FEMA denies state's appeal of individual aid refusal for flood victims

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied the state’s appeal of its decision to refuse individual assistance to victims of the Halloween floods.

Posted: Feb 27, 2020 5:27 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. – The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied the state’s appeal of its decision to refuse individual assistance to victims of the Halloween floods.

The individual assistance would have allowed for home repairs or buyout programs for local residents whose homes were completely destroyed.  People living near the Sauquoit Creek, in Whitesboro, were hoping for federal buyouts of their flood-ravaged homes. Although FEMA says New York State was notified of the denial of their appeal, the Whitesboro mayor was not notified; he learned of it when NewsChannel 2 asked him for a comment. 

Oneida County Executive, Anthony Picente, Jr., also was not formally notified. 

“Once again the people of Oneida County have been slapped in the face by FEMA and its inept and callous process. I am disgusted that Governor Cuomo’s appeal of FEMA’s denial of individual assistance for our residents who were devastated by the Halloween flood has been rejected. It is indefensible that our federal government refuses to come to the aid of people who through no fault of their own find themselves homeless and in financial ruin," said Picente, adding that he's urging Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to work with the county to provide a municipal buyout program to end the suffering of those who have continually had their lives upended and are looking for a way out.

FEMA granted public assistance to 18 counties in December after the floods damaged homes and roadways across the state. However, the agency denied individual assistance, stating the damages to individuals and households were not severe enough to warrant additional funding.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo appealed the decision in January, asking FEMA to reconsider granting additional funding.

The state was notified of the appeal denial on Feb. 14.

A representative from FEMA stated:

Federal disaster assistance under the Stafford Act is intended to be supplemental in nature—not as a replacement for State and local emergency relief programs, services, and funds. 

The fiscal capacity of New York State and the estimated cost of assistance are principal factors FEMA considers when evaluating the need for the Individuals and Households Program (IHP).

After a thorough review of all the information contained in New York State’s request for an IA declaration (and its subsequent appeal of FEMA’s initial determination), FEMA reaffirms its original finding that the impact from this event was not of the severity and magnitude to warrant the designation of the Individual Assistance program.

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