$40M in additional funding held up
By Terry Duffy
And the wait continues.
Such was heard by attending Lake Ontario waterfront property owners on Wednesday at a Ransomville session on updates to long delays in awaited state reimbursement funding to damage victims of last year's lakeshore flooding and erosion. It was the second such meeting held to discuss funding delays.
Residents heard from Robert Welch, constituent relations manager for New York State Sen. Rob Ortt, who said the matter remains stuck in the state governmental bureaucracy. Welch said the state approved $40 million in additional assistance at its January session, bringing the statewide storm damage assistance total to nearly $95 million for eligible waterfront property owners who applied. But thanks to endless procedural reviews on the state level in Albany, first by the Senate, then Assembly, then comptroller's office and then HCR, the funding delays continue.
"We're working hard, pushing the timeline along as fast as we can," Welch said.
He explained that, with hopeful action in the Assembly in coming days, up to $10 million in property damage relief funds could be released as soon as after the Memorial Day holiday, with an additional $40 million possibly released in June.
Speaker Kathy Steinman, executive director of Niagara Falls Neighborhood Housing Services - the local agency in charge of administering the damage reimbursement funding - called the state funding assistance "a long, tedious process," and again asked residents to remain patient.
Steinman said that up to 500 area waterfront property owners are currently on the agency's reimbursement list dating from June 2017. The list provides applicants up to a $50,000 reimbursement cap for submitted damages. She said NFNHS maintains a categorized database listed per the actual distance of a property from the waterfront.
"Categories are prioritized for homeowners, for businesses. (They're) prioritized as to the timeframe (the application was) submitted as well the emergency," Steinman said. "Actual payments will be scrutinized as to actual eligibility."
"The goal is to pay out reimbursements once we receive the actual cash," she said.
Steinman said that, thus far, NFNHS has only paid out 30-35 applicants out of 500 on its list. She strongly suggested residents seeking information on application assistance contact NFNHS on their status. For further information, call 285-7778 or visit the website www.niagarafallsnhs.org
Wrapping up, Porter Supervisor Duffy Johnston clarified the $348,000 grant awarded to the town to address lakeshore damages from last year's lake flooding and erosion. He said the town funding awarded was not intended for Porter on the Lake Park, but rather to address town-owned lakefront properties in the Fort Niagara Beach neighborhood that encountered significant erosion over the past year from high lake waters.
"It's (going for) municipal funding reimbursed for (town property near) a residential area at the end of Park Avenue," Johnston said.
Calling the process "a lot of government red tape," he said that, in order to qualify, the town would first need to bid out the actual work to authorized contractors to stabilize the shoreline area, bond out to cover the cost, and then work within the various governmental guidelines involved in such a project to receive reimbursement.