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Industries Across Upstate New York Are Reeling From The Storms Tourism In The Adirondacks & Catskills, Commerce Through The Erie Canal, Farming In The Hudson Valley & Scores Of Other Pillars Of The NY Economy Have Been Hit

In Personal Letter, Schumer Urges FEMA and EDA TO Work Together On A Full Damage Assessment To Help Develop A Rebuilding Plan, Identify Opportunities For Federal Funding To Help Recovery

Schumer: We Cant Delay This Critical Step On The Road To Recovery


Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to direct the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to conduct an Economic Impact Statement for New York following Tropical Storms Irene & Lee. The two agencies would work together with local officials to gather a comprehensive overview of the damage from the storms, prioritize rebuilding projects and map out a road to recovery, and help identify potential streams of federal funding to help make repairs and fund new projects that will be critical to the economy in upstate New York. With tourism in the Adirondacks & Catskills suffering, significant damage to main arteries of commerce like the Erie Canal, and businesses across the state still facing an uphill fight to reopen, Schumer is pressing for an immediate start to the Economic Impact Statement, so that each entity with a project that needs federal assistance knows where and how they can seek help.

"Each day the damage assessments climb higher and higher, making our road back to where we once were steeper and steeper," said Schumer. "FEMA has done a great job helping our communities in the immediate aftermath of these storms, but as we begin to turn our focus to rebuilding sewage plants, businesses, the Erie Canal, and other keys to our economy, the federal government needs to be fully engaged. The Economic Impact Statement will give us a clear view of what needs to be done, a full plan of how we can achieve it, and a list of ways in which the federal government can make sure local governments and business owners aren't left to shoulder the burden alone."

While FEMA is the primary agency in charge of helping local governments weather the storm and providing emergency funding for repairs, the EDA fills a "second responder role." Specifically, EDA can be tasked with the following projects in the wake of a major disaster:

1.  Economic Impact Assessment : EDA assists the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through a mission assignment protocol to help evaluate the economic impact of the disaster. 

2.  Strategic Planning:  EDA offers financial resources and technical assistance to help regions to organize, develop and implement a recovery strategy following a disaster. 

3.  Infrastructure Development:  EDA offers grant funds to build new infrastructure (e.g. business incubators, technology parks, research facilities, basic utilities such as water treatment) to retain or attract jobs to the region. NOTE: EDA cannot rebuild existing public infrastructure damaged during the disaster; that is FEMA's responsibility.

4.  Business Loans:  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.

Following a disaster, EDA responds by first coordinating with its sister bureaus and other agencies who are engaged in disaster recovery efforts to share information and data on the associated ramifications of the disaster. In addition, EDA reachesout to its economic development practitioner network (particularly its network of Economic Development Districts) to collect ontheground information on the economic impacts of the disaster event.  EDA has completed Economic Impact Assessments following Hurricane Floyd and Ike. In addition, EDA is often asked to lead interagency economic recovery initiatives to ensure there is a high degree of coordination and communication within the federal government to execute the most efficient delivery of services.

If funding exists as part of EDA's regular program appropriation, or, as is more common, supplemental funding is provided to EDA, EDA makes grants for longterm economic recovery to disaster impacted areas.  Schumer is pushing for EDA funding as part of an overall emergency disaster bill, to open up this possibility. At the early stages of postdisaster recovery, the focus of these grants may be on offering financial resources and technical assistance to help create economic development recovery plans following a disaster (i.e., strategic planning).

Schumer noted that a comprehensive approach to infrastructure repairs will be critical in the coming months. The iconic Erie Canal system, for example is still a vital route for commerce and tourism in the Capital Region and throughout New York, and that the repairs of canal locks and other infrastructure must be an immediate priority. Today, the Erie Canal system covers 524 miles of navigable water from Lake Champlain to the Capital Region and west to Buffalo. The Erie Canal is open to small craft and some larger vessels from May through November each year, and carries commercial shipments that deliver cargo throughout New York. There are numerous museums and parks along the Erie Canal that serve as major tourist spots throughout the state. Schumer warned that flooding in late June and in early July 2006 had severely hampered travel on the canal, and noted that federal aid to make repairs on canal infrastructure must arrive as quickly as possible to minimize similar results.

The text of Senator Schumer's letter to FEMA Administrator Fugate and Assistant Administrator Fernandez appears below:

Dear Administrator Fugate and Assistant Administrator Fernandez,

I write to urge you to immediately begin conducting an Economic Impact Statement for New York State on the heels of two devastating storms known as Hurricanes Irene and Lee.  As you know, New York has suffered from tremendous rain and riverine flooding the likes of which we have never before seen in communities from New York City to Scoharie County.  As communities begin to return to their homes and businesses and restart their lives, it is imperative that your agencies help assess the economic impacts of this devastation and offer concrete recommendations and actions as to how we can rebuild.  Through a mission assignment protocol, the Economic Development Administration can assist FEMA to evaluate the economic impact of the disaster.  This assessment and plan is crucially needed in short order for many communities throughout the state.

As you know, following a disaster, EDA can respond when tasked by FEMA by coordinating with emergency managers and other agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers who are engaged in disaster recovery efforts to share information and data on the impact of the disaster.  This is an important role that needs to be expedited for New York because of the dire consequences these backtoback storms have had for our State's economy.  For example, the Erie Canal, a historic and major artery for Commerce in New York, has been severely damaged and is not a functioning thoroughfare open to business today.  There are many other examples, such as a major bridge in the High Peaks area around Mount Marcy that was washed out as a result of these storms. This bridge leads to Mt. Marcy's trail head, and its destruction has prevented hikers from climbing New York's highest peak, and has had a negative impact on tourism in the region.

This assessment is a crucial firststep for FEMA and EDA in identifying local problems to infrastructure and business that may make New York entities available for postdisaster grants or loans.  Once this assessment is completed, I implore you to then work with local communities to identify opportunities for federal EDA funding to retain, attract, or generate jobs in the affected regions.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me or a member of my staff.


Charles E. Schumer

U.S. Senator