Local lawmakers are using words like “incomprehensible,” “frustrating” and “wrong” to describe the decision by FEMA to deny the request for a major disaster declaration for the severe flooding locally on July 1.
Heavy rain during the first weekend in July caused widespread damage in 15 counties, including Oneida and Herkimer. Areas such as Whitesboro and Yorkville along the Sauquoit Creek were hit especially hard, and roads throughout Oneida and Herkimer Counties – such as the Utica North-South Arterial – were shut down due to flooding.
Over the weeks following, basements needed to be pumped to get the water out, belongings piled up on curbsides to be thrown away, and roads needed to be repaired.
Oneida County previously allocated $2 million for flood mitigation projects, $500,000 for cleanup efforts – which is a 50/50 match with affected communities – and $250,000 for the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties to help individuals recover.
Now, FEMA officials say that the damage sustained by the flooding isn’t beyond the capabilities of the state and local municipalities to provide the necessary recovery funds.
State Sen. Joseph Griffo and U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney are calling for an appeal of the decision, and state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi is urging New York’s Congressional Delegation to contact FEMA and demand a second look at the application. Brindisi says he’s heard from many residents over the last five months who have not yet recovered from the storm.
“I will be doing everything in my power to get as much assistance as possible for our community, including working with my colleagues to appeal FEMA’s decision," said state Assemblyman Brian Miller in a provided statement. "In the meantime, I would ask FEMA representatives to come to our community and speak directly with those who lost their livelihoods to explain – in person – why the damage here is not severe enough.”
"FEMA’s denial of the state’s request for funding is wrong, frustrating and needs to be appealed,” Griffo said in a statement. “In a time when it seems more severe weather and natural disasters are occurring with more regularity, FEMA should reexamine and reassess its decision-making process when it comes to providing assistance for communities that have been impacted by natural disasters such as the flooding that occurred this past July. The agency must ensure that it has the appropriate level of funding available to meet all of the needs of our communities and residents across the nation who may find themselves impacted by these devastating natural and weather-related events. I am hopeful that the federal government will revisit this decision, reverse it, acknowledge the state’s request and provide much-needed financial assistance."