blow, the region is still in desperate need for this Economic Development Administration (EDA) funding. Today, Schumer urged the congressional committees to end these delays and release the funds that are essential to rebuilding businesses and promoting economic development in the flood-ravaged Capital Region.

“The Capital Region’s homes, businesses, roads and infrastructure were blasted by last fall’s tropical storms, and it is imperative that the federal government continues helping these communities with their economic recovery,” Schumer said. “I am pleased to have helped pass legislation that could send millions of dollars of flood aid to flood-ravaged counties in New York to help them recover, but our work is far from over. This funding isn’t doing a bit of good until the congressional appropriations committees sign-off and put those critical investments into the hands of those repairing and rebuilding from the storm’s damage in Schoharie and the rest of the Capital Region. We need all hands on deck to help rebuild in flood-hammered upstate counties to get local communities and their economies humming again, and I am going to fight tooth and nail to get the federal government to act quickly and allow this recovery assistance to flow to areas like the Capital Region.”

Schumer stood with Congressman Paul Tonko, Schoharie Board of Supervisors Chairman Harold Vroman, County Budget Director Alicia Terry and Mohawk Valley Economic Development District Director Greg Eisenhut as he pressed the federal government to put an end to delays and immediately release economic development funding that could be critical to flood recovery in Schoharie County. In November 2011, Schumer helped pass legislation that included billions of dollars in disaster funding, which would help New Yorkers recover from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee. That Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations “mini-bus” legislation included $200 million appropriated for the EDA to distribute to disaster-ridden counties. The EDA will be able to use this funding to provide financial resources and technical assistance to help rebuild economic development and provide grants to build new infrastructure, like basic utilities, research facilities, and businesses, that foster economic development to retain or attract jobs to the region. However, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees must approve EDA’s planned uses for the funds before they can be released to the EDA and applied to disaster recovery projects. The committee does not review specific projects, but rather signs-off on the EDA’s planned general use of the funding.

Tropical Storm Irene caused serious damage to businesses, infrastructure and homes in Schoharie County. More than 13 inches of rain fell in the Catskills during the storm, and the Schoharie Creek overtopped its banks on August 28, and flooded through the streets of the village of Schoharie, picking up and distributing debris, chemicals, soil, gasoline throughout area homes, offices and businesses. In some cases flooding washed away entire city blocks. Town of Schoharie residents reported to local news outlets that they alone experienced up to $100,000 in personal or business damages, and Schoharie County as a whole suffered millions in damage. ??

Congress recently passed a series of appropriations bills, which will provide approximately $2.6 billion in disaster recovery funds to help communities across the country. Of these funds, Congress provided the EDA with $200 million in competitive disaster recovery funding. EDA’s spending plan for allocating the disaster funds is now in the Congressional approval process, but has met serious delays. In the meantime, the EDA is developing a Federal Funding Opportunity that will be posted on Grants.gov and www.eda.gov as soon as possible in connection with Congressional approval of the plan. However, the EDA cannot move forward to deliver these resources and technical assistance to help communities like Schoharie rebuild, until the deal is finalized.

Schumer noted that the EDA emergency funds would be a perfect match for a number of outstanding Capital Region projects that could help the region continue its recovery. The Mohawk Valley Economic Development District has been in discussions with the EDA to secure disaster aid funding for their business loan program. If approved, the MVEDD could use their portion of the emergency funding to finance low interest loans for businesses that continue to struggle after the storm. The group has identified numerous companies in Schoharie and across the Mohawk Valley that need financial support at very low or no interest. The town of Prattsville, Greene Co. has expressed an interest in disaster aid funding to plan and build a BioMass energy park, and Schoharie County is in need of securing EDA disaster planning money to scope out a long-term strategy after the storms. The EDA emergency funds could also help finance infrastructure repair work that is essential to economic growth.

The EDA plays a critical “second responder role” in addition to FEMA, in helping local governments weather the storm and provide emergency funding for repairs. Schumer’s push to secure a $200 million lifeline in the FY12 Appropriations “mini-bus” legislation funds a variety of EDA projects in the wake of these major disasters, but only once the funding is finalized and released. Specifically, EDA can be tasked with the following projects in the wake of a major disaster:

1.) Strategic Planning: EDA offers financial resources and technical assistance to help develop and enhance economic development plans following a disaster. This is achieved through the funding of disaster recovery plans, strategies, and funding for disaster recovery coordinators.

2.) Infrastructure Development: EDA offers grant funds to build new infrastructure (e.g., business incubators, technology parks, research facilities, basic utilities such as water treatment) that foster economic development to retain or attract jobs to the region.

3.) Capital for Alternative Financing: Through EDA’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program, non-profit and governmental entities can apply to establish an RLF which in turn makes below market-rate loans to businesses to help recovery

A copy of Schumer’s letter appears below:

Dear Chairmen Inouye and Rogers,

 

I write to you today to urge your cooperation in a matter of critical and urgent importance to my home state of New York and over a dozen other states across the country.  As you know, the Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations “mini-bus” legislation passed last fall included a lifeline of $200 million in aid for the U.S. Economic Development Administration to distribute to disaster-declared communities.  States like New York were battered with a torrent of storms throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall of 2011, one of the worst years for natural disasters in our recent history.  In some cases, entire communities were awash in flood waters, shutting down businesses, destroying homes, and disabling critical public infrastructure.  It stands to reason, therefore, that the U.S. Congress would do everything in its power to release this money to distressed communities as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately for the disaster counties in New York State – and hundreds of others across the country – this sorely needed stimulus still awaits final approval.  I urge you to expedite your review of the EDA’s proposed guidance and give our communities the shot in the arm they need.

 

In recent years, Congress has often turned to the Economic Development Administration to play a key and lead role in disaster recovery in communities across the country.  A 2009 GAO report found that EDA disaster funding provided crucial injections of infrastructure funding for communities from Los Angeles to Florida City after major hurricane events.  According to GAO, Florida communities like Homestead and Florida City suffered sustained damage to their water systems after Hurricane Andrew. EDA provided over $12 million for the repair and construction of water and sewer lines.  Without these infrastructure enhancements, these projects could not have been developed. As a result of the water system’s expansion, the State Farmers Market was also restored, creating almost 400 jobs.

 

In addition to the public infrastructure enhancements that support economic recovery and job creation, EDA disaster funding can also provide injections of dollars to support small business lending programs.  Community-based small business revolving loan funds can provide low interest financing for working capital to job creators in disaster recovery towns across New York.  For example, my office has been in contact with the Mohawk Valley Economic Development District, a not for profit organization that provides assistance to small businesses in Herkimer, Otsego, Oneida, Schoharie, Montgomery, and Fulton Counties.  The Mohawk Valley region, especially in small rural towns like Schoharie, was hit extremely hard by Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, in some instances washing away entire city blocks.  Therefore, the leadership of the Mohawk Valley EDD has expressed frustration that EDA’s disaster aid has not been released to the public, as the District would immediately apply for re-capitalization funding to support their small business lending program. 

 

Counties like Schoharie and Greene could also benefit from EDA’s planning assistance program in order to chart a plan for long-term recovery and economic development.  According to news reports, residents of that Town were estimating personal and business losses in excess of $100,000 in some cases.  Vital facilities like the County Office Building, which only recently reopened, are still dealing with the affects of the storm. Main Street businesses in villages like Windham and Prattsville in Greene, and Schoharie and Middleburgh in Schoharie County are in need of a confidence-building plan that can provide hope that the economic future is brighter than it is today.

 

In closing, I would like to thank both of your committees for initially providing this $200 million in economic development disaster aid.  This funding is a vital part of the long-term rebuilding efforts that New York State residents and leaders must now embark.  I hope you will satisfy the real need to distribute this funding as quickly as possible throughout New York and the country.

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