More than a week removed from a major winter storm that dumped three feet of snow in some areas of upstate New York, the state's U.S. senators are calling on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to approve any disaster aid requests that may be submitted.
U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to acting FEMA Administrator Robert Fenton asking him to sign off any aid requests that are submitted by the state following Winter Storm Stella, which hit New York last week.
If the state asks for officials to conduct preliminary damage assessments, Gillibrand and Schumer asked FEMA to fulfill the request.
Preliminary damage assessments are the first step in the process for declaring a disaster. FEMA officials, along with representatives from local and state governments, would survey the damage in counties affected by the storm. Together, they would determine whether the cost of the damage warrants a federal disaster declaration.
"Communities across upstate New York were devastated by this historic snowstorm, and it is absolutely crucial that we get them the resources they need to recover," Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote. "FEMA needs to stand ready to swiftly approve any forthcoming requests from the state for assistance to help these communities recover and rebuild."
The extent of the damage is being assessed by local and state officials. Three feet of snow was reported in parts of Broome County, where records were set for 24-hour snowfall.
The Rochester area also registered significant snowfall totals. The region dealt with a windstorm that uprooted trees and knocked down power lines one week before Winter Storm Stella passed through. Thousands of residents lost electricity for days following the windstorm.
If a disaster is declared, federal aid would be provided to eligible local and state governments. The funding would be used to reimburse any costs related to emergency response and to make any necessary repairs to damaged facilities.
FEMA typically covers 75 percent of the eligible costs, according to the senators. Funding could be available for counties that received record or near-record snowfall.