( release) U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to resolve the outstanding, unfunded repair projects in Cattaraugus County from the flood disaster on August 8th through August 10, 2009. Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Erie counties were hit with severe rains resulting in significant flash flood-related destruction and damage, and at that time Schumer advocated for a disaster declaration and public and individual assistance from FEMA to alleviate repair costs. The President made a disaster declaration on September 1, 2009, and public and individual assistance for businesses and local governments was promised to Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Erie counties. However, Cattaraugus County is still waiting for reimbursements almost two years later. Schumer now urges FEMA to complete its project worksheet review and for Administrator Fugate to immediately release those funds, so that the county can be brought back to pre-disaster conditions, reduce vulnerability to future flooding, and relieve pressure on already overstretched county services.
“It’s been almost two years since flash flooding swept through Cattaraugus County and FEMA promised that they would help fund repair work,” said Schumer. “It is long past time for FEMA to honor their commitment to help pay for the cleanup. Construction season is here, and the county plans to finish necessary repairs in the next few months. Cattaraugus County will need to use their own funding to cover repairs, and prompt reimbursement will help ease this burden. I strongly urge FEMA to do the right thing, and send these promised funds to our communities at once.”
Cattaraugus county has already spent nearly $3.5 million to repair damaged roads, culverts, bridges, and other infrastructure. Seeing the urgent need to repair damage, the county undertook these repairs with the understanding that FEMA would promptly reimburse the county for these projects. The two largest projects cost the county nearly $3 million in repairs. The first project was on County Road 69 which sustained significant damage and had to be shut down. Shutting down this road created a 13 mile detour, and a significant burden on first responders and county residents. The road was finally able to reopen after $1.4 million in repairs. The second project was the Otto bridge replacement. This bridge was badly damaged and had to be rebuilt. A temporary bridge was put in place until a new bridge could be completed. The total cost of a temporary bridge and new permanent bridge was $1.5 million. All of these costs were paid upfront by Cattaraugus County, which put a huge strain on the county’s budget. Any further delay in reimbursement would have a very negative impact on the county budget and could result in layoffs, and additional burdens being placed on already overstretched county services.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to Administrator Fugate appears below:
May 6, 2011
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20472
I write today to express my concern about an ongoing issue between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Cattaraugus County.
From August 8 through August 10, 2009, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Erie counties were battered with severe rains resulting in significant flood-related destruction and damage. Given the extent and scope of the damage, I advocated strongly for a Presidential disaster declaration and for public and individual assistance from FEMA to recoup losses from the floods. As you know a major disaster was declared on September 1, 2009 (DR-1857), offering public assistance and individual assistance for businesses and local governments in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and Erie counties.
However, nearly two years later, Cattaraugus County is still waiting for reimbursements from FEMA for many of the expenses they incurred while cleaning up from this devastating storm. There are nearly thirty outstanding project worksheets at various stages of the regional review process, and at this time I respectfully urge FEMA to complete all outstanding project worksheet reviews and reimburse Cattaraugus County as quickly as possible.
Cleaning up after this storm has not been easy and continues to this day. Several roads and bridges were washed out as a result of the 2009 floods, but the county understood that these were vital infrastructure projects and getting them back in proper working order was of the utmost importance. Cattaraugus County covered as much of the expenses out of its own pocket as it could, believing that the Federal government would honor its commitment to reimburse them. It is time that FEMA honor this commitment.
FEMA reimbursements are critical to bringing the county back to pre-disaster conditions and need to be processed expeditiously. The summer construction season is quickly approaching in Western New York, and officials in Cattaraugus County do not want to miss out on this opportunity to finish work on the affected areas. Any further delay could leave the county dangerously vulnerable to future flood devastation, could result in layoffs, and places additional burdens on already overstretched county services.
Thank you for your consideration of this request, and I look forward to hearing from you on this important issue. Should you need additional information, please contact me or my aide, Grant Kerr, at 202-224-6542
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator