Schumer, Gillibrand urge FEMA to approve individual assistance for Steuben County flood victims

Corning Bureau

STEUBEN COUNTY, N.Y. (WETM) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released a letter urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reverse their decision to deny Individual Assistance to Steuben County flood victims.

President Biden issued a disaster declaration for Tropical Storm Fred-impacted communities in Allegany County, Cayuga County, Cortland County, Lewis County, Oneida County, Steuben County, Tioga County, and Yates County.

The disaster declaration unlocked potentially millions of dollars in federal aid to help local governments with recovery and clean up. However, Individual Assistance was denied for Steuben County, which would provide direct aid to families and individuals.

“The people of Steuben County were devastated by Tropical Storm Fred’s heavy rains and historic flooding that severely damaged hundreds of homes and dozens of business,” said Senator Schumer. “While the Public Assistance FEMA approved earlier this year will go a long ways towards helping the community build back, Individual Assistance is needed to truly help families and individuals recover from this devastation. The damage is significant and pervasive throughout multiple communities in Steuben County, and I strongly urge FEMA to approve New York’s appeal of the denial for Individual Assistance for Steuben County.”

“Tropical Storm Fred ravaged communities throughout Steuben County. Individuals and families are in dire need of federal support and resources as they begin the long journey to recovery,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I urge FEMA to promptly reverse its denial of Individual Assistance – the residents of Steuben County cannot afford to wait any longer.”  

“Steuben County is extremely appreciative of the efforts of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Gov. Hochul and her staff, and our state elected officials in submitting this formal appeal to FEMA,” said Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler.  “Tropical Storm Fred caused the most severe flash flooding our county has seen in decades, and it is vital that FEMA revisit their decision on Individual Assistance for our residents that were impacted. Our hope is that the collective voices from every level of government in this state, coupled with the data provided, will provide FEMA with the information they need to rule in our favor.”

On the night of August 18th, Swift Water Rescue Crews had to be deployed to assist dozens of residents evacuating their homes and take refuge in shelters. The storm caused major damage and the relocation of students for the start of the school year in the Jasper-Troupsburg High School and the Tuscarora Creek crested at over 14 feet.

Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter to FEMA administrator Criswell appears below:

Dear Administrator Criswell,

We write in strong support of the State of New York’s appeal of the denial for Individual Assistance to Steuben County following the devastating flooding caused by Tropical Storm Fred on August 18, 2021.

We appreciate the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) decision to grant Public Assistance to the eight counties New York State requested, as well as the Hazard Mitigation funding, but the damage in Steuben County was so severe that we disagree with FEMA’s decision not to grant the county Individual Assistance. This severe storm caused significant damage in Steuben County, homes have been left uninhabitable, residents have been displaced, and most tragically, the storm claimed one life. Based off a joint federal, state, and local Preliminary Damage Assessment hundreds of homes and dozens businesses were destroyed or severely damaged. Steuben residents are hurting, the school in the Jasper-Troupsburg district had four feet of water in it, businesses were decimated, and the resident’s public infrastructure – from roads to bridges – was ravaged. In short- residents in Steuben County have faced devastating loss and are desperately in need of Individual Assistance.

As you consider this appeal, I urge you to examine the arguments the State of New York has outlined in their appeal. Looking at the factors used to award Individual Assistance to counties after Hurricane Ida (DR-4615), it is evident that using the same factors, Steuben County should be awarded Individual Assistance under DR-4625 (Tropical Storm Fred).

We greatly appreciate the work FEMA has done in response to Tropical Storm Fred, as well as Hurricane Ida and Hurricane Henri. We strongly support the State of New York’s request for Individual Assistance in the areas impacted by this storm event.  We appreciate your swift attention and consideration of this request and stand ready to work with you and FEMA to deliver support and resources to the impacted individuals and communities.

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