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Schumer pledges to fight for federal aid for hurricane recovery

August 30, 2011

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer pledged to fight to secure all possible aid for counties throughout the Hudson Valley in light of the flooding caused by Irene. The storm dumped record amounts of rainfall and high winds caused over one million New Yorkers to lose power. In the coming days and weeks, federal, state and local emergency officials will be conducting damage assessments and likely applying for federal aid to help towns, businesses, farmers and homeowners recover and rebuild after the storm. Schumer today announced that he will do everything possible to help secure all of the necessary federal aid for the Hudson Valley.

“The Hudson Valley should receive every possible type of federal aid to help rebuild and recover from Hurricane Irene,” said Schumer. “I am going to fight as hard as possible to secure every last dollar, to help our communities get back up on their feet again. As we survey the damage in the coming weeks, I encourage local leaders and officials to make their needs known so that we can get to work bringing the resources and tools that we need to the counties to get the recovery effort underway as quickly as possible.”

The storm wreaked havoc all across the Hudson Valley causing major problems including flooding, power outages and major infrastructure damage causing many road closures. 80,000 residents in Dutchess and Ulster counties, 96,000 in Orange and Rockland counties and an additional 136,000 residents in Rockland, Putnam and Westchester counties were left without power after the storm hit.

As the full extent of the damage becomes clear in the coming days and weeks, counties throughout the Hudson Valley may be eligible for a variety of federal aid including:

- Aid to individuals and households
- Temporary housing, where homeowners and renters receive funds to rent a different place to live
- Homeowners get grants to repair damage not covered by insurance
- Under rare conditions homeowners get money to replace a disaster damaged home
- SBA Loans (technically SBA loans fall under IA) – loans are made to replace disaster-related damages to home or personal property, to business owners to repair damaged property

-USDA financial and technical assistance to help farmers deal with on-farm damages and compensate for production losses


- Aid to public and certain nonprofit entities for emergency services and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged public facilities

- There are seven categories of public assistance:

Category A: Debris Removal

Debris Removal is the clearance, removal, and/or disposal of items such as trees, woody debris, sand, mud, silt, gravel, building components, wreckage, vehicles, and personal property.

For debris removal to be eligible, the work must be necessary to:

· Eliminate an immediate threat to lives, public health and safety

· Eliminate immediate threats of significant damage to improved public or private property

· Ensure the economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community-at-large

· Mitigate the risk to life and property by removing substantially damaged structures and associated appurtenances as needed to convert property acquired through a FEMA hazard mitigation program to uses compatible with open space, recreation, or wetlands management practices

Examples of eligible debris removal activities include:

· Debris removal from a street or highway to allow the safe passage of emergency vehicles

· Debris removal from public property to eliminate health and safety hazards

Examples of ineligible debris removal activities include:

· Removal of debris, such as tree limbs and trunks, from natural (unimproved) wilderness areas

· Removal of pre-disaster sediment from engineered channels

· Removal of debris from a natural channel unless the debris poses an immediate threat of flooding to improved property

Debris removal from private property is generally not eligible because it is the responsibility of the individual property owner. If property owners move the disaster-related debris to a public right-of-way, the local government may be reimbursed for curbside pickup and disposal for a limited period of time. If the debris on private business and residential property is so widespread that public health, safety, or the economic recovery of the community is threatened, FEMA may fund debris removal from private property, but it must be approved in advance by FEMA.

Category B: Emergency Protective Measures

Emergency Protective Measures are actions taken by Applicants before, during, and after a disaster to save lives, protect public health and safety, and prevent damage to improved public and private property. Emergency communications, emergency access and emergency public transportation costs may also be eligible.

Examples of eligible emergency protective measures are:

· Warning devices (barricades, signs, and announcements)

· Search and rescue

· Security forces (police and guards)

· Construction of temporary levees

· Provision of shelters or emergency care

· Sandbagging

· Bracing/shoring damaged structures

· Provision of food, water, ice and other essential needs

· Emergency repairs

· Emergency demolition

· Removal of health and safety hazards

Category C: Roads and Bridges

Roads (paved, gravel, and dirt) are eligible for permanent repair or replacement under the Public Assistance Program, unless they are Federal-aid roads. Eligible work includes repair to surfaces, bases, shoulders, ditches, culverts, low water crossings, and other features, such as guardrails. Damage to the road must be disaster-related to be eligible for repair. In addition, repairs necessary as the result of normal deterioration, such as "alligator cracking," are not eligible because it is pre-disaster damage.

Landslides and washouts often affect roads. Earthwork in the vicinity of a road may be eligible, but only if the work is necessary to ensure the structural integrity of the road.

Road or bridge closures resulting from a disaster may increase traffic loads on nearby roads. If diverted traffic causes damage to a road, FEMA may pay to repair this damage if no alternative is available. Restoration of a damaged road may include upgrades necessary to meet current codes and standards, as defined by the State or local department of highways. Typical standards affect lane width, loading design, and construction materials.

Bridges are eligible for repair or replacement under the Public Assistance Program, unless they are on a Federal-aid road. Eligible work includes repairs to decking, guardrails, girders, pavement, abutments, piers, slope protection, and approaches. Only repairs of disaster-related damage are eligible. In some cases, FEMA may use pre-disaster bridge inspection reports to determine if damage to a bridge was present before the disaster.

Work to repair scour or erosion damage to the channel and stream banks is eligible if the repair is necessary to ensure the structural integrity of the bridge. Earthwork that is not related to the structural integrity of the bridge is not eligible. Similarly, work to remove debris, such as fallen trees, from the channel at the bridge is eligible if the debris could cause further damage to the structure or if the blockage could cause flood waters to inundate nearby homes, businesses, or other facilities.

When replacement of a damaged bridge is warranted, eligible work may include upgrades necessary to meet current standards for road and bridge construction, as defined by the State or local highway department. Typical standards affect lane width, loading design, construction materials, and hydraulic capacity. If code requires, and if the Applicant has consistently enforced that code, FEMA will permit changes in the bridge design from one lane to two lanes to include access modification for a short distance (i.e., within area of damage). This does not apply to other expansions of capacity (e.g., from two lanes to four lanes).

Permanent restoration of a road or bridge that service USACE or NRCS levees and dams, private and commercial roads, and homeowners' association roads or fall under the authority of the Federal Highway Administration is not eligible for public assistance.

Category D: Water Control Facilities

Water control facilities include dams and reservoirs, levees, lined and unlined engineered drainage channels, shore protective devices, irrigation facilities, and pumping facilities.

Restoration of the carrying capacity of engineered channels and debris basins may be eligible, but maintenance records or surveys must be produced to show the pre-disaster capacity of these facilities. The pre-disaster level of debris in the channel or basin is of particular importance to determine the amount of newly deposited disaster-related debris. Such a facility must also have had a regular clearance schedule to be considered an actively used and maintained facility.

Restoration of reservoirs to their pre-disaster capacity also may be eligible in accordance with the criteria for debris basins described above. Not all reservoirs are cleaned out on a regular basis, and evidence of pre-disaster maintenance must be provided to FEMA. In addition, removal of debris that poses an immediate threat of clogging or damaging intake or adjacent structures may be eligible.

The USACE and NRCS have primary authority for repair of flood control works, whether constructed with Federal or non-Federal funds, as well as authority over federally funded shore protective devices. Permanent repairs to these facilities are not eligible through the PA Program.

Category E: Buildings and Equipment

Buildings, including contents such as furnishings and interior systems such as electrical work, are eligible for repair or replacement under the Public Assistance Program. In addition to contents, FEMA will pay for the replacement of pre-disaster quantities of consumable supplies and inventory. FEMA will also pay for the replacement of library books and publications. Removal of mud, silt, or other accumulated debris is eligible, along with any cleaning and painting necessary to restore the building.

If an insurance policy applies to a facility, FEMA will deduct from eligible costs the amount of insurance proceeds, actual or anticipated, before providing funds for restoration of the facility. FEMA will reduce public assistance grants by the maximum amount of insurance proceeds an Applicant would receive for an insurable building located in an identified floodplain that is not covered by Federal flood insurance. The reduction in eligible costs will be the larger of the two reductions just described. The owners of insurable buildings can expedite the grant process by providing FEMA with policy and settlement information as soon as possible after a disaster occurs.

FEMA may pay for upgrades that are required by certain codes and standards. Examples include roof bracing installed following a hurricane, seismic upgrades to mitigate damage from earthquakes, and upgrades to meet standards regarding use by the disabled. For repairs, upgrades are limited to damaged elements only. If a structure must be replaced, the new facility must comply with all applicable codes and standards regardless of the level of FEMA funding.

If a damaged building must be replaced, FEMA has the authority to pay for a building with the same capacity as the original structure. However, if the standard for space per occupant has changed since the original structure was built, FEMA may pay for an increase in size to comply with that standard while maintaining the same occupant capacity. A Federal or State agency or statute must mandate the increase in space; it cannot be based only on design practices for an industry or profession.

Category F: Utilities

Typical Utilities include:

· Water treatment plants and delivery systems

· Power generation and distribution facilities, including generators, substations, and power lines

· Sewage collection systems and treatment plants

· Telecommunications

The owner of a facility is responsible for determining the extent of damage incurred. FEMA does not provide funds for random surveys to look for damage, such as TV inspection of sewer lines. If disaster-related damage is evident, however, FEMA may pay for inspections to determine the extent of the damage and method of repair.

While FEMA will pay for restoration of damaged utilities, FEMA does not provide funds for increased operating expenses resulting from a disaster. Similarly, FEMA cannot provide funds for revenue lost if a utility is shut down. However, the cost of establishing temporary, emergency services in the event of a utility shut-down may be eligible.

Category G: Parks, Recreational Facilities, and Other Items

Repair and restoration of parks, playgrounds, pools, cemeteries, and beaches. This category also is used for any work or facility that cannot be characterized adequately by Categories A-F

Eligible publicly-owned facilities in this category include: playground equipment, swimming pools, bath houses, tennis courts, boat docks, piers, picnic tables, and golf courses.

Other types of facilities, such as roads, buildings and utilities, that are located in parks and recreational areas are also eligible and are subject to the eligibility criteria for Categories C, D, E, and F.

Natural features are not eligible facilities unless they are improved and maintained. This restriction applies to features located in parks and recreational areas. Specific criteria apply to beaches and to trees and ground cover.

Beaches. Emergency placement of sand on a natural or engineered beach may be eligible when necessary to protect improved property from an immediate threat. Protection may be to a 5-year storm profile or to its pre-storm profile, whichever is less.

A beach is considered eligible for permanent repair if it is an improved beach and has been routinely maintained prior to the disaster. A beach is considered to be an "improved beach" if the following criteria apply:

· the beach was constructed by the placement of sand to a designed elevation, width, grain size, and slope; and

· the beach has been maintained in accordance with a maintenance program involving the periodic re-nourishment of sand at least every 5 years.

Typically, FEMA will request the following from an applicant before approving assistance for permanent restoration of a beach:

· design documents and specifications, including analysis of grain size;

· "as-built" plans;

· documentation of regular maintenance or nourishment of the beach; and

· pre- and post-storm cross sections of the beach.

Permanent restoration of sand on natural beaches is not eligible.

Trees and Ground Cover. The replacement of trees, shrubs, and other ground cover is not eligible. This restriction applies to trees and shrubs in recreational areas, such as parks, as well as trees and shrubs associated with public facilities, such as those located in the median strips along roadways and as landscaping for public buildings. Grass and sod are eligible only when necessary to stabilize slopes and minimize sediment runoff.

This restriction does not affect removal of tree debris or the removal of trees as an emergency protective measure. FEMA will reimburse for the removal of tree debris and the removal of trees as emergency protective measures if the removal eliminates an immediate threat to lives, public health and safety, and improved property, or if removal is necessary to ensure the economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community-at-large. However, FEMA will not reimburse for the replacement of these trees.


- Funding for measures designed to reduce future losses to public and private property

- These are sustained measures enacted to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property from natural hazards and their effects

- If a major disaster declaration is approved, every county in the state is eligible to apply for mitigation funds

- Eligible mitigation measures include relocation of property located in high hazard areas, elevation of flood prone structures, seismic rehabilitation of existing structures, strengthening of existing structures against wildfire, and dry floodproofing activities.


If a private business or nonprofit organization has suffered physical damage or sustained an economic injury after a disaster, it may be eligible for financial assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration. If the business, regardless of size, is located in a declared disaster area, the owner may apply for a long-term, low interest loan to repair or replace damaged property.

Even if the property was not damaged, the business owner may apply for a working capital loan from the SBA to relieve the economic injury caused by the disaster.

Physical Disaster Loans

Businesses of all sizes and private, nonprofit organizations may apply for a Physical Disaster Loan of up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged real estate, equipment, inventory and fixtures. The loan may be increased by as much as 20 percent of the total amount of disaster damage to real estate and/or leasehold improvements, as verified by SBA, to protect the property against future disasters of the same type. These loans will cover uninsured or under-insured losses.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans

Small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and certain private, nonprofit organizations of all sizes suffering substantial economic injury may be eligible for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan of up to #2 million to meet necessary financial obligations – expenses the business would have paid if the disaster had not occurred.

Interest Rates

The interest rates on both these loans will not exceed 4 percent if the business owner does not have credit available elsewhere. Repayment can be up to 30 years, depending on the business’ ability to repay the loan. For businesses and nonprofit organizations with credit available elsewhere, the interest rate will not exceed 8 percent. SBA determines whether the applicant has credit available elsewhere.


Emergency Loan Program (ELP) – This program is triggered when a quarantine is imposed by the Secretary, a natural disaster, or a natural disaster or emergency is designated by the President under the Stafford Act. FSA provides emergency loans to help producers recover from production and physical losses due to drought, flooding, other natural disasters, or quarantine. Emergency loans may be made to farmers and ranchers who own or operate land located in a county declared by the President as a disaster area or designated by the Secretary of Agriculture as a disaster area or quarantine area (for physical losses only, the FSA Administrator may authorize emergency loan assistance). Emergency loan funds may be used to: restore or replace essential property; pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year; pay essential family living expenses; reorganize the farming operation; and refinance certain debts.

Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE) - SURE was authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill and covers crop revenue losses from quantity or quality deficiencies only those counties and contiguous counties declared disaster areas by the Agriculture Secretary or in cases where the overall production loss exceeds 50 percent. This program requires a natural disaster declaration by the Secretary for production losses.

Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) - The NRCS EWP program helps protect lives and property threatened by natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. The program provides technical and financial assistance to preserve life and property threatened by excessive erosion and flooding. Owners, managers, and users of public, private, or tribal lands are eligible for EWP assistance if their watershed area has been damaged by a natural disaster.

Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) - ECP provides funding for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by wind erosion, floods, hurricanes, or other natural disasters, and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures during periods of severe drought. The natural disaster must create new conservation problems, which, if not treated, would: impair or endanger the land; materially affect the productive capacity of the land; represent unusual damage which, except for wind erosion, is not the type likely to recur frequently in the same area; and be so costly to repair that Federal assistance is or will be required to return the land to productive agricultural use.