12.12.14

SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND, HIGGINS, COLLINS, REED URGE PRESIDENT TO QUICKLY APPROVE DISASTER DECLARATION FOR WNY COMMUNITIES HARD HIT BY HISTORIC NOVEMBER SNOWSTORM – DISASTER DECLARATION WOULD UNLOCK FEDERAL FUNDS FOR ERIE, CATTARAUGUS, CHAUTAUQUA, GENESEE, ORLEANS, WYOMING

Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, Collins, Reed Write to the President Urging Support of a Major Disaster Declaration To Help Reimburse Up To Nine Counties throughout Upstate New York that Experienced Devastating Snowfall Last Month

Act On Disaster Declaration To Help Reimburse WNY Communities for Emergency Work & Repairing Damaged Facilities

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representatives Brian Higgins, Chris Collins and Tom Reed urged President Barack Obama to swiftly approve New York State’s request for federal support in light of the devastating snowstorm that hit Western New York last month. Specifically, Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, Collins, and Reed are requesting swift approval of a Major Disaster Declaration for the impacted counties that include Erie, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming. The cost of damage currently totals approximately $49.2 million. The lawmakers urged the President to take immediate action to work with the affected counties and New York State to quickly approve this declaration. They also urged the Small Business Administration to swiftly approve an agency-level Physical Disaster Declaration. These disaster declarations would make municipalities, non-profit organizations, homeowners and businesses eligible for critical relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

If the President grants the disaster declaration, grant assistance will 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% of the eligible costs for permanent and emergency work. With an SBA physical disaster declaration, SBA will be able to provide qualified recipients with low interest loans of up to $40,000 to renters and homeowners to replace personal property; up to $200,000 to homeowners to repair or replace damaged homes; and up to $2 million to business owners to repair damaged businesses, or meet financial obligations that could have been met had the storm not occurred.

“Many communities across Western New York were devastated by last month’s snowstorm, and it is high time we get those communities the FEMA disaster declaration they need to help residents and businesses recover,” said Senator Schumer. “It is important the federal government step up to the plate and swiftly approve the request for this designation, as it will provide these localities the funds and resources they need to recoup the cost of the damages to their communities, roads, businesses and other critical infrastructure.”

“I saw first-hand the immense damage caused to homes, businesses, and farms around the region,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We must get communities in the region the assistance and resources needed to recover without delay. I urge the Obama administration to move swiftly and issue this disaster declaration to free up the federal resources required.”

“The recent snowstorm left Western New York with significant expenses relating to the emergency response and the damage to property and businesses,” said Congressman Higgins. “The federal government must act now to provide the funding our community needs to recover and rebuild.”

"The people of Western New York braved the impact of the historic November snow storm and came out a stronger community,” said Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27). “Now the federal government must step up and provide the financial assistance needed to help state and local governments foot the bill for the storm's clean-up.  This is a proper role for the federal government, and I know my local colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, will work together to press the President to declare a disaster."

“Providing relief for the communities impacted by the devastating storms is the fair thing to do to care for our constituents,” Congressman Tom Reedsaid. “This assistance will help get residents and businesses in the area back on their feet quickly so we can move forward.”

The delegation’s letters to the President and the SBA Administrator are included below:

Dear President Obama:

We write in strong support of New York’s request for a major disaster declaration for nine counties in the State of New York as a result of the severe winter storm that impacted the state between November 18 and November 26, 2014.

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. This volume of snow, as you may be aware, cannot be simply plowed. It must be removed by heavy duty equipment, and some municipalities were forced to hire contractors to help deal with the snow removal. Some spent their entire year’s budget in just those few days of snowfall. The storm also caused damage to buildings across Western New York and the North Country, including some roofs that caved in under the weight of the snow. Some school districts were closed for more than a week, causing districts to use all of their yearly allotted snow days, and travel bans kept many residents home from work, many of whom will not be paid for their time away. During the worst part of the storm, hundreds of motorists were forced to abandon their cars on roadways, many after being stranded for hours, and fourteen New Yorkers lost their lives.

Without support of this disaster declaration through the powers afforded to you in the Stafford Act, New York State will have an even more difficult time recovering from the 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 make a disaster declaration for Erie, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties.

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Dear Administrator Contreras-Sweet:

We write in strong support of New York State’s request for Small Business Administration disaster assistance as a result of the severe winter storm that impacted the state between November 18 and November 26, 2014.

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. Some school districts were closed for more than a week, causing districts to use all of their yearly allotted snow days, and travel bans kept many residents home from work, many of whom will not be paid for their time away. The storm also 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.

It is for these reasons, in the most dire of circumstances, that we ask the SBA to approve a physical disaster declaration. Such a declaration will help members of the community rebuild and repair damages that are not fully covered by private insurance policies. SBA will be able to provide qualified recipients with low interest loans of up to $40,000 to renters and homeowners to replace personal property; up to $200,000 to homeowners to repair or replace damaged homes; and up to $2 million to business owners to repair damaged businesses, or meet financial obligations that could have been met had the storm not occurred.

Thank you for your immediate consideration of this disaster declaration request. The people of Western New York and the North Country cannot wait to begin applying for low-rate direct loans from the SBA as they begin the rebuilding process.

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