The state will provide about $10 million to hundreds of flooding victims in the Mohawk Valley, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday in another promise to scrape together in aid what is a small slice of the state budget.
Cuomo promised details should be announced by today. He had said earlier that he and lawmakers were trying to find state aid for the victims after federal aid for individuals was rejected Monday.
Disaster areas were declared after flooding June 28 to July 4 in Allegany, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Franklin, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Otsego and Warren counties. The Federal Emergency Management Agency decided this week that the flood victims weren’t eligible for individual grants and low-interest loans to repair or replace their homes.
The amount of aid needed is small in a $135 billion annual state budget.
State comptroller’s office audits show executive agencies spend $100 million to $150 million each year in discretionary travel expenses including car rentals, meals, lodging and airline baggage fees. The current budget also provides millions in tax breaks to lure “The Tonight Show” back to New York as part of $420 million in tax credits for film and TV productions doing work in the state.
And in June, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said state revenues were $360 million more than projections so far.
“The state will figure out a way to do it,” Cuomo told public radio’s “Capitol Pressroom” on Tuesday. “We’re not going to leave the homeowners hanging, period. … If your house was flooded, this is a lifetime.”
Legislative leaders support action by Cuomo or by legislative approval, if necessary. But Cuomo said calling the Legislature back to session could take two weeks and cost the state tens of thousands of dollars.
“We are willing to do whatever we can to help the people of the Mohawk Valley recover and rebuild after the destruction caused by these terrible floods,” said Scott Reif, spokesman for the Senate Republicans.
“Every member of our conference believes we must deliver aid to these hard-struck communities,” said Sen. David Valesky of the Independent Democratic Conference, which shares the Senate majority with Republicans.
Cuomo also said he would fully support a Senate proposal to create a reserve fund from annual budgets to be used to help victims of natural disasters.
“Between the frequency and level of devastation, we are not prepared for this and we need to be,” Cuomo said. He said hurricanes Irene and Lee and Superstorm Sandy in the past few years alone hit 60 to 70 percent of the state. FEMA is providing $30 billion in aid to government and individuals on Long Island, in New York City and in the lower Hudson Valley hit by Sandy last fall.
In an effort to plan for Fort Plain’s economic recovery, state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, led a group of community development agencies and financial institutions through the damage to village businesses on Tuesday.
Representatives from the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, which promotes philanthropy, the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region, which assembles donations from social concerned investors, and the Fulmont Community Action Agency, a designated relief agency, were some of the people on the tour.
“My goal is to bring organizations with money to invest or donate and introduce them to local officials and businesspeople that desperately need help,” Tkaczyk said in a statement. “I have seen firsthand just how resilient the people of Fort Plain are. Together with these organizations, and their expertise revitalizing businesses and communities, we can rebuild Fort Plain and make it better than ever.”
According to a news release, Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Thayer, R-Root, Fort Plain Mayor Guy Barton and Police Chief Robert Thomas were also on the tour.
In the wake of FEMA denying individual assistance to flooding victims, Tkaczyk said efforts to attract outside investment in the area have become even more important.
One of the major projects is finding a new home for the village’s sole grocery store, Save-a-Lot, which was completely flooded. The store employed about 20 people and purchased locally grown produce.
Also on the tour were representatives from the United Way of the Greater Capital Region, Hudson River Ventures and the New York State Rural Housing Coalition.
Tkaczyk has also reached out to the Community Preservation Corporation, which has helped revitalized flood-damaged areas in the past, including administering the New York Main Street Flood Relief Program in 2006. She is trying to schedule a tour of the area for the future.
Gazette reporter David Lombardo contributed to this report.