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How You Can Help Storm Victims

 

Donate to the Empire State Relief Fund
To help those displaced by the storm find longterm housing solutions, click here to donate to the Empire State Relief Fund.

 

Volunteer
If you are interested in volunteering in the relief effort in the areas affected from Hurricane Sandy, there’s regional volunteer centers statewide. Click here to find and contact the volunteer center in your region.

 

Donate to the Red Cross
You can help people affected by disasters like Superstorm Sandy by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Click here to donate.

 

Corporate Donations
If your company is interested in making a donation to help New Yorkers impacted by Hurricane Sandy, please click here to fill out a form and someone from the Governor’s office will be in contact with you shortly.

 

Donate Blood
Hundreds of Red Cross blood drives have been cancelled due to the storm, representing a loss of thousands of blood and platelet products. The Red Cross is asking people who are eligible, especially in places not affected by the storm, to schedule a time to give blood in the days and weeks to come. To schedule a donation time or get more information about giving blood, people can visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

 

How to Apply for FEMA Disaster Assistance

You can register for FEMA assistance by calling 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585) or visiting www.DisasterAssistance.gov (or m.fema.gov from a smartphone or Web-enabled device).

 

CLICK HERE FOR STEPS TO APPLY

 

There is never a fee to apply for FEMA disaster assistance or to receive it.

 

There is no fee for FEMA or U.S. Small Business Administration property damage inspections.

 

Please be aware: Government workers will never ask for a fee or payment. They wear a photo ID. Watch out for middlemen who promise you will receive money, especially if they ask for an up-front payment.

One of the dire consequences of any disaster for many people is the loss of important documents. Often, such documents are needed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state emergency services in order to process assistance applications for those who suffered losses or damage to their homes and belongings.

 

If papers are lost – like birth certificates, Social Security cards, drivers’ licenses, tax records and so on – you can receive replacements by contacting the following:

 

  • Birth certificates: If you were born within the confines of the five boroughs of New York City, visit or write to the Office of Vital Records, 125 Worth Street, Room 133, New York, N.Y. 10013. (A photo ID is required both by mail and in person.) The office advises the fastest way to get records is online at www.nyc.gov/vitalrecords. The phone number is (212) 788-4520.
  • To download and print an application, log onto http://home2.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vr/birth1.pdf ; to apply online, log onto www.nyc.gov/vitalrecords.
  • If you were born in New York state outside of New York City, log onto www.vitalchek.com or phone 1-877-854-4481. This will connect you to a company called VitalChek, which is contracted with the state to handle credit-card orders. There are modest fees involved.
  • Drivers’ licenses: Visit any New York Department of Motor Vehicles office. To find an office nearby, log onto www.nydmv.state.ny.us/offices.htm.
  • Social Security cards: Call the U.S. Social Security office at 800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. For TTY users the number is 800-325-0778, or log onto www.ssa.gov/ssnumber for more information.
  • Federal tax records: Call 800-829-1040, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time, or log onto www.irs.gov.
  • New York state tax records and New York City tax records: Log onto http://www.tax.ny.gov or phone 518-457-5181

 

For copies of your utility bills, bank records, insurance policies, mortgage payments and the like, call the appropriate firm and speak to a customer-service representative.

Precautions to Take When Returning Home

 

As New Yorkers return home following Hurricane Sandy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reminds them that unexpected dangers may await. Structural damage can make buildings unsafe, electricity and gas may pose a threat and an invasion of mold is likely to have occurred.

 

As a result, the State of New York and FEMA recommend a careful and organized approach when returning.

 

“Remember to practice safety first as you go home,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne of FEMA. “It’s important to heed instructions from local authorities about when it’s safe to return. Then, take a few precautions before entering your neighborhood and your home.”

 

Some suggestions are:

 

Look for external damage Examine the foundation, roof and chimney for cracks or other damage. If obvious damage is found or serious safety doubts exist, contact a building inspector before going inside.

 

Check for gas leaks To be safe, assume there could be a gas leak in the house. If gas is smelled or a hissing sound is heard, open a window and leave immediately. Call the gas company from a neighbor’s residence or from a cell phone away from the building.

 

Be careful around electricity and appliances If possible, turn off electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker when re-entering your home. Unplug all appliances, clean them and let them dry. Then have them checked by a professional before using them again.

 

Get standing water out Use a pump, mop, squeegee or wet/dry vacuum cleaner to remove standing water as soon as possible.

 

Hose it out Shovel out as much accumulated mud as possible, then hose it out. Use an attachment that sprays soap to wash and rinse muddy walls, floors, furniture and other major items.

 

When in doubt, throw it out Wallboard, mattresses and carpeting will hold mud and other contaminants forever. Spoiled food, soaked cosmetics and medicine are health hazards. Get rid of them.

 

Clean safely and beware of mold Flood damage causes dampness where mold, mildew and various organisms thrive. Mold may cause respiratory problems, so it is important to use proper procedures when cleaning. Use a combination of household bleach and soap or detergent to wash down walls and other mold-contaminated areas. You can also open windows and doors and turn on fans to help dry out interiors.

 

To learn more about safely cleaning up: http://www.msema.org/documents/moldandmildew9-1.pdf

How To Replace Documents Lost In A Disaster

 

NEW YORK – One of the dire consequences of any disaster for many people is the loss of important documents. Often, such documents are needed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state emergency services in order to process assistance applications for those who suffered losses or damage to their homes and belongings.

 

If papers are gone – like birth certificates, Social Security cards, drivers’ licenses, tax records, etc. – New York state and FEMA are advising residents on how to recover them:

 

  • Birth certificates: If you were born within the confines of the five boroughs of New York City, visit or write to the Office of Vital Records, 125 Worth Street, Room 133, New York, N.Y. 10013. (A photo ID is required both by mail and in person.) The office advises the fastest way to get records is online at www.nyc.gov/vitalrecords. The phone number is (212) 788-4520.
  • To download and print an application, log onto http://home2.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vr/birth1.pdf ; to apply online, log onto www.nyc.gov/vitalrecords.
  • If you were born in New York state outside of New York City, log onto www.vitalchek.com or phone 877-854-4481. This will connect you to a company called VitalChek, which is contracted with the state to handle credit-card orders. There are modest fees involved.
  • Drivers’ licenses: Visit any New York Department of Motor Vehicles office. To find an office nearby, log onto www.dmv.ny.gov/index.htm and click on “Replace License or ID.”
  • Social Security cards: Call the U.S. Social Security office at 800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST. For TTY users the number is 800-325-0778, or log onto http://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber for more information.
  • Federal tax records: Call the Internal Revenue Service at 800-829-1040, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST, or log onto www.irs.gov.
  • New York state tax records: For copies of returns, log onto www.tax.ny.gov/help/contact/how_to_reach.htm Click on “Get a copy of my return” and fill in the application. You can also apply for a tax-filing and payment extension for those directly affected by Hurricane Sandy at this site.
  • For copies of your utility bills, bank records, insurance policies, mortgage payments and the like, call the appropriate firm and speak to a customer-service representative.

 

To prevent further loss of vital documents, place the originals or copies in a sealable plastic bag or other watertight container and secure that container where it is best protected and can easily be located. It is also a good idea to make copies of vital and important documents and mail them to a friend or relative you can trust to keep them safe and retrievable.

Shelters & Warming Centers

 

Tips for the Cold

  • Close off rooms you don't use.
  • Dress in layers of lightweight clothing and wear a hat.
  • If it gets colder, wear layers of dry clothes, a hat and blankets.

Other Heating Sources

  • Keep gas-powered generators in a dry area outside of the residence at least 25 feet downwind and away from air intakes to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you need to use an alternate heating source such as a fireplace, wood stove, or portable kerosene heater, be sure to have adequate ventilation to the outside. Without enough fresh air, carbon monoxide fumes can build up in your home and cause sickness or even death.
  • Keep children away from all heaters to avoid accidental burns.
  • Never use a natural gas or propane stove/oven to heat your home.
  • Never light a charcoal grill inside or burn charcoal indoors, and don't use a gas range to heat your home. Using gas ovens or charcoal grills as a source of emergency heating can be deadly because of the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you do not have electric power and do not have a safe emergency heat source, consider staying at a designated shelter.
    • Do not use a stove or oven as a heat source. An open oven door or lit stove burners can be dangerous and are ineffective as a heat source.
    • Never use grills as an indoor heating source. Charcoal and propane emit carbon monoxide gas and are not suitable for indoor use.
    • Candles are unsafe and ineffective as a heat source. Never leave candles lit in an unattended room or when going to sleep.
    • When using a fireplace, make sure it is properly vented and that the chimney is cleaned periodically.
    • Do not burn anything in the fireplace other than firewood and do not leave a fire burning when going to sleep.

 

Click here for more cold weather tips from the NYS Dept. of Health

 

Bridges, Subways, Commuter Railways and Roads

For the latest information regarding subway, bus and commuter rail availability, visit:
http://www.mta.info
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/ferrybus/ferintro.shtml
http://www.mta.info/lirr/
http://www.panynj.gov/alerts-advisories/inclement-weather.html

 

Fare Waivers Information: http://www.governor.ny.gov/press/10312012transportationemergency

 

For the latest info on bridge and tunnel closures, visit:
http://www.mta.info
http://www.panynj.gov/alerts-advisories/inclement-weather.html

 

For the latest info on road closures and speed restrictions, visit:
http://www.511ny.org

License Extensions, Renewals & Permit Applications

DMV Extensions

Due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy, the State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has announced that all driver licenses, learner permits, non-driver identification cards and vehicle registrations scheduled to expire on or before Tuesday, November 13, 2012 are extended until Wednesday, November 14, 2012.

 

This extension applies only to residents of New York City, and the counties of Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk. It does not apply to insurance coverage requirements. Motor vehicle liability insurance coverage must be maintained at all times during this extension period.

 

Read More Here

 

State Liquor Authority Extensions for Liquor License Holders

The State Liquor Authority (SLA) will extend renewal periods for liquor license holders in hurricane affected areas so that these businesses can meet filing and payment deadlines. Current licensees in New York City and the counties of Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk, who are due for renewal in October and November, will receive an automatic 60 day grace period after the expiration date, during which they may continue to operate. The Governor also announced an extension for the time frames in which retailers can pay distributors for deliveries made just prior to the storm.

 

Click here for additional SLA related relief initiatives include.

 

DEC Extensions for State Permits and Fees for Affected Businesses

 

Governor Cuomo also announced the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will waive fees and extend application deadlines for state permits for 30 days beginning today. These waivers and extensions will apply to businesses in Westchester, Rockland and Orange counties, Long Island, and New York City. This will help those businesses meet deadlines for submitting permit applications for minor modifications and renewals, obligations in consent orders and payment of regulatory fees.

 

Click here to learn more about relief efforts for businesses.

 

Environmental Safety Concerns

Coastal Erosion and Tidal Wetlands Emergency Project Guidelines

 

Following the storm surges and coastal flooding due to Hurricane Sandy, many projects for stabilization and repair that normally require coastal erosion hazard area and wetlands permits will be covered under a general permit along the coastal areas of Long Island, New York City and the lower Hudson Valley. Such projects include the stabilization of existing dwellings, decks and walkways with temporary bracing and pilings, installation of sandbags or sand cubes at the toe of damaged structures or eroded escarpments, Re-grading eroded dunes, in-kind/in-place repair of stairways or reconstruction of bulkheads and shoreline erosion structures that were functional before Hurricane Sandy and the repair or reconstruction of existing public roads, bridges, utilities and other public infrastructure.

 

Spill Reporting

 

To report an oil or chemical spill, such as from a home oil furnace damaged by flooding, call the NYS Spill Hotline at 1-800-457-7362.

 

For more information on General Permits, please visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/public/76659.html

Insurance

The NYS Department of Financial Services urges homeowners who experienced property losses to file insurance claims with their insurers promptly and as soon as possible after losses occur. It is important to provide policy numbers and all information relevant to the loss. To best document losses, homeowners should to take photos or videos showing the extent of the losses before cleaning up damage.

 

Homeowners should make only necessary repairs to prevent further damage to property, like covering broken windows. Permanent repairs should not be made until after insurers have inspected losses. Damaged personal property should be kept until after an insurance settlement has been reached.

 

In addition, homeowners should cooperate fully with their insurer and keep a diary of all conversations with the insurance agent, including the agent’s name, as well as the times and dates of all calls or visits.

 

Homeowners are also reminded that flood damage is only covered by flood insurance, which is a federal program administered by FEMA. Homeowners who have flood insurance and have flood damage should make claims through that insurance.

 

DFS will be sending its mobile command center to hard hit areas to help consumers with insurance questions and problems.

 

DFS has activated a Disaster Hotline to answer consumer questions and help with problems. The Disaster Hotline number is 800-339-1759. It is currently staffed 8 am to 8 pm on weekdays and 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. on weekends.

 

Homeowners unable to resolve disputes with insurers can file complaints at http://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/fileacomplaint.htm.

Shelter Information

To find a shelter near you, visit http://www.redcross.org/find-help/shelter.

Storm Recovery Assistance Scams

Protect yourself from home repair and other scam artists, who may try to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners who suffered property damage from Storm Sandy.

 

Please be aware that the only ways to register for FEMA help are to call 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585) or visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov (or m.fema.gov from a smartphone or Web-enabled device).

 

There is never a fee to apply for FEMA disaster assistance or to receive it and there is no fee for FEMA or U.S. Small Business Administration property damage inspections.

 

Some scams to watch out for:

 

  • Form completion services. Beware of people charging a fee to help you complete disaster assistance forms, such as FEMA or SBA, or obtaining assistance checks. These services are provided free through FEMA and the Red Cross.
  • Phony Inspectors. Never let anyone in until you have verified they have the appropriate credentials. Always ask for a telephone number so you can confirm the inspector is working for an authorized agency.
  • Government Grant Offers. Be aware of entities offering "free grant money" for flood repair or disaster relief. A true grant is free and never requires any upfront fees or repayment. Check with a regional or state economic development office to see if they know of grant programs for which you might qualify, or contact your local social service agency for information or assistance.
  • Advance Fee Loans. Advance fee loans are illegal. Ignore any company that “guarantees” you will receive a loan. Dishonest operators will charge a processing fee, and then promise they will find a lender. It is illegal to charge an up-front fee.
  • Water Testing & Purifiers. Monitor local news media for instructions from health authorities regarding water safety and purification. Avoid offers for “free” home water testing, and be skeptical of claims that an in-home test shows your water is unsafe. If you have questions about the safety of your water, contact your local public health authority.

These are some warning signs that tell you to avoid a contractor or salesman.

 

Beware of anyone who:

 

  • Comes to your home or calls you on the phone and offers to make repairs.
  • Tells you that you must make repairs immediately.
  • Talks too fast to confuse you and pressures you to sign a contract immediately.
  • Tells you that they are doing work in your neighborhood and that they have extra materials left from another job.
  • Offers a discounted price or discounts if you refer others, but only if you buy today.
  • Tells you something that sounds too good to be true. It probably is not true!
  • Is not an established local business, but has come to the area from somewhere else to “help.”

 

Some suggestions for the safe way to find a contractor to repair your home.

 

  • Check out contractors. Is the company reputable? How long has it been in business? Ask for references and then check them out. Make sure the company is licensed, bonded, and insured. Ask to see its insurance policy or certificate of insurance. There are on-line resources for finding out other people’s experience with contractors.
  • Get at least two estimates. Many companies give free inspections and written estimates -- get two or three before choosing a contractor. Remember that the lowest price is not always the best deal. Compare costs, materials, and methods suggested by different companies to decide what materials and methods are best for your home.
  • Insist on a written contract that includes a detailed description of the work to be done and specifies exactly what materials will be used and their quality. The contract should include starting and estimated completion dates. The terms, including the price, finance charges and payments, should be what you agreed on. If not, do not sign it! Be sure to get a copy of everything you sign when you sign it.
  • Ask if there is a guarantee or warranty. If so, make sure it is in writing. If the company won't put its promises in writing, look for another company which will.
  • Do not sign the contract until you read it carefully. If the salesperson pressures you to sign before you read and understand the entire contract - don't sign it! Never rely on the salesperson to read or explain the contract to you.
  • Do not pay for work in advance.
  • Inspect all of the work very carefully to make sure it was done properly. If you have any doubts or questions, do NOT make your final payment or sign a "completion certificate" until the work is properly finished.

 

If you think you have been the victim of a scam, you should consult a lawyer immediately. There are time deadlines to cancel sales and pursue legal claims. You can also contact the Department of Financial Services for insurance related scams, or your district attorney or the Attorney General’s Office.

 

Price Gouging

 

Some businesses raise their prices excessively on essential goods and services like drinking water, ice, groceries, fuel, towing, and car and home repairs. State law prohibits excessive increases in prices for essential goods and services during times of market disturbance, such as after a disaster.

 

If you feel that you are being unfairly charged for goods or services such as drinking water, food, towing, or any other necessity, raise the issue of price gouging with the provider. If that does not solve the problem, you can report the merchant to local law enforcement or the Attorney General.

 

Phony Charities

 

After a disaster it is natural that those who were not harmed want to help others who were. Indeed, that help is essential when there serious damage and many people have suffered major losses.

 

But be sure that the money you give actually reaches those in need. It is best to give to charities that you already know. Most reputable charities will not call and ask for donations or come to your door. Also, beware of email requests, which may not really be from the organization named. It is safer to go to the website of the organization yourself and make your donation there.

 

Consumers who need further help should feel free to contact the New York State Department of Financial Services’ Consumer Services Bureau at 800-342-3736 which operates from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Disaster related calls only should go to the disaster hotline at 800-339-1759, which will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. for as long as needed.

 

Tax Filing and Payment Deadline Extensions

Certain tax filing and payment deadlines for taxpayers who were directly affected by Hurricane Sandy have been extended to November 26, 2012. This covers filings and tax payments due during the period beginning October 26, 2012 and ending on or before November 13, 2012.

 

Additionally, the extension applies to all claims for refunds, including a protective claim associated with the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Mobility Tax.

 

All 62 New York State counties are eligible for these extensions since Governor Cuomo had declared a state of emergency in New York and President Obama has authorized federal aid and assistance for the State.

 

For further information, visit http://www.tax.ny.gov/bus/multi/sandy_relief.htm or call the Hurricane Sandy Helpline at (888) 769-7243.

 

Special Waiver of Highway Use Tax and IFTA Credentials Related to Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Efforts

 

For the period October 26, 2012, through January 24, 2013, motor vehicles operated on the highways of New York State, when exclusively providing disaster assistance, supplies, and equipment in response to Hurricane Sandy, do not need a HUT certificate of registration, HUT decal, IFTA license, or IFTA decals that are ordinarily required. In addition, carriers operating their motor vehicles to provide disaster assistance, supplies, and equipment to aid in the relief efforts will not be liable for the highway use tax or fuel use tax on miles traveled and fuel consumed in New York State. This waiver applies only to travel in New York State. For further information, visit http://tax.ny.gov/pdf/notices/n12_10.pdf