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EDITORIAL: FEMA must reconsider help for flood victims

EDITORIAL: FEMA must reconsider help for flood victims

Damage from Halloween storm warrants individual assistance for affected homeowners

Vincent Turczyn had six feet of water in his home, plus another five or six inches in his sunken living room.

The appliances in his basement were destroyed, and he has to replace all the flooring, drywall and insulation, he told syracuse.com.

Paul Boehlert had five feet of water in his house. Part of his foundation collapsed, everything in his basement was destroyed, and two weeks after the storm, he still didn’t have heat or electricity, the paper reported.

Throughout the region and other parts of 18 counties affected by a massive rain storm on Halloween, residents told similar stories of massive damage to their homes, to walls and flooring, furnaces and hot-water heaters, electrical panels and appliances, furniture and vehicles.

In some homes, the flooding blew out entire basement walls, putting the structures at risk of collapse, sent mud and debris into basements, garages and bedrooms, and rendered homes uninhabitable.

In all, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office estimates, the storm that brought several inches of rain and 70 mph winds to the region on Oct. 31 destroyed 18 homes, did major damage to 135 and significantly affected another 250 in several local counties, including Fulton, Herkimer, Lewis, Saratoga and Warren counties.

That’s over 400 homes. Over 400 families whose lives will forever be changed.

Yet when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was asked to determine whether the affected areas were eligible for individual financial assistance — aid that can be used to reimburse displaced residents for temporary housing, as well as for repairs not covered by insurance — the agency’s answer was a resounding too-damn-bad.

“It has been determined that the impact to the individuals and households from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to warrant the designation of Individual Assistance,” a FEMA spokeswoman said.

Really? Tell that to the homeowner with the gaping hole in his living room and six inches of mud in his bedroom.

While local governments affected by the storm were deemed eligible for aid to repair roads, public buildings and other infrastructure, the hundreds of individual homeowners devastated by the storm were literally being left out in the cold.

Gov. Cuomo has rightly appealed the FEMA decision, demanding a more detailed explanation for the denial and urging the federal government reconsider its decision.

The governor has been joined by state and federal elected officials from both sides of the political aisle in demanding FEMA revisit its decision.

There are times when citizens should be able to handle Mother Nature’s wrath on their own.

When they can’t because of matters far beyond their control, the federal government has an obligation to help them.

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