SCHUMER, FEMA OFFICIALS TOUR FLOOD DAMAGE, INSPECT RECOVERY EFFORTS IN PUTNAM COUNTY SCHUMER WILL PUSH TO SECURE AS MUCH FEDERAL AID AS POSSIBLE IN WAKE OF IRENE
Schumer Inspects Damage and The Status of FEMAs Recovery & Rebuilding Efforts Putnam County; Will Be Briefed On Local Needs For Additional Federal Help, Visit Other Hudson Valley Counties Later In The Day To Fund Recovery, Schumer Is Pushing To Boost Funding In the Federal Disaster Relief Fund Will Fight To Make Sure That Putnam County Residents Receive FEMAs Individual Assistance To Help Homeowners, Businesses Rebuild Schumer: The Federal Government Has Always Stepped Up To
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and FEMA Federal Regional Administrator Lynn Canton toured Putnam County to get a firsthand look at the damage and devastation caused by tropical storm Irene. Schumer visited Philipstown in order to receive an update on FEMA's efforts to help the Hudson Valley rebuild and recover from the storm, and to receive a briefing from local leaders on their current needs from the federal government. Following the storm, Schumer is pushing for a boost in funding for the federal Disaster Relief Fund so that New York can tap into federal funds to help finance the recovery effort. Schumer believes the federal government needs to step up provide funding for recovery efforts, and today announced that he will search high and low for every last dollar of federal aid to help New York rebuild. In order to help Putnam County homeowners and small business owners rebuild in the wake of the storm, Schumer personally called FEMA Administrator Fugate, urging him to make Putnam County eligible to receive individual assistance. Schumer is also pushing FEMA to grant aid to local governments that need to make repairs to roads, bridges, and other types of public infrastructure.
"The devastation here in the Hudson Valley is unimaginable, and it's clear we need the full support of the federal government to help get things back on track," said Schumer. "I'm going to leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding federal funds to help New York rebuild. FEMA needs to work hand in glove with state and local leaders to make sure our communities have every single tool at their disposal to rebuild roads, bridges, utilities, and other key infrastructure. I'm also going to fight as hard as I can to make sure that homeowners and business owners get the support they need as we work to rebuild New York."
"Putnam County, like many other New York counties, has suffered extreme damage from Hurricane Irene," said Putnam County Executive Paul Eldridge. "We appreciate greatly the efforts of Senator Schumer and our other State and Federal elected officials in taking the time to see the devastation in our county firsthand. We also appreciate their efforts in assisting us for inclusion and designation as eligible for federal and state assistance. Clearly, we believe the costs of repairs and cleanup far exceed our local government's ability to pay."
Schumer is seeking to boost the amount of federal funding available so that Putnam County and others throughout the Hudson Valley can benefit from both individual and public assistance in the wake of Irene. After the storm hit, Schumer immediately called for Putnam County to receive both types of aid, to help homeowners and local governments finance repair work. Schumer also placed a personal phone call to the FEMA Administrator, telling Administrator Fugate that the severe damage in Putnam County warranted both types of assistance. Individual assistance makes funding available to individuals and households, including money for temporary housing and grants to repair damage not covered by a homeowner's insurance policy. In rare conditions, homeowners could receive money to replace a home that was destroyed in the disaster.
Public assistance is federal aid made available to public and certain nonprofit entities for emergency services and the repair or replacement of public facilities damaged in a natural disaster. Qualifying municipalities and entities can use public assistance funding for debris removal and cleanup, emergency protective measures to save lives and prevent further property damage following a storm and to repair washed out and heavily damaged roads and bridges. Local governments can also utilize this source of funding to repair water control facilities including dams and levees, to repair public buildings and equipment damaged from the storm, repair utilities, and repair or restore public parks and other recreational facilities.
"All it takes is one look at the damage in Putnam County to see they clearly deserve both individual and public assistance," said Schumer. "That's why I called the FEMA Administrator and asked him to add Putnam to the list of counties eligible for federal assistance. I'm going to stay on top of it until Putnam residents and local governments get the federal assistance they need."
Following the storm, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand wrote to Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew, urging the Obama administration to seek sufficient funding for the Disaster Relief Fund to cover the cost of damage to New York communities in the wake of Irene. Governor Cuomo has estimated that the damage costs in New York alone would exceed $1 billion, but the federal disaster relief fund currently only has $792 million available. The funds in this account are meant to be used to cover damage sustained in states up and down the east coast who were hit by Irene, as well as to fund repairs from a host of other natural disasters like the tornados that hit Missouri earlier this year. With New York's damage alone expected to exceed the total amount in the federal account, Schumer is pushing to ensure that the account is boosted quickly to help fund recovery efforts in the coming months.
Schumer's push for funding comes as the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee is set to begin consideration of the FY2012 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, which will help determine the funding levels for the disaster relief fund, among other homeland security accounts. The fund helps to finance recovery efforts from all sorts of natural disasters from all 50 states. Given the unexpected strain of a serious storm causing unprecedented damage in New York, Schumer is pushing to ensure that the Obama Administration seeks a sufficient amount of additional funding, to cover this unanticipated storm.
Shortly after the storm, President Obama and FEMA Director Fugate granted Schumer's request and declared that every county in the state was eligible to apply for hazard mitigation grants, to help reimburse local governments for life and property saving actions taken before, during, and immediately following the storm. The grants fund actions including relocation of property located in high hazard areas, elevation of flood prone structures, and dry floodproofing activities. Schumer said today that county governments seeking federal reimbursement for qualifying activities undertaken during the storm should contact his office if they are struggling to receive the relief they deserve.
Farms in the Hudson Valley have also sustained significant damage as a result of tropical storm Irene. Flooding from the storm has put fields of crops completely underwater and ruined an entire year's crop. Schumer has called on Secretary Vilsack to act expeditiously to grant a disaster designation for Hudson Valley counties in order to provide farmers with prompt access to the financial and technical assistance they need to recover from the storm and rebuild their farm businesses, including assistance through the Emergency Loan Program, the Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) program, the Emergency Conservation Program and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. These programs can provide a variety of tools to assist farmers in overcoming the challenges they will face in the coming weeks and months as they work to recover from production and physical loses on their farms and rebuild their businesses including financial assistance to compensate for crop losses, low interest emergency loans and assistance in rehabilitating farm land.
Schumer today also pledged to support Hudson Valley businesses damaged in the storm who are seeking federal assistance. If a private business or nonprofit organization suffered physical damage or sustained an economic injury due to Irene, it may be eligible for financial assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration. If the business, regardless of size, is located in a declared disaster area, the owner may apply for a longterm, low interest loan to repair or replace damaged property. Even if the property was not damaged, the business owner may apply for a working capital loan from the SBA to relieve the economic injury caused by the disaster. Schumer is encouraging local businesses seeking assistance to contact his office for help navigating available federal aid.
"We have two important tasks ahead of us," continued Schumer. "First, we need to skip the political fighting and make sure the federal government has the funds available to help communities recover from natural disasters. And second, we need to make sure the Hudson Valley gets the federal help it needs and deserves."
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