Communities in western New York are tallying the costs of last month’s epic snowstorm to see if it meets the threshold for federal assistance.
The storm cost Erie County government at least $7.5 million in damage, overtime and snow removal expenses, but the price tag is expected to grow because the figures are still being tallied.
Buffalo and nearby cities and towns are still adding up their cost estimates. The town of Hamburg has reported a preliminary figure of $2 million. Lackawanna’s estimate is $2.8 million.
In total, governments must document $27.3 million in costs to be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement.
The storm dropped as much as 7 feet of snow in some areas and forced officials to close a 132-mile stretch of the Thruway. Many governments were forced to bring extra crews over several days to remove tons of fallen snow.
Federal rules will make it hard for cities to recoup all of their losses. FEMA will only provide assistance for costs incurred during a 48-hour period within a snowstorm. In the case of the Buffalo storm, crews worked overtime for days to remove snow.
Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski on Dec. 5 called FEMA’s policy “ridiculous” and said it means the city will likely be on the hook for more than half of its $2.8 million in storm costs.
He said he hopes the state will step forward to offer more assistance.
“If it was a smaller storm, we wouldn’t have even needed help,” Szymanski said. “Here in western New York we’re prepared for snowstorms. But we weren’t prepared for an entire winter’s worth of snow in one storm.”
Messages seeking comment from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top Senate leaders were not immediately returned on Dec. 5. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “The speaker has assured the governor that he supports immediate aid to the Buffalo region.”
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