Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —
Lockport homeowners recovering from the June 28 flood have until the end of August to file an online application seeking state aid, officials said Tuesday during a visit by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Meanwhile, help might be on the way for those who suffered damage in Friday's heavy rain storm. State officials said a flood recovery team met with Niagara Falls city officials on Tuesday to assess the damage and start the same process currently ongoing in Lockport.
That process led to the New York State Flood Recovery Program, an initiative that will provide Niagara County $2 million in state recovery aid. Cuomo was in Lockport on Tuesday morning to tout the program and praise first responders and local officials for their work in the June 28 flood.
Getting residents some help was the result of Albany and local leaders working together, the governor said. As he spoke in the council chambers, residents needing aid were meeting with state agencies in the hallway.
“We said, ‘the State of New York will step up to the plate,’” Cuomo said. “We did it without a piece of legislation. We did it on the phone and we took each other’s word for it.”
As reported last week by the US&J, through the flood recovery program the state will provide $16 million to homeowners, business operators and farmers in all five flood-stricken counties that were declared disaster areas after the heavy late June rainfall. All were denied federal aid for private property, but FEMA did approve aid for municipal property.
Aside from Niagara County, Herkimer and Montgomery counties will receive $4 million each and Madison and Oneida counties will be given $3 million each.
The governor's office said homeowners, small business owners and farmers or farm operations in the designated counties may be eligible to receive grants, subject to the documentation of flood-related damage and uninsured losses. Homeowners may be eligible for up to $31,900 in assistance. Small business owners and farmers or farm operations may be eligible for up to $50,000 in assistance.
Local leaders were appreciative of the governor's intervention and the help the county received from Albany.
"Homes and businesses across Niagara County were left between a rock and a hard place by FEMA's decision to provide assistance only to government entities," said Niagara County Legislative Chairman William Ross. "However, Governor Cuomo had said all along that we would not have to face reconstruction alone and he has delivered on that promise with the New York State Flood Recovery Program. I am grateful to have such a dependable partner in Governor Cuomo and look forward to working with him to build a stronger, better Niagara County.”
"The recent flooding that impacted Lockport has disrupted lives and presented challenging recovery costs to home and business owners. While our local government was able to receive aid from FEMA, our private citizens were not and would have been left to rebuild on their own without Governor Cuomo's actions. The state Flood Recovery Program is another sign of how state government has become an active partner to local communities across the state," said Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker.
As for Friday's storm, which Cuomo said the state will again request help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Cuomo said response to extreme weather is something the federal government ought to be taking care of.
“This has historically been a federal responsibility,” Cuomo said.
On Friday, heavy rain accompanied by high winds fell in a matter of hours. Trees and power lines were brought down all over the county and extensive flooding occurred in Niagara Falls and the Tonawandas. Close to 17,000 homes lost power throughout the county.
While it was spared the worst of Friday's storm, there were still some homes in Lockport that were affected. Chris White, co-owner of SMC Equestrian Center in the Town of Lockport, said the storm had a tremendous impact on the center, farm and his home.
Rooms were completely damaged, clothes were lost and a number of stalls were flooded. Horse feed and hay were lost. A large tree had fallen on a course.
Cuomo said he talked to Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster on Tuesday morning. State workers were on their way to the Falls as Cuomo was speaking at Lockport City Hall.
“They’ll be working with the mayor’s people to do an assessment of the damage there, and then, again, we’ll go through the same process," Cuomo said. "The federal government, we’ll ask them for assistance. But we want to make sure the state is there to help, especially on an individual level. We don’t want homeowners who had their homes devastated, their memories destroyed, to be left on their own."
As extreme weather events seemingly increase, Cuomo said finding a way to provide assistance and make communities "better," all while being prepared and spending wisely is tricky.
“It’s taxing the state system overall. It’s taxing our expertise. It’s taxing our ability to provide emergency services,” he said. “To the extent that it’s financial assistance, we’re going to have find savings in the state budget. We’re not going to be raising taxes. We’re trying to do the exact opposite. We’re trying to lower taxes, so if we’re providing emergency services, it means we’re going to have to squeeze the dollar tighter in Albany and that’s what we’re there to do.”APPLY FOR FLOOD AID • People can visit: www.nyshcr.org/Programs/NYS-Flood • Or call the NYS Flood Helpline at 1-888-769-7243 for information on how to receive assistance under the NYS Flood recovery program. The helpline is available from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.