Gov. Cuomo promises financial help for areas hit by flooding

Posted at: 07/07/2013 11:58 PM
Updated at: 07/08/2013 12:06 AM
By: Steve Flamisch

HERKIMER -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling the White House on Monday to personally ask the president to declare a federal disaster area in the New York communities affected by flash flooding in late June, the governor said Sunday.

Cuomo first asked for a federal disaster declaration last week but Washington still has not responded, he said. The declaration would make homeowners and local governments eligible for federal financial aid.

"There is no reason why this does not qualify for federal disaster assistance," Cuomo said after touring flood damage in Herkimer on Sunday.

If the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will not provide assistance to flood-stricken places like Fort Plain and Herkimer, the governor said he is prepared to call a special session of the legislature in the hope of finding state money to help those communities. He estimated up to $80 million may be needed.

"One way or another, we're going to be there and be a backstop," Cuomo said. "We'd have to find (the money) but we have a bigger budget than a town or a city or a county."

The governor's promise came as good news to Donald Failing, who said he and his wife had just finished paying off their 33-year mortgage one month before flooding destroyed nearly everything in their Fort Plain home.

Though the couple had flood insurance, they need an additional $7,000 to complete the extensive repairs necessary to move back into their home, Failing said. Until then, they are staying with relatives.

"You've got to have money to buy sheetrock, rugs, flooring," he said. "If it wasn't for that, I could get back in."

The Failings live on Abbott St., near the lot where Ethel Healey's mobile home once stood. Floodwaters washed her trailer off its foundation on June 28. Healey was found dead several days later, near Lock 14 on the Mohawk River in Canajoharie.

Healey would have turned 87 on Sunday.

"It's unfortunate for her family," Cuomo said, "and we will remember them in our prayers."