Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A trio of bills, passed by the state Senate and referred to Assembly committees on Monday, would provide some financial assistance to property owners affected by severe weather, such as Lockport residents in the June 2013 flooding.
State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, who sponsored all three bills, said the measures would provide immediate help to owners and aid when similar weather events take place in the future.
All three bills passed by a 61-0 vote in the Senate.
“We need to be creative to provide relief to communities and families who are still rebuilding after the floods that hit our region last summer,” Maziarz said. “Through no fault of their own, property owners suffered extensive property damage after the rains and floods hit and unfortunately there simply has not been enough help for them from the government. We are trying to rectify that.”
The first piece of legislation, Senate Bill 5931, would enact the “Mohawk Valley and Niagara County Assessment Relief Act,” which gives municipalities in Niagara County the power to offer reduced assessments for property owners whose property lost substantial value as a result of the severe weather events of last year.
To provide the property tax reduction, a municipality must pass a local law that adopts the provisions of the bill and a school district must pass a resolution as well. The local municipality would decide which properties within that jurisdiction would be eligible for the reduction.
The municipality would also decide what level of reduction a property owner would receive.
The second bill, Senate Bill 5985 would create a state income tax credit for storm victims, the value of which would be equal to the amount of real property taxes paid or incurred on real property that was severely damaged by flooding events.
Thirdly, Senate Bill 5987 would create a New York State Disaster Recovery Program to provide storm relief funds to residents when federal disaster assistance is unavailable through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The legislation would create a supplemental fund to provide individual assistance, public assistance and hazard mitigation after a natural or man-made disaster. Aid would be available for a variety of disaster-related expenses, including home repairs and medical expenses.
Municipalities would be eligible to receive funds for items such as public services expenses and debris removal. Infrastructure grants would be available to public schools. Upon a disaster being declared, the bill would require the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to establish a field office at the disaster site and provide relief workers.
The agency would also create a disaster recovery center and toll-free phone number to help those affected apply for assistance.
SB 5931 has been sent before the Assembly’s Real Property Taxation committee, while SB 5985 has been referred to the Ways and Means committee. SB 5987 has been referred to the Governmental Operations committee.
If signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, all three pieces of legislation would take effect immediately.
Other counties eligible for aid under these bills would include Oneida, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Tompkins, Cortland, Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben.
• Federal help with insurance may be on the way for flood victims too.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Thursday the U.S. Senate passed a bill that will protect homeowners from facing huge flood insurance premium rate hikes.
The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which passed in a 67-32 vote, now sits in the House of Representatives. And it should have enough support to pass, Schumer said, as last year, the House voted 281-146 on a similar amendment to postpone premium increases.
The bill requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency to complete an affordability study and propose real solutions to address flood insurance affordability issues before flood insurance premiums can be raised. Schumer said the FEMA study will help ensure that flood insurance is accurate and affordable.
“The passage of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act in the Senate is an important step in the fight to prevent tens of thousands of New Yorkers from facing crippling flood insurance premium increases and loss of property value,” he said. “New Yorkers are still recovering from the destructive force of Superstorm Sandy and back-to-back years of extreme weather and flooding, and this bill prevents for many the injustice that these homeowners were going to face – increased flood insurance premiums that can break the bank.”Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.