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Higgins Seeking Presidential Disaster Declaration

Aug 13, 2009
Press Release

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) sent a letter to President Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) formally requesting “Individual Assistance” for Western New York residents impacted by the severe floods that hit the area August 8 – 10, 2009 as well as federal assistance for local municipalities available with a Presidential disaster declaration.

“The devastation left by the flooding in Southern Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties, as I witnesses first hand in Silver Creek on Tuesday, produced unimaginable destruction to homes, businesses, infrastructure and municipal facilities” said Congressman Higgins.  “People here have lost everything – their homes, cars and belongings.   We are committed to doing everything we can to provide critical resources to restore and rebuild these great communities.”

The State Emergency Management office will be taking inventory of the regional destruction and determining if damages reach the financial threshold required for a Presidential disaster declaration.  Following the federal designation FEMA may authorize aid through the individual assistance and public assistance programs. 

Through FEMA’s Individuals and Households program residents living in Presidential Disaster Areas designated for individual assistance would be eligible to apply for financial assistance toward housing and other essential needs. 

Under FEMA’s Public Assistance Grant program local governments receive aid to support and expedite response and recovery.

“Every personal story of tragic loss brings with it another account of neighborhoods and communities coming together to help one another, a clear demonstration of Western New York’s resilience.  I commend the hundreds of people from dozens of agencies participating in clean-up and emergency response,” added Congressman Higgins.


Hon. Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Re: Disaster Declaration for Western New York
Dear Mr. President:
I write today to respectfully request a presidential disaster declaration for areas in Western New York which were inundated earlier this week, and that this declaration provide for assistance under both the Public Assistance (PA) program and the Individual Assistance (IA) program. 
Yesterday, I toured the extensive damage at the Silver Village mobile community in Silver Creek, NY.  There, approximately 35 residences were made uninhabitable.  In that mobile community, more homes than not were torn off of their foundations and several were flipped on their sides, completely collapsed or washed away altogether.  There I met Barb Amrozowicz, whose courage and quick thinking in waking, evacuating and accounting for her neighbors undoubtedly saved lives.  I was heartened to see the resilience of the survivors of this devastation but saddened by the awareness that they had just lost, in many cases, virtually everything they owned. 
I also walked down Oliver Place, Rix Place and Dana Place in the Village of Silver Creek, NY.  There, I met with neighbors who were cleaning up mud and debris despite their homes having been condemned in many cases.  I met with families whose homes represented the bulk of their savings and who were facing resultant financial losses from which they would not likely recover. 
I was also briefed by elected officials and emergency service personnel regarding the widespread devastation in the Village of Gowanda, NY.  There, homes, businesses and municipal facilities suffered extensive damage as the raging waters of the flood-swelled Cattaraugus deposited thick, slimy alluvial sediment throughout much of the village’s downtown area.  Flood damage was suffered in numerous other nearby communities, including but not limited to the town of Brant, Sunset Bay, Hanford Bay, the town of Kiantone, the town of North Collins and the City of Jamestown. 
In my survey of the damage, I was universally impressed by the professionalism, determination and coordination of the first responders and municipal leaders I encountered.  I was encouraged by the determination and resilience of the residents of the flooded areas whom I met.  I was also pleased to see that the federal government was actively engaged in the early stages of recovery through the active participation of personnel from the United States Coast Guard Sector Buffalo in the recovery effort yesterday. 
I understand that teams from FEMA and the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) will tomorrow begin conducting damage assessments in the effected areas.  Data from these assessments will inform a formal request for a declaration from the State of New York to the federal government. 
Having witnessed this devastation firsthand, I anticipate, and will encourage, that the state’s formal request will include a request for both PA and IA aid, and I again respectfully request that this aid be granted to these hard-hit communities. 
Thank you very much for your leadership and your consideration. 
Brian Higgins
Member of Congress
Below is Congressman Higgins letter: 
August 12, 2009