Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

December 2, 2013

Bill seeks to address flooding aid|Bill seeks to address flooding aid

Staff Reports
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A bipartisan group of state legislators who represent Niagara County and the Mohawk Valley said they will push to aid victims of flooding by introducing legislation that would create a state disaster recovery fund.  

Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, who co-sponsored a recent bill to address issues of flooding, said it became apparent that their was a disconnect between available state and federal services after widespread flooding in Niagara Falls, Lockport and North Tonawanda during the last six months. 

“Following the storms that plagued Western New York earlier this summer, my office was inundated with calls for help,” he said. “It would have been ideal to connect these constituents with FEMA and other agencies, but sometimes that help isn’t available.”

If approved by the state Legislature, Maziarz said the proposal would connect those affected by flooding with state and federal resources including 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 for individuals.  Municipalities would be eligible to receive funds for such items as public services expenses and debris removal. Infrastructure grants would be available to public schools.

“The enactment of this law would create a much needed safety net for people who need recovery assistance but currently can’t get it,” Maziarz said. 

The bill would also require the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to establish a field office at the disaster site and provide relief workers and to create a disaster recovery center and a toll-free phone number to help those affected apply for assistance.

Grant applicants would receive funds within one month and loan applicants would receive aid within two months, while aid and loans would not be offered to anyone provided money by their insurance company or the federal government.

This bill is the centerpiece of a six-point legislative plan championed by state senators in response to massive flooding last June. Niagara County and the Mohawk Valley sustained an estimated $87 million in flood damage between late June and July, the height of the storm and its devastating aftermath, according to Maziarz.