State to give aid to flood victims

ALBANY – The state will provide $16 million to help individuals in five of the 12 upstate counties that were declared disaster areas after recent severe flooding, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

The state will allot $4 million to Montgomery County to help small-business owners, homeowners and farmers, a news release said.

“It’s a lot of money, but it’s your neighbors saying, ‘We’re here to help you,'” Cuomo said at a Herkimer County news conference about the $16 million Mohawk Valley and 2013 Upstate Flood Recovery program. “When one person has a problem, everyone is there, one for the other.”

Cuomo released his executive order Wednesday afternoon in which he described the five counties receiving aid as being the “hardest hit.”

Guy Barton, mayor of Fort Plain, said he was happy to see the governor fufilling his promise.

“He assured me when he was here a week and a half ago he was going to help us,” Barton said.

Barton said Fort Plain has to wait for Montgomery County to give the funds to the village.

“I applaud Governor Cuomo’s swift decision to provide individual aid for Mohawk Valley families who have suffered unimaginable losses due to recent flooding. While I’m disappointed in FEMA’s decision, I stand with the governor, ready to provide support to our friends and neighbors so they can begin the rebuilding process and restore some sense of normalcy to their lives,” Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said in a news release.

“New York state is a state that cares about its residents, and nowhere is that more clear than today’s announcement. We praise the governor for immediately coming to bat for our communities after it became clear that the federal government wouldn’t deliver funding for our homeowners. This money will be great news for farms, businesses, and residents as we put our lives back together following the floods,” Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Thayer said.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said Wednesday he continues to urge the state to appeal a decision by FEMA not to provide assistance. Schumer calls the decision wrongheaded.

“I’m very glad the state is stepping in as far as homeowners are concerned,” Schumer said. He said his office is contacting local officials to double check reports of “significant damage” to homes and businesses which could reverse FEMA’s decision. But he said only the state can appeal.

Cuomo said he felt FEMA was wrong in its decision, but he hasn’t appealed.

Cuomo said homeowners, business operators and farmers in the five counties will get state funding of grants and loans equal to what they would have received from FEMA. That includes a voluntary program for government to buy property which has been repeatedly flooded. Private homeowners would be paid at full market value before the latest flooding. The land would be kept vacant and used to help control future flooding.

He said more than 500 homes were damaged to some degree and dozens were destroyed while at least 150 business have major or minor damage.

Homeowners are eligible for up to $31,900 in grants and loans while small business owners and farmers are eligible for up to $50,000 in aid.

The aid will cover damage to roofs, windows, doors, siding, flooring, drywall, insulation, foundations, well and septic systems, electric systems, fuel tanks, heating and water systems, and appliances, and to address environmental hazards.

State and local governments will get millions of dollars in FEMA aid to repair and rebuild roads and other services.

Cuomo also invited the local political leaders to Albany for a planning and recovery meeting today for those hit last year by Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and Superstorm Sandy.