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Gillibrand, Schumer urge quick federal action on storm damage

OBSERVER Staff Report

U.S. Sen. Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Saturday urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency to expediently complete Preliminary Damage Assessments for both Public Assistance and Individual Assistance in 18 counties, including Chautauqua and Erie, across Upstate New York – which are necessary to unlock federal recovery funding – after they were battered by severe storms and flooding on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

The senators said FEMA will begin these assessments in the state next week.

During the two days, 12 counties received at least 3 inches of rain, which is nearly a month’s worth in most Upstate areas, and 27 counties received flood warnings and flash flood warnings. Furthermore, winds blew between 60 and 70 miles per hour, knocking down countless trees, destroying private property and leaving hundreds of thousands of Upstate New Yorkers without power.

Locally, Dunkirk and Sunset Bay took the brunt of the damage. In the city, the retaining walls on Lake Front Boulevard were damaged by battering waves while trees came down across Sunset Bay.

“Just two weeks ago, our state, from one corner to the other, saw severe damage after being ravaged by heavy rain, flooding and tempestuous winds. It is absolutely critical that we get these communities the aid they need and the first step is for FEMA to prioritize this damage and to complete preliminary damage assessments immediately,” said Schumer. “This immense damage will total tens of millions of dollars in costs suffered and demands swift help from the feds to repair. FEMA needs to make these assessments the top priority in the nation and complete these PDAs as soon as humanly possible so that counties across the state can continue recovering and rebuilding.”

“Communities all across Upstate New York are still suffering from the extensive damage that the Halloween storms caused. The federal government has a responsibility to assist in the recovery efforts, and the first step to doing just that is ensuring that FEMA completes preliminary damage assessments as quickly as possible,” said Gillibrand. “With 18 counties in our state requesting help, and with the estimated damage costs of these storms reaching tens of millions of dollars, our communities can’t afford to wait. I am urging FEMA to prioritize the recovery of our communities to provide them with the relief that they need.”

After any severe storm, the first step in the federal disaster declaration process is for the state to request a Preliminary Damage Assessment, during which FEMA representatives join state, local, and other officials to survey damage across storm-impacted counties to help determine whether the cost of the disaster meets the criteria for a federal disaster declaration. If a disaster declaration is declared, grant assistance would 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.

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