Legislators look to aid those not helped by FEMA
A bipartisan group of state legislators who represent Niagara County and the Mohawk Valley have followed through on a promise made to flood victims by introducing legislation that would create a state disaster recovery fund. The bill (S.5987) is co-sponsored by Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane.
The proposal would create a supplemental fund to provide individual assistance, public assistance and hazard mitigation after a natural or man-made disaster. Aid would be available for a variety of disaster-related expenses, including home repairs and medical expenses for individuals. Municipalities would be eligible to receive funds for such items as public services expenses and debris removal. Infrastructure grants would be available to public schools.
"Following the storms that plagued Western New York earlier this summer, my office was inundated with calls for help," Maziarz said. "It would have been ideal to connect these constituents with FEMA and other agencies, but sometimes that help isn't available. The enactment of this law would create a much-needed safety net for people who need recovery assistance but currently can't get it."
Upon a disaster being declared, the bill would also require the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to establish a field office at the disaster site and provide relief workers. The agency would also create a disaster recovery center and a toll-free phone number to help those affected apply for assistance.
In all instances, grant applicants would receive funds within one month. Loan applicants would receive aid within two months. To ensure the maximum number of people are helped, aid and loans would not be offered to anyone provided money by their insurance company or the federal government.
This bill is the centerpiece of a six-point legislative plan championed by state senators in response to massive flooding last June. Niagara County and the Mohawk Valley sustained an estimated $87 million in flood damage between late June and July, the height of the storm and its devastating aftermath.