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Nitosha Howe and her dog, Chance, find a dry patch of land during flooding along Central Street in Moravia after a powerful storm swept through Cayuga County July 1, 2017.

New York's U.S. senators are urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reconsider its decision to deny aid for 15 counties affected by flooding and severe storms last summer. 

U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long requesting a reversal. 

The state applied for a disaster declaration after the storms caused millions of dollars in damages. Broome, Cayuga, Cortland, Essex, Franklin, Herkimer, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Rensselaer, St. Lawrence, Tioga, Warren, Washington and Wyoming counties would have been covered by the disaster request. 

In Cayuga County, the flooding and storms caused nearly $4 million in damage

Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Schumer, D-N.Y., said the damage in Wyoming County was 19 times higher than its per capita threshold to be eligible for FEMA aid. Cayuga County's assessment was 13 times higher than its threshold. Not only did several counties exceed their per capita thresholds, but the state also exceeded its damage threshold. 

Despite the significant damage reported in multiple counties, FEMA denied the state's application for disaster declaration. The state appealed the decision, but FEMA again denied the request. 

FEMA denied the disaster request, according to Gillibrand and Schumer, because the storms were separate incidents instead of a single event. The senators noted that there isn't a provision in federal law requiring that a disaster declaration must be linked to a single storm. 

As an example, the senators cited disaster requests that were granted to Arkansas and Missouri last year for separate severe storms that occurred over multiple weeks. 

"It is impractical to expect state and local governments to plan and budget for the impacts of a series of extreme weather events lasting 25 days," the senators wrote in their letter to Long. "Thus we implore you to give New Yorkers the same courtesy as other communities who have experienced similar storms and help relieve some of the financial burden unexpectedly placed on these economically challenged counties." 

Gillibrand and Schumer added, "If that is not possible, we urge you to visit these counties and explain to residents why their county is not eligible for the same level of federal assistance other counties received this year." 

The affected counties is eligible for some federal aid. The Small Business Administration approved a disaster declaration for the 15 counties and made low-interest loans available for businesses and homeowners. 

But local governments aren't eligible for funding through the SBA program. If the FEMA disaster declaration was approved, local municipalities could receive aid to make repairs or rebuild critical infrastructure. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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