What was the point in the federal government declaring upstate New York’s numerous flood-ravaged counties (including Montgomery) a disaster area last week, agreeing to provide at least 75 percent of the cost of repairing public and nonprofit community service groups’ facilities, then telling the residents of those counties whose homes were ruined by the late-June floods to go scratch?
Why bother spending money on anything in Fort Plain if the people who now live there are going to have to leave because they can’t afford to rebuild their homes or businesses? That’s apparently the case for lots of village residents, according to Mayor Guy Barton.
It’s a contradiction, all right, and perhaps understandable from the point of view that government resources aren’t infinite. Then there are political considerations: House Republicans have such an aversion to spending money that trying to get them to loosen their purse strings for something like a flood in upstate New York (a blue state, after all) apparently isn’t deemed worth the effort.
Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, thinks otherwise, calling the decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency “unacceptable,” but he probably needs to make some noise with House leadership, too, if he really wants to help. Ditto for the other legislators representing the region, as well as other parts of upstate: Don’t take no for an answer.
Emergency relief should never be construed as a political issue, and it’s something the government is going to have to do a better job managing going forward in the age of global warming and extreme weather events.
The federal policy, which seems to be created anew with every new disaster, needs an overhaul with an eye toward more consistency and better coordination. Granted, we’re talking about the federal government; but clarifying and streamlining the process will make more funds available where they’re needed most. As for those funds, something along the lines of a long-range “rainy day” trust is needed to replace the haphazard, pay-as-you-go method that now discourages equal treatment for all disaster victims.
And states can’t afford this kind of thing on their own.