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Schumer, Gillibrand Call on FEMA to Expedite Federal Storm Relief to Local Counties

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Sen. Charles Schumer


Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have urged FEMA to expedite their Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDA) in 18 Upstate counties, including Cortland, which were battered by severe storms and flooding on Halloween night.

Those assessments begin today (November 18) in Cortland County and are necessary to unlock federal assistance for storm-related repairs and replacements.

Twelve of those counties got at least three inches of rain in those storms, equating to nearly a month’s worth in most Upstate areas.

A total of 27 counties received flood and flash flood warnings.

“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 Senator 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.”

After a severe storm, these state-requested PDA’s are the first step in declaring a federal disaster, 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 established criteria.


If criteria are met, grant assistance would be made available to state and local governments, along with 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.

The decision to issue a disaster declaration is at the discretion of the president, and must be requested by the governor of the state.

These declarations unlock federal aid through FEMA that is broken into two broad areas: Individual Assistance (IA) that aids families and individuals, and Public Assistance (PA) that is mainly for emergency work such as debris removal and permanent repairs to infrastructure.

When assessing the degree of PA damage, FEMA considers six factors: estimated cost of the assistance, localized impact, insurance coverage, hazard mitigation, recent disaster, and programs of other federal assistance.

Regarding the cost, FEMA has certain thresholds that have to be met to qualify for PA specific to the state and the counties in question.

For New York, the current PA threshold for the state is a little less than $30 million, which each county must experience $3.84 of damager per capita in FY 2020.

“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 Senator 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.”

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