Fort Plain residents denied flood aid

FORT PLAIN – The federal government has denied individual aid to residents of Fort Plain and other upstate communities, but the decision may be appealed.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday the federal government denied some aid to victims of the flood, but the state will step in to help.

“Today, [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] has informed New York state that residents in communities affected by the recent flooding will not be eligible for the Individual Assistance program that would have provided federal funds to help homeowners rebuild and recover,” Cuomo said in a news release.

Cuomo announced this afternoon the state will provide about $10 million to hundreds of flooding victims in the Mohawk Valley.

Cuomo promised details should be announced by Wednesday. He had said earlier that he and lawmakers were trying to find state aid for the victims after federal aid for individuals was rejected.

FEMA has approved public assistance for municipalities and public facilities, as well as for non-profit community service groups.

However, U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson said the Individual Assistance funds would have allowed homeowners to receive aid from FEMA.

“It is unacceptable to me that FEMA [Monday] denied Individual Assistance to the victims of the recent Upstate flooding. Having just been in Fort Plain on Saturday, I cannot express more strongly how critical this aid money is to local residents. They need help rebuilding their homes, businesses and lives, and FEMA’s decision is flat-out wrong,” Gibson said in a news release.

However, Gibson said Cuomo can appeal the decision.

“There is an appeal process we can utilize and I will be a tireless advocate for Fort Plain. I know I can count on Governor Cuomo and the rest of the New York delegation to be as vocal about this aid as they have been about past storms and express to President [Barack] Obama this is the wrong decision. We will not accept this outcome as final and, again, I urge the president to authorize these funds immediately,” Gibson said in the release.

Caitlin Ostomel, external affairs officer for FEMA, said Cuomo has 30 days to appeal the decision.

How long it will take for FEMA to review the case is unclear, however.

“It’s all dependent on the nature of the request,” Ostomel said.

She said the appeal should include information previously unavailable to FEMA representatives that would make them reconsider their choice.

Ostomel said FEMA should receive the appeal shortly.

“Appeals usually get submitted pretty quickly,” Ostomel said.

Individual Assistance, according to Ostomel, includes grants for uninsured immediate needs, which is unique to every homeowner. Assistance could include funds for medical expenses, car repair, home repairs, funeral and dental costs.

Loring Dutcher, a trustee for the village, said the lack of federal assistance was a blow to the town.

“Huge, it’s a huge hit,” Dutcher said. “We need help in the worst way for these people.”

Forty-two homes have been condemned since the flooding, Dutcher said, with 12 needing demolition.

FEMA aid had previously come in 2006, during the flooding. Dutcher said they assisted people in getting new furnaces, water heaters and other utilities.

“We were expecting they would come in and do it again,” Dutcher said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

Arthur Cleveland may be reached at