Skip to main content

State asks Obama to overturn FEMA denial of local disaster aid

By Billie Owens

New York is appealing last month's decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deny disaster assistance to five counties, including Genesee.

The state's formal appeal asks President Obama to overturn FEMA's denial and provide aid to Genesee, Columbia, Delaware, Rensselaer and Sullivan counties for damages suffered from storms that occurred from July 25 through Aug.16.
Damage, debris and response costs in the five counties exceed $7 million, according to a press release from Tim Yaeger, coordinator of Genesee County Emergency Services.

“The...counties are reeling from this summer’s flooding and storms, which have caused severe damage and hardship,” Gov. Paterson said. “The repetitive nature of these events has strained local governments’ ability to implement the recovery process and placed a severe fiscal burden upon the state and its local communities.” 

FEMA maintains that Genesee and the four other counties sustained infrastructure damage that was "not of the severity and magnitude" to warrant a separate disaster declaration (from a storm system that hit Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chenago, Cortland and Erie counties).

But the state argues that New York had the wettest summer in 138 years and the third wettest in recorded history. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported rainfall greater than 200 percent above normal for July.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture calculated soil-moisture content in excess of 500 percent above normal range in the five counties named in the appeal. This super-saturation of the soil resulted in "immediate significant rises in creeks and streams for even minor rainfall amounts."

“A failure to provide this desperately needed support to some of our most impoverished counties will leave them vulnerable to increased damage from even moderate future flooding events," Patterson said.

Corfu's damage assessment was found to be $246 per capita for Genesee County. That's well in excess of the per-capita threshold for aid established by federal law and cited in FEMA’s own preliminary damage assessment.

Damage and debris/response costs for all 10 counties affected by the summer storms is estimated at more than $60 million.

Karen Miconi

I hope Barrock Obama takes another look at the devistation in this area. We are talking 10 counties. Thats alot of area. What I found most destructive was the mud left, after the water receeded. What a mess! I feel sorry for these people that didn't recieve any financial help from FEMA. Its not like we had all these hurricanes in New Orleans, and Florida this year, that ate up all the funds. I think the people were let down with this one, similar to New Orleans, not catastrophic, but life changing, just the same.

Oct 20, 2009, 4:18pm Permalink
Bea McManis

Karen, if I recall correctly, most people on this site felt that they didn't want their tax money helping their neighbors. I believe they said that it was their fault they didn't have insurance, or sufficient funds to help themselves.
I think it should be overturned, too. We'll have to wait and see.

Oct 20, 2009, 5:30pm Permalink
Karen Miconi

Bea, What I wonder too is, were these people required to carry flood insurance on their homes? If the area has not been named a flood plain, then it would fall under a natural disaster Right? Therefore qualifying for aid?? Even more sad, is the fact that others, more fortunate wouldnt represent the area, and their neighbors, and express the need for FEMA AID.

Oct 20, 2009, 7:04pm Permalink
Chelsea O'Brien

From what I understand of FEMA aid there are a bunch of numbers that are taken into consideration, such as the number of people influenced, how wide of a range of damage there was, insurance money, personal loss.

There is also a loss of tax base, re-appropriation of funds, budget cuts, etc to take into consideration.

NYS is a blue state, not much is gonna change that, Obama and his advisers know this, so why would he overturn the decision?

Oct 20, 2009, 7:25pm Permalink

Authentically Local