President Joe Biden will decide whether Cayuga County and other upstate New York counties affected by flooding in August will receive federal aid to help recover from the severe storms.
Gov. Kathy Hochul requested a major disaster declaration for Allegany, Cayuga, Cortland, Lewis, Oneida, Steuben, Tioga and Yates counties. The remnants from Tropical Storm Fred caused significant damage in these counties. A preliminary damage assessment conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state and local authorities found the storm caused $36.2 million in damage.
To qualify for aid, Cayuga County needed to clear its threshold of $311,101. Dale Currier, the county's director of emergency services, told The Citizen on Wednesday that Cayuga met the threshold to be included in the disaster declaration.
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If Biden approves the disaster declaration, Cayuga and other counties in upstate New York would receive public assistance funding through FEMA. The aid can be used to repair infrastructure, such as buildings and roads, that were damaged by the storm.
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"We have had (the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services) and FEMA visit the county recently on two occasions to do preliminary damage assessments (PDAs)," Currier wrote. "They also did a PDA for determining whether the county met the threshold for individual assistance funding consideration. We do not know whether that threshold was met."
Individual assistance is separate funding that is given to homeowners to repair damage to primary residences not covered by insurance.
Cayuga County's federal representatives are supporting Hochul's request and urging Biden to quickly approve the disaster declaration. U.S. Rep. John Katko, who represents all of Cayuga County, sent a letter asking Biden to sign off on the disaster aid.
"The damage caused by Tropical Storm Fred faces our region at a unique and difficult time," said Katko, who was joined by U.S. Reps. Tom Reed, Elise Stefanik and Claudia Tenney in signing the letter to Biden. "Our communities have dedicated considerable resources over the past year to addressing the public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and recently, New York state has seen new demands on its disaster response programming as a result of Hurricane Ida.
"For this reason, we believe it is necessary and appropriate for Governor Hochul's request to be approved and for federal resources to be mobilized to our region."
New York's U.S. senators, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, also support the request. In their letter to Biden, they wrote that there is "no doubt that this damage has overwhelmed state and local governments, and that a major disaster declaration is necessary."
Biden could approve or reject the request. If he rejects it, the state can appeal.
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.