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Schumer, Massa & Higgins Urge Speedy Action from the President on Disaster Declaration

Aug 23, 2009
Press Release

US Senator Charles E. Schumer, Congressman Eric Massa (NY-29) and Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) sent a letter to President Obama today requesting swift approval of a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Western New York areas impacted by the severe floods that hit the area most significantly from August 8 - 10, 2009. 
 
“Since late July, communities across New York State have been pounded by one devastating storm after another,” said Schumer. “We must do everything we can to provide these communities with the resources they need to recover from the widespread damages. I urge FEMA and the President to work with New York State and issue a federal disaster declaration immediately to help these communities get back on their feet.”
 
"The families of Gowanda and the surrounding area cannot wait for any further delays. During my first visit to the flood ravaged areas of Cattaraugus County, I stopped counting the number of destroyed or damaged homes at 300 and this was just in one town. The time to cut through the red tape has arrived and that's why we are again asking President Obama to push FEMA forward," said Congressman Eric Massa.

“I understand that the government process is often bureaucratic and slow, but each day that passes is more difficult for people without homes and belongings.  Impacted businesses aren't making money, working families no longer have a place to work and police, fire and other public entities have lost equipment and other vital tools that keep our communities alive,” said Congressman Higgins.
 
On Tuesday, August 11th Congressman Higgins toured the impacted areas in Silver Creek with County Executive Greg Edwards.  The next day, Wednesday, August 12th, Congressman Eric Massa toured Gowanda. On that same day, Congressman Higgins and Congressman Massa sent letters to the President requesting a Presidential Disaster Declaration that includes individual assistance in addition to municipal assistance.  On Friday, August 14th the Governor declared that damages exceeded the threshold and requested a Presidential Declaration.  On Saturday, August 15th Schumer, Higgins, Massa and other members of the federal delegation sent a joint letter requesting a federal disaster declaration. On Monday, August 17th FEMA confirmed they received the request for a declaration.
 
In preliminary damage assessments the State estimated total expenditures for infrastructure repair and debris removal will exceed $70 million.  In Chautauqua County the preliminary public property damages estimates are $17 million, with estimates in Erie County around $6.8 million and Cattaraugus County damage totals exceeding $36.7 million.  In the Village of Gowanda alone, the local impact exceeds $6,100 per capita.    
 

 
 
August 23, 2009
 
 
Hon. Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
 
Hon. Craig Fugate
Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20472
 
Re: Disaster Declaration for Western New York
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
Governor Paterson has requested a Presidential disaster declaration for areas of upstate New York which had been inundated by severe flooding. We can attest to the wide-spread destruction and hardship caused by this disaster, all of us having seen the destruction of homes, businesses and municipal facilities.
 
We have, separately and together with other members of New York's Congressional delegation, written to support Governor Paterson's request. Today we write to again ask that the declaration be granted, and that it include Individual Assistance and Public Assistance. We also write today to ask FEMA to expedite its submission to the President, and respectfully request that the President approve the declaration as soon as possible.
 
Communities which suffered severe damage as a result of this flooding include, but are not limited to, Gowanda, Silver Creek, Boston, Brant, Jamestown, Sunset Bay, Hanford Bay, the Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca Nation of Indians, and Colden.
 
It has been apparent for over one week that the damage was widespread enough to warrant this level of federal intervention. Again, we respectfully and urgently request your expedited and favorable consideration.
 
Thank you very much for your leadership and attention to this issue.
 
Sincerely,
 
Eric Massa
Member of Congress
 
Brian Higgins
Member of Congress
 
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator