FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 27, 2012
SCHUMER CALLS ON FEMA TO IMMEDIATELY REIMBURSE VILLAGE OF GOWANDA FOR FLOOD RECOVERY PROJECTS; AVOIDABLE FEMA DELAYS HAVE ALREADY SLAPPED $200,000 IN INTEREST ON COMMUNITY’S BUDGET, THOUSANDS MORE ARE RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to swiftly reimburse the Village of Gowanda for a short-term bond that the village utilized to pay for recovery projects after the region’s devastating flooding in 2009. The delayed reimbursement has translated into $200,000 in interest fees, adding a significant burden on the village and local taxpayers. In 2009, the Village of Gowanda took out a $5 million bond anticipation note (BAN) to cover the costs of approximately 70 repair projects, and 10 projects are still awaiting FEMA review. Schumer noted that the interest costs will only continue to rise with time, and in a small village like Gowanda these needless FEMA delays have put a serious squeeze on their budget. In addition, if the Village is forced to roll over the BAN again in the coming months, it will cost them an additional $25,000.
The Village of Gowanda has completed numerous projects since the 2009 floods that devastated the community, for which the Village still awaits reimbursement from FEMA. These projects include repairs to Village Hall, which required rebuilding the majority of its office space, riverbank restoration at Cattaraugus Creek, removal of 7 feet of mud from Point Peter reservoir, and the replacement of Crestwood Drive. The work on these projects, and others, has been completed and temporarily paid for by the Village.
In the summer of 2009, severe summer storms ripped through New York State, and Erie County and the Village of Gowanda experienced widespread destruction and property damage. This was followed by heavy thunderstorms and severe flooding which added to the damage, overturning foundations of homes and businesses, crippling water and wastewater systems, and rendering main thoroughfares impassable. Flooding hit the Village of Gowanda particularly hard, leading to the tragic loss of 2 lives in the small community.
A copy of Schumer’s letter appears below:
Dear Administrator Fugate:
I write to express my concern with FEMA’s slow reimbursement process that has cost the Village of Gowanda hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments. Following the 2009 floods that devastated Gowanda, the village took out a bond anticipation note for roughly $5,000,000. While much of their costs have since been reimbursed by FEMA, 10 projects are still waiting for review. This wait has cost the village almost $200,000 in interest fees and has the potential to cost thousands more still. I request that FEMA speed up this needlessly slow review process in order to save taxpayers in Gowanda tens of thousands of dollars.
I have been informed by the Village of Gowanda that rolling over the bond anticipation note in August of this year will cost them another $25,000. In addition, if they cannot have it fully paid off by August of 2013, they will be forced to convert the bond anticipation note to permanent borrowing. The Village estimates this will cost at least another $10,000. In a village with a population of just over 2,700, these costs are simply unacceptable. The floods that heavily damaged the area took place in 2009, nearly three years ago. Holding up these funds is preventing the village from moving forward.
FEMA has had the necessary paperwork from Gowanda for months now. The village has done its part, now it is time for FEMA to do its share. These costs to the village are unsustainable and if left unchecked may force the Village to raise taxes. I believe that this should be wholly avoidable. All that is required is for FEMA to finalize the review process and let Gowanda for move forward and leave the tragic 2009 floods in the past.
Again, I respectfully urge you to find a way to speed up this review process for the Village of Gowanda. Thank you for your attention to this matter. Should you have any questions, please contact Grant Kerr at 202-224-6542.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator