Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, joined by his Upstate Storm and Flooding Recovery Task Force, today announced additional assistance for local communities, businesses and residents recovering and rebuilding from the devastating floods caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The Governor also sent a letter to President Obama requesting additional federal assistance to help with the recovery efforts.
Over the past weeks, New Yorkers have stood together, neighbor helping neighbor, and supported each other as we recover from Hurricane Irene and the flooding from Tropical Storm Lee, Governor Cuomo said. Since the storms first came on the radar, state agencies and local governments have been working around the clock to keep New Yorkers safe and to rebuild as quickly as possible. Although much work has been done, there is still a long way to go and today we are leveraging additional state resources and calling on the federal government to provide further help so those affected by these storms can return to life as normal.
NY Works: Neighborhood Rebuilding Corps
A new program called NY Works: Neighborhood Rebuilding Corps has been launched to provide temporary work to several hundred unemployed New Yorkers for a three month period to assist in rebuilding and reconstruction efforts. This program builds upon the Governor's successful "Labor for Your Neighbor" initiative where more than 2,000 New Yorkers heeded the call and signed up to help victims of the storm clean up during Labor Day Weekend.
The Neighborhood Rebuilding Corps program is funded by up to a $16 million emergency grant from the U.S. Department of Labor and provides temporary employment that will enable individuals to reenter the workforce by doing disaster recovery work. Temporary workers will be trained to perform demolition, cleaning, repair, renovation, and reconstruction of damaged and destroyed public structures, facilities, and property that are located within designated disaster areas. The first priority is to get those workers who are temporarily or permanently unemployed as a result of the storm back to work. Under this program, New York will hire part-time workers for approximately 20 weeks at an average wage of $15 per hour. Most of these workers will be directly employed by the State Labor Department and some will be employed by the affected counties.
Extension of Due Dates for School Tax Bills
Governor Cuomo additionally announced that he will grant a penalty and interest free extension to taxpayers in affected areas for the payment of school taxes. School districts in affected counties should request an extension from the Department of Tax and Finance as soon as possible. The State has already received requests from several school districts in State Disaster Emergency areas affected by the storms.
School districts in the following counties are requesting extensions:
Broome: Binghamton; Chenango-Forks; Chenango Valley; Deposit; Johnson;
Susquehanna Valley; Union-Endicott; Vestal
Delaware: Andes; Roxbury; Sidney; Stamford
Greene: Catskill; Hunter-Tannersville
Schoharie: Jefferson; Schoharie; Sharon Springs
Ulster: Marlboro; Onteora; New Paltz
Washington: Granville; Hartford; Salem
Orange: Warwick Valley; Washingtonville
Additional school districts may be added as requests are processed.
Fee Waiver for Replacement of State Documents
Governor Cuomo also announced that certain fees or payments required for the replacement of state documents will be waived to allow victims of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee to replace lost or damaged state documents at no cost.
The following agencies will waive certain replacement document fees:
- Department of Motor Vehicles: registration certificate or license plate for a motor vehicle, trailer, or motorcycle; non-driver identification card or drivers license; certificate of title; and registration certificate or number plate for a snowmobile, vessel, limited use vehicle, or an all-terrain vehicle.
- Department of State: documents provided by the Division of Corporations or related to the Uniform Commercial Code; barbering licenses; pocket card for real estate salespersons and brokers; license, certification, or pocket card for real estate appraisers, and other documents.
- Department of Health: certificates or certified transcripts of birth, and certificates of live birth, death, or fetal death; certification, certified copy, or certified transcript of a certificate of dissolution of marriage; and certified transcript of a marriage.
- Department of Taxation and Finance: highway use tax certificate or registration and a fuel license or decal.
- State Liquor Authority: business licenses issued by the Authority.
- State Education Department: certificate of authorization to provide professional engineering or land surveying services and registration certificates and licensing.
In a letter sent today to President Obama, Governor Cuomo requested the following actions:
Waiver to Expand Eligibility for Flood Insurance for Homeowners and Farms
Due to the unexpected nature of two "500 year floods," many New Yorkers are without flood insurance. Crop insurance programs that were designed for large, mid-west states are not geared to New Yorks smaller, diverse specialty crop operations. As a result, few New York farms that incurred damage from the storms carried crop insurance or were enrolled in the non-insured crop disaster assistance program (NAP). As flooding of such an extreme nature is rare, most homeowners were not insured. Unless federal requirements are relaxed, they will be unable to obtain compensation for loss or damage to their homes, resulting in the potential loss of entire neighborhoods and communities. Governor Cuomo is requesting a waiver to allow New Yorkers in impacted areas to retroactively enroll in FEMAs National Flood Insurance Program, and to allow New York agricultural producers to retroactively enroll in crop insurance and NAP in order to be eligible for all USDA-Farm Service Agency Disaster Assistance programs.
Waive Limitations on FEMA-Funded Property Acquisitions
Homeowners that have been repeatedly flooded and wish to participate in a FEMA-funded buyout are unable to receive fair market value for their homes. Governor Cuomo is asking FEMA to waive certain requirements for property acquisitions.
Emergency Housing for Displaced Families and Individuals
Governor Cuomo is asking the Internal Revenue Service to temporarily suspend certain requirements for state-supported housing in order to allow owners and managers to rent properties to flood victims who may not otherwise meet strict income and age restrictions.
The request specifically asks that given the current emergency declared in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, the state be temporarily relieved of requirements of Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Service Code, which mandates restrictions on buildings receiving Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). The state has identified hundreds of units of vacant housing in buildings receiving the LIHTC that are located either within emergency regions or in counties immediately adjacent.
Under the terms of the Governor's request, an owner/manager of a LIHTC building may provide temporary emergency housing to those displaced by a major disaster. No current tenant in these properties can be displaced or evicted as a result of this action.
Waive HUD Requirements to Allow Displaced Homeowners to Move Into Foreclosed Properties
Approximately 3,000 buildings have suffered total destruction or major damage and in certain communities many residents are in urgent need of housing. Governor Cuomo is asking the Department of Housing and Urban Development to waive certain requirements that would allow displaced families to move into available foreclosed properties.
Expedite Small Business Administration Emergency Loans
To date, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has only approved 17 out of 464 loan applications for a total of $603,100. Governor Cuomo is asking the SBA to streamline its application requirements and expedite processing of these critical loans for New York businesses.
Enhance Flood Mitigation Efforts
Debris clearance from waterways is vital to reduce the threat of future damage. Governor Cuomo is asking FEMA to remove its restrictions on reimbursement for debris removal, which if waived would permit debris to be cleared a quarter mile from improved infrastructure. Additionally, an Army Corps of Engineers study of debris removal in the Susquehanna, Mohawk, Delaware, and Schoharie watersheds was proposed in 2006, but never implemented. Governor Cuomo is requesting for that study to be commenced.
Permit New York to Access the Emergency Watershed Protection Program
Governor Cuomo is requesting for New York State to be granted access to the Emergency Watershed Protection program. This program of the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) would provide funds to clear debris-clogged channels, fortify undermined and unstable stream banks, and address threats to water control and other public infrastructure. The Governor is additionally requesting that NRCS expedite damage survey reports needed to begin implementation of this program.
Since the floods hit, local, state and community leaders joined by residents have been working non-stop to get things back to normal. Status to date in key areas includes:
Transportation: The recent storms damaged or caused obstruction to about one-third of the state's total highway system, resulting in closure of nearly 400 road segments and bridges. As of today, all but eight bridges and 15 road segments have been repaired and reopened. Those that remain closed suffered the most extensive damage and require significant reconstruction. The State Department of Transportation has deployed a daily average of more than 950 crew members and 650 pieces of equipment to assist with damage assessment and field work over the twenty-day period since the storms. DOT fielded teams to complete approximately 4,560 damage assessments of pavement, bridges, roadsides, streams, signals, and utilities sites. This includes approximately 2,880 damage assessments on the state system and 1,680 damage assessments on the local system. Maintenance crews cleared storm debris and initiated restoration work on approximately 5,700 miles of roadway and repaired approximately 1,200 miles of roadway in response to the two storm events. The state system is comprised of approximately 15,600 miles of roadway.
Water Treatment and Environmental Actions: Seventy-one wastewater treatment plants reported problems after the storms, including 36 with severe damage and 23 with moderate damage. On September 15, Governor Cuomo together with the Environmental Faciliteis Corporation announced the creation of the Hurricane Emergency Loan Program (HELP), a $25 million loan fund that will provide up to $1 million in interest-free loans for municipalities seeking immediate repairs to drinking water and/or wastewater treatment facilities. Department of Environmental Conservation staff and private contractors vacuumed and pumped out home-heating oil spills and raw sewage from more than 500 homes to address imminent health threats. DEC is also assisting business and commercial properties in removing hazardous materials and contaminants. With regard to flood control, 241 dams have been inspected, along with 20 levees and flood control structures.
Agriculture: Preliminary agricultural damage estimates for the two storms total $73 million, with more than 200,000 acres of crops being damaged. Farmers lost both cash crops and crops intended to feed livestock. Governor Cuomo created a $15 million Agricultural and Community Recovery Fund to assist in rebuilding communities and the agricultural industry in hard-hit areas. The Department of Agriculture and Markets Food Safety and Inspection division has conducted approximately 2,000 disaster investigation visits in 15 counties. Food inspectors will continue to visit retail and wholesale establishments to conduct damage assessments and to help them reopen. The State is continuing to work with dairy farmers and milk processors to make sure that milk trucks can pick up and deliver milk to processers despite damage to roads.
Homeowner Recovery: Beginning today, residents can apply for the New York State Storm Relief Rebate Program, an $8 million initiative announced by Governor Cuomo last week to cover the costs of replacing vital household appliances and equipment, such as refrigerators, boilers, washing machines, and furnaces damaged by recent flooding. Rebates will be a fixed amount for different appliances and could cover up to 100 percent of the costs of a purchase. If the cost of the appliance exceeds the cap, the program will pay a portion of the total costs up to the cap. For more information, visit https://www.nysappliancerebates.com/ or call the Relief Rebate Program hotline 1-877-NY-SMART (877-697-6278). To help homeowners and businesses return to their dwellings quickly and safely, the New York Department of State has conducted an intensive effort with municipal code enforcement officials from across the state to evaluate buildings for habitability. Over 12,000 structures in seven counties have been evaluated and either deemed safe for return or identified for further action.
Insurance: The Department of Financial Services (DFS) has mobilized to help New Yorkers with their claims regarding property loss and damage. DFS has put all companies that sell homeowners and auto insurance on alert to be prepared to handle claims. Further, DFS staff has been sent to join other state and local agencies at state and at local emergency operations centers. Over the past weeks, the DFS's mobile unit and staff has traveled to hard hit locations to provide on-the-spot assistance for consumers. In addition, health insurance companies have been instructed to accommodate consumers who had to evacuate their homes and as a result have to seek care from out-of-network doctors or other health providers. DFS has set up an online "Homeowner's Resource Center" to offer detailed information and a number of useful tools consumers may find helpful as well as a hotline for storm and disaster-related help. For additional help or information, please visit www.ins.state.ny.us/hmonindx.htm. Consumers can contact DFS's Consumer Services Bureau at 800-342-3736. Disaster related calls only should go to the Department's disaster hotline at 800-339-1759.