The state will provide $16 million to homeowners, business operators and farmers in five of the 12 upstate counties that were declared disaster areas after recent severe flooding but denied federal aid, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said he continues to push the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Albany to appeal the federal decision that could help individuals in all the counties.
Cuomo says Herkimer County will get $4 million, Madison County $3 million, Oneida County $3 million, Niagara County $2 million and Montgomery County $4 million.
“It’s a lot of money, but it’s your neighbors saying, `We’re here to help you,”’ Cuomo said at a Herkimer County news conference. “When one person has a problem, everyone is there, one for the other.”
Seven counties that were also declared disaster areas weren’t included in Cuomo’s announcement or funded under his executive order. They are Allegany, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Franklin, Otsego and Warren. Cuomo released his executive order Wednesday afternoon in which he described the five counties receiving aid as being the “hardest hit.” Six hours after online stories the noted seven counties were omitted, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the remaining counties could be considered for state funding in the future.
The announcement of $16 million from the state comes as state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reports state revenues were $321 million over projections as of the end of June. The state budget totals more than $135 billion.
Schumer said Wednesday that he continues to urge the state to appeal a decision by FEMA not to provide assistance. Schumer calls the decision wrongheaded.
“I’m very glad the state is stepping in as far as homeowners are concerned,” Schumer said. He said his office is contacting local officials to double check reports of “significant damage” to homes and businesses which could reverse FEMA’s decision. But he said only the state can appeal.
Cuomo said he felt FEMA was wrong in its decision, but he hasn’t appealed.
Cuomo said homeowners, business operators and farmers in the five counties will get state funding of grants and loans equal to what they would have received from FEMA. That includes a voluntary program for government to buy property which has been repeatedly flooded. Private homeowners would be paid at full market value before the latest flooding. The land would be kept vacant and used to help control future flooding.
He said more than 500 homes were damaged to some degree and dozens were destroyed while at least 150 business have major or minor damage. Homeowners are eligible for up to $31,900 in grants and loans while small business owners and farmers are eligible for up to $50,000 in aid.
The aid will cover damage to roofs, windows, doors, siding, flooring, drywall, insulation, foundations, well and septic systems, electric systems, fuel tanks, heating and water systems, and appliances, and to address environmental hazards.
State and local governments will get millions of dollars in FEMA aid to repair and rebuild roads and other services.
Cuomo also invited the local political leaders to Albany for a planning and recovery meeting Thursday of those hit last year by Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and Superstorm Sandy.