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Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, Collins, Reed Wrote to FEMA Urging Fed Agency To Be Ready To Act On a Disaster Declaration To Help Reimburse WNY Counties Following Massive November Snowstorm

Now, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Orleans, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming Counties Will Be Immediately Eligible for FEMA Funds to Help Cover Clean-Up & Recovery Costs


Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, Collins, Reed: Federal FEMA Support for WNY Counties Damaged By Historic Snowfall is Critical


Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Representatives Brian Higgins, Chris Collins, and Tom Reed announced that the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has approved a federal disaster designation for nine Western New York counties, due to losses caused by excessive snow, flooding, freeze, and high winds that occurred from November 19 through November 26, 2014.  The FEMA disaster declaration will apply for the following counties: Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Orleans, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming Counties. This declaration will officially make municipalities within in these nine counties eligible for public assistance, which provides federal funds for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities. These nine counties were deemed eligible for FEMA public assistance funds because they reached the specific damage threshold.

With this declaration, the state, counties, local governments, and certain non-profit organizations will be eligible to apply for funding for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and permanent work, including the repair and replacement of disaster-damaged facilities. Specifically, permanent work can include the repair of roads and bridges, water control facilities, and utility systems and facilities; the repair or replacement of buildings and equipment; and the repair and restoration of parks, recreational facilities, and other facilities. In November, following the storm, Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, and Collins wrote to FEMA and urged the agency to be ready to issue this declaration so that emergency assistance could be made available to the municipalities in the counties that suffered as a result of this historic November snowstorm.

“This much-deserved federal disaster aid is just what the doctor ordered for hard hit taxpayers and county-city-and town governments throughout Western New York, which had to spend heavily to dig out from this epic snowfall. We fought hard to deliver this federal aid and are pleased FEMA and the Obama Adminstration did the right thing so local taxpayers are not left footing the bill for this national disaster,” said Senator Schumer, who called FEMA Administrator and top White House officials to lobby for a prompt decision. “With this designation, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Orleans, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming Counties will receive the support they need to recover and rebuild after this severe weather.”


"This federal disaster declaration is outstanding news for Western New Yorkers, and I thank President Obama for moving fast to make this decision,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I saw firsthand how devastating the unprecedented snowstorm was to our communities. I want to thank everyone for their effort as it was essential for losses to be documented efficiently and thoroughly so that we could quickly demonstrate to FEMA our need for these federal recovery funds. The state and the nation can all be inspired by the toughness and optimism of Western New York.”


“I applaud the President’s decision to issue a disaster declaration for the State of New York,” saidCongressman Higgins. “This declaration will trigger federal funds from FEMA, providing critical support to eligible entities in nine counties, to help in recovery from the recent snowstorm, and assist in protecting against damage from future natural disasters.”


“The President’s disaster declaration today is an important step in aiding the rebuilding process for the thousands of individuals and businesses impacted by the deadly November storm,” said Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27). “I am proud of our first responders who worked tirelessly during the storm and our local officials who spent the last month assessing the damage.”


“I am glad that we were able to work together on a bipartisan basis to secure this support from FEMA and the President. This declaration is fair to the affected communities to help move forward from the major snowstorm in November,” said Congressman Tom Reed.


On November 19, New York declared a state of emergency for ten counties in advance of the severe snowstorm which ended up causing nearly $50 million in damage to Western New York and the North Country. Areas in South Buffalo and the surrounding communities received a historic seven feet of snow. The storm caused damage to many businesses’ and residents’ property, including some roofs that caved in under the weight of the snow. This damage is all in addition to the economic injury that many small businesses suffered after being closed for a week.


FEMA public assistance funding covers 75% of the eligible cost for emergency measures and permanent restoration. All areas in New York are also eligible to apply for funding under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which provides grants to states and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures.


A copy of the delegation’s initial letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate is included below:


Dear Administrator Fugate:


We write in strong support of communities across Western New York that were recently impacted by the severe snow storm. New York State is currently in the process of assessing the damage, and should that damage meet a level where the state requests a major disaster declaration for Erie County, Chautauqua County, Cattaraugus County, Genesee County, Wyoming County, and other impacted counties, we urge you to swiftly implement the federal programs activated by the President’s approval of the request.


On November 18, New York declared a state of emergency for ten counties in advance of what will likely end up being one of the worst snowstorms that Western New York has ever seen. Some areas in South Buffalo and the surrounding communities have already seen more than six feet of snow in just 36 hours, and the snow is expected to continue to fall. Many school districts remain closed, and a large number of travel bans are still in effect. Hundreds of motorists were forced to abandon their cars on roadways, many after being stranded for hours, and at least eight Western New Yorkers have lost their lives. With snow piles over six feet, conventional plows are unable to clear the roads, so high lifts, pay loaders, and dump trucks are required to move the snow to designated areas. New York State officials are still evaluating the extent of the damage, but it is expected that the total costs will be substantial, between overtime for plow drivers, sanding the roads, and repairing other general damage across the area.


Without support of this disaster declaration through the powers afforded to you in the Stafford Act, the state will have an even more difficult time recovering from the constant impact of a recent string of disasters. The state has yet to fully recover from Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and Superstorm Sandy, and we believe that federal assistance is necessary to preserve the safety of our citizens and to protect our infrastructure from future disasters. We are grateful for the prompt attention that you and the entire federal government have given to quickly responding to disasters impacting New York State, and for your commitment to cutting bureaucratic red-tape so that assistance can be provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. In that spirit, we strongly urge you to swiftly recommend that the President make a disaster declaration, and implement all federal programs activated by that declaration.




U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Representative Brian Higgins

Representative Chris Collins