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On August 18th, Remnants of Tropical Storm Fred Ravaged Several Upstate Communities, Damaging Homes, Schools, Businesses, Bridges, Roads

Senators Say FEMA Disaster Declaration Unlocks Federal Funds For Impacted Communities In The Southern Tier, Central New York, Mohawk Valley, And Finger Lakes Including Counties of Allegany, Cayuga, Cortland, Lewis, Oneida, Steuben, Tioga, and Yates. 

Schumer, Gillibrand: Get Upstate The Dollars Needed To Recover From Fred

Following a major, sustained push to get full and expedited consideration for New York state’s request to the administration for a Disaster Declaration, U.S. Senate Majority Leader and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that President Biden has approved New York’s Disaster Declaration request in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Fred, officially providing the state with federal funding needed to begin recovery efforts. The severe flooding caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred rampaged the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, Central New York, and the Finger Lakes regions on August 18th. The declaration makes federal funding available to state, tribal, local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred in Allegany, Cayuga, Cortland, Lewis, Oneida, Steuben, Tioga, and Yates counties. Individual assistance, the FEMA program to help households recover, is still under review.

During the storm, New York received over 7 inches of rain in three days, with 24-hour totals exceeding 3 inches in many locations and one receiving over 5 inches, helping make this one the wettest summers in the region. On the night of August 18th, Swift Water Rescue Crews had to be deployed to assist dozens of residents evacuate their homes and take refuge in shelters. In the Southern Tier, rushing floodwaters damaged hundreds of homes, businesses, roads, bridges, and were so powerful they even caused a train to derail. Local creeks reached historic levels, with the Tuscarora Creek cresting at over 14 feet. Communities in Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Lewis also saw heavy rains, flooding, and damage.

“Communities across Upstate New York including in the Southern Tier, Central New York, and the Finger Lakes were ravaged by Tropical Storm Fred’s heavy rain and historic flooding,” said Senator Schumer. “The damage was severe, and while this won’t make New Yorkers whole, this will provide the funding and support needed to rebuild, and rebuild stronger. After my continued engagement with the administration, I’m glad the president has agreed to step in and jumpstart recovery efforts for the region.”

Schumer added, “I will continue to work with the administration and the impacted counties, especially Steuben County and other communities which are seeking Individual Assistance and sustained significant damage. I will keep pushing the administration to make sure that Steuben County receives every dollar of funding it deserves from FEMA and is set on the road to recovery.”

“I am deeply grateful that President Biden has granted a Major Disaster Declaration for New York State in the wake of Tropical Storm Fred,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Senator Schumer and I requested this crucial measure, which will deliver federal funds that will help New York families and communities recover from the significant damages caused by flooding from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred. I will continue working with President Biden to lay the foundation for a stronger, more resilient future.” 

On August 19th, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for Steuben County. On August 25th, Schumer and Gillibrand requested that FEMA actively prepare to issue a disaster declaration for the storm-ravaged Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, Central New York and Finger Lakes communities, and additionally, to be prepared to participate in a Preliminary Damage Assessment with state and local officials, should the state request it.

Grant assistance will now be made available to state and local governments, as well as certain non-profit organizations, to reimburse costs incurred for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities. This funding is available on a cost-sharing basis; FEMA generally covers 75 percent of the eligible costs for permanent and emergency work.

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the president to issue “major disaster” or “emergency” declarations before or after catastrophes occur. The decision to issue a disaster declaration is at the discretion of the president, and must be requested by the governor of the state. These declarations unlock federal aid through FEMA that is broken into two broad areas: Individual Assistance (IA) that aids families and individuals, and Public Assistance (PA) that is mainly for emergency work such as debris removal and permanent repairs to infrastructure. When assessing the degree of PA damage, FEMA considers six factors: estimated cost of the assistance, localized impact, insurance coverage, hazard mitigation, recent disaster, and programs of other federal assistance. Regarding the cost, FEMA has certain thresholds that have to be met to qualify for PA specific to the state and the counties in question.

Senator Schumer and Gillibrand’s original letter asking President Biden to approve New York state’s request for a disaster declaration appears below:

Dear President Biden:

We write in strong support of the State of New York’s request for a major disaster declaration for the widespread damage and flooding caused by heavy rains on August 18, 2021 and continued until the morning of August 19, 2021.

This severe storm caused significant damage across Upstate New York, including sustained damage leading to displaced residents, uninhabitable homes, the closure of schools, destroyed roads, and the tragic loss of life. A joint federal, state, and local Preliminary Damage Assessment revealed that costs exceeded $36.2 million in public infrastructure damage.

Reflecting the statewide damage from these heavy rains and flooding, Governor Kathy Hochul requested a major disaster declaration on September 17, 2021, pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288), including Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs statewide and Public Assistance for Allegany, Cayuga, Cortland, Lewis, Oneida, Steuben, Tioga, and Yates counties and Individual Assistance for the Individuals and Households Program including Other Needs Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Disaster Case Management, Disaster Legal Services, and SBA Disaster Assistance for Steuben County.

There is no doubt that this damage has overwhelmed state and local governments, and that a major disaster declaration is necessary. Federal assistance programs will be critical, so that our communities can recover from the flood damage. We thank the Governor and the State for their work thus far and strongly support the request for a major disaster declaration in the areas impacted by this storm event. 

We appreciate your swift attention and consideration of this request and stand ready to work with you and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver support and resources to the impacted communities.