By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says New Yorkers affected by recent flooding will not be eligible for the Individual Assistance Program that would have provided federal funds to help homeowners build and recover.
However, the region's delegates say they'll support Gov. Andrew Cuomo's exercise of an appeals process in hopes of overturning that decision.
On Monday, FEMA representatives notified Cuomo his request for individual assistance for four counties -- including Montgomery County -- was denied.
"Based on our review of all information available, it has been determined that the damage to dwellings from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments, and voluntary agencies," reads the letter to Cuomo.
Fort Plain Mayor Guy Barton, who's village was crippled by flooding events June 28, was saddened and angered by the news.
"This is going to become a very sad community that will lose many people," Barton said. "It's stupid. It's not right. We have people who lost their homes, who have nothing left. This nation will send money overseas but it can't take care of its own people. There's something wrong with this picture."
Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Adam Schwabrow said there were concerns about eligibility because 100 homes have to be destroyed statewide to meet FEMA's standards.
At least 25 homes were condemned in Fort Plain as a result of flooding, though 75 were structurally damaged and 1,000 affected in some way.
"I'm hearing from state reps that Herkimer sustained damage, but they didn't have the destruction Fort Plain sustained," Schwabrow said. "Still we wanted to be optimistic because these people need help. Some lost everything, and they're not going to be able to rebuild without assistance from somewhere."
Congressman Chris Gibson, called the decision "unacceptable," blaming President Barack Obama's administration.
"The FEMA Disaster Recovery Account has more than sufficient funds to cover this damage and other storms. Therefore, the decision to utilize the funds lies solely with the Obama Administration, not Congress," Gibson said in a release. "Having just been in Fort Plain on Saturday, I cannot express more strongly how critical this aid money is to local residents."
Gibson's Deputy Chief of Staff Stephanie Valle said Cuomo has 30 days to appeal the decision, which Gibson will support. The appeal will give the state additional time to compile information about losses.
"The higher those numbers go, the more likely they are to approve an appeal," Valle said. "There have been instances in the past where appeals were approved."
Should the appeal be denied, Cuomo indicated in a statement Monday the state will provide assistance to affected homeowners.
"As I have said from the day the flood waters devastated towns and villages across upstate New York, if federal assistance is not provided, the state will step in to provide whatever is needed so New Yorkers can rebuild their lives and their homes," Cuomo said in a release. "An effective government is one that serves the people and when disaster strikes is there to help. In this situation, people need help, and you haven't seen anything until you see New Yorkers come together. The state will step up to the plate to ensure that those affected by these floods have the resources and assistance they need to get their lives back together."