09.12.11

SCHUMER TOURS FLOOD DAMAGE IN AMSTERDAM WILL PUSH TO SECURE FEDERAL AID TO HELP HOMEOWNERS, BUSINESSES TO RECOVER, AND TO REBUILD CANAL LOCKS DEVASTATED BY SECOND ROUND OF FLOODING

Flooding From Second Tropical Storm Has Damaged More Homes, Businesses & The Erie Canal That Is Critical To Local Commerce & Tourism To Repair The Damage And Help Small Business Owners and Homeowners Get Back On Their Feet, Schumer Will Fight To Secure As Much FEMA Aid As Possible Schumer: New York Has Been Hit With Heavy Flooding Again, The Federal Government Must Lend a Helping Hand

 

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer visited Amsterdam to get a firsthand look at the flood damage from the most recent tropical storm to hit Montgomery County, which comes on the heels of Hurricane Irene's destruction in the region. Schumer toured homes and businesses that have been severely damaged by the storms, such as Russo's Restaurant, and also made stops at the historic Guy Park Manor which has partially collapsed into the river, and Erie Canal Lock 11. During a tour of the damage, Schumer spoke with local officials about the federal government's assistance thus far, and was fully briefed on the community's additional needs from the federal government. Tropical Storm Lee has exacerbated what was already severe damage from Hurricane Irene in Montgomery County. The damage to Erie Canal locks and other canal infrastructure is of particular concern in the Capital Region, as the Canal serves as a vital route for commerce and tourism. Schumer successfully pushed for both public assistance and individual aid under Irene and will push for this aid to recover from Lee, as well as 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. In light of this second storm, Schumer is pushing for quick passage of an emergency bill to provide funding as quickly as possible.  

"From Hurricane Irene quickly followed by Tropical Storm Lee, Montgomery County has been dealt a onetwo punch from which it is suffering greatly," said Schumer. "The damage here in the Capital Region and along the Erie Canal is expansive and severe, and it's clear we need the full support of the federal government to help get things back on track. Now that an emergency declaration has been approved, I'm going to push for additional FEMA disaster assistance to help the Capital Region rebuild. FEMA needs to work closely with local officials, community leaders, and the Canal Corporation to rebuild canals, roads, bridges, utilities, and other infrastructure essential to the livelihood of the region. I will also push for the Disaster Relief Fund to be replenished as quickly as possible so that we can get to work rebuilding New York with all available resources."

Tropical Storm Lee is the second storm to hit Upstate New York in recent weeks and hit many of the same towns in Montgomery County as Hurricane Irene, only exacerbating the devastation that had already occurred. A few towns, such as Canajoharie and St. Johnsville in the Western part of Montgomery County, have been hit by Tropical Storm Lee, but were not affected by Hurricane Irene. 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 immediately. Schumer will push for quick passage of an emergency bill to replenish the Disaster Relief Fund so that funding can be allocated more quickly to Capital Region homeowners and businesses. The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the FY2012 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, which determines funding levels for the disaster relief fund, however Schumer is pushing for this separate emergency bill to get disaster relief funds to New York more quickly.

The Disaster Relief Fund is used to cover damage sustained in states up and down the East Coast who are hit by natural disasters, and Schumer is pushing to replenish those funds immediately in light of the damage in the Capital Region and throughout New York from this second storm. In addition to financing the recovery from the two recent rounds of flooding in Upstate New York, the Disaster Recovery Fund must cover damages sustained in natural disasters across the country, including the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri earlier this year. The damage suffered in New York from Hurricane Irene alone is expected to exceed the total amount currently in the disaster relief account, and Schumer is pushing to ensure that the account is boosted quickly to help fund recovery efforts from the most recent flood in the Capital Region.

On the visit, Schumer was joined by Amsterdam Mayor Anne Thane and Brian Stratton, Director of the New York State Canal Corporation, who gave him an overview of damage along the length of the canal. Hurricane Irene, closely followed by the recent tropical storm, has had particularly devastating effects on the Erie Canal and their canal locks. The twin flooding events along the Mohawk River and the Erie Canal have caused heavy damage to the canal infrastructure, and at least locks 7 through 13 have sustained damage, with lock 10 in particularly bad condition. The locks themselves, the powerhouses, the grounds, and even the bridges have been affected by this storm. 

Schumer noted that the iconic canal system 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.

In order to receive federal aid to repair damage inflicted by Tropical Storm Lee, in the form of additional FEMA public assistance and individual assistance, President Obama and FEMA must upgrade the emergency declaration to a major disaster declaration. Schumer has called for the president and FEMA to upgrade the original emergency declaration to a major disaster declaration.

Schumer is pushing for a quick delivery of both public assistance and individual aid, to the Capital Region. After Irene hit, Schumer personally called FEMA Administrator Fugate to extend this assistance to the County, and will be pushing FEMA to do so again after this second round of flooding. An emergency declaration has been approved in the region, which triggers FEMA money to cover emergency protective measures, but a major disaster declaration triggers individual assistance and several forms of public 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 and infrastructure 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.

Schumer today also pledged to support Montgomery County and Capital Region businesses damaged in the storm who are seeking federal assistance. If a major declaration is declared, and Capital Region Counties are deemed eligible for individual assistance, it will trigger the availability of Small Business Administration Disaster Loans, administered through the U.S. Small Business Administration. If the business is located in a declared disaster area, the owner may apply for a longterm, lowinterest 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.

"The Capital Region has been hit hard again, just as we were starting to dig out from Irene," said Schumer. "The entire country needs to come together and ensure that New York has the funds we need to rebuild homes, businesses, locks, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure that was damaged in this new round of flooding."

A copy of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand's letter to President Obama and Administrator Fugate in support of FEMA disaster air appears below:

 

September 9, 2011

 

The Honorable Barack H. Obama

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20500

 

The Honorable W. Craig Fugate

Administrator

Federal Emergency Management Agency

US Department of Homeland Security

500 C Street, SW

Washington, DC 20472

Dear President Obama and Administrator Fugate:

            Thank you for approving New York's September 8, 2011 request for an emergency disaster declaration (EM3341). The emergency protective assistance provided under the emergency declaration will help save lives, protect public health and safety, and mitigate damages inflicted by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. 

As we monitor Tropical Storm Lee damage reports, it is apparent that throughout Broome County, flood waters have crested above those of the historic levels set in 2006. Furthermore, ravines and creeks continue to overflow in Oneida and Herkimer counties, devastating homes and local businesses. As we speak, New York's emergency management teams are conducting damage assessments with FEMA officials. State per capita and per county damage dollar amounts are still being tallied, but it is immediately apparent that New York will meet thresholds required to receive FEMA disaster assistance.

At this time, we urge you to upgrade the September 8, 2011 emergency declaration (EM3341) to a major disaster declaration and support any request submitted by New York to upgrade this declaration. As part of this upgrade, we ask that both public assistance and individual assistance be made available to Albany, Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Greene, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Orange, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Schoharie, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, and Ulster counties. Upgrading the declaration would ensure these counties receive federal aid to remove debris, repair public infrastructure, buildings, and utilities, provide housing assistance to individuals, and trigger the availability of disaster loans to small businesses impacted by the storm.

Thank you for your consideration of this important request. Please contact Grant Kerr at  2022246542 or Kevin Fink at  2022244451if you have questions or need additional information.

 

     Sincerely,

 

 

Charles E. Schumer                                                      Kirsten E. Gillibrand

 




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