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Irene, Lee aid likely with federal billions for Sandy recovery

March 12, 2013
Updated 10:38 p.m.
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— Local post-flood rebuilding efforts would get a multimillion-dollar boost under a recovery plan New York state submitted to the federal government Tuesday.

An initial $1.7 billion in federal funding is expected to flow into the state to help homeowners and businesses recover from Hurricane Sandy and tropical storms Irene and Lee, and the state hopes to offer a variety of programs with the cash, according to an announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The money is part of the $60 billion allocated in January by the federal government for storm relief, $30 billion of which was designated for New York.

At a glance

FEMA figures show flooding from Tropical Storm Irene damaged 26,837 owner-occupied homes, including:

Schoharie County, 1,001 homes

Schenectady County, 565 homes

Montgomery County, 320 homes

Saratoga County, 251 homes

“Thanks to the hard work and leadership of our state’s congressional delegation, New York will receive billions of dollars in federal assistance to help homeowners and businesses undertake repairs and rebuild after the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy as well as Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee,” Cuomo said in a news release.

“This plan was put together with the input of homeowners and small businesses in affected communities and it will serve as a blueprint to guide our housing and private-sector recovery,” he said.

The state’s plan, which requires approval from HUD before it can be put in motion, would direct funding toward single-family housing, multi-family housing and business assistance.

Residential housing assistance would total $788 million to address as many as 300,000 homes damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and thousands of others in Irene and Lee.

If spread evenly among 300,000 recipients, $788 million would amount to less than $3,000 each, not enough to repair much damage. But fewer than 300,000 homes will likely qualify, more money may become available, and the funding is intended only as a supplement to insurance payouts and federal emergency aid already received — not as the sole source of funds for rebuilding. Another $124 million would be earmarked for multifamily housing rebuilding, according to the plan.

The plan also calls for creating an “infrastructure bank” to centralize decisions. The bank would direct funding for projects that boost the ability of infrastructure to withstand future threats, according to the announcement.

About $25 million will be available through a Community Reconstruction Zone program aimed at helping to plan recovery in communities that suffered widespread damage.

About $30 million is planned to help hospitals and nursing homes establish backup power systems so vulnerable residents need not be evacuated during future disasters.

Businesses and rental properties form another focus of the plan, which would direct $415 million toward bringing businesses back. The plan includes small business grants and loans, money for consulting and recovery funds for the fishing and tourism industries.

The state’s Action Plan for Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant funding details massive damage from all three storms.

Hurricane Sandy’s impact to downstate counties included verified damage to more than 90,000 homes and roughly 33,000 rental residences. As many as 300,000 residences were possibly damaged in total, but fewer than half that many have been confirmed as such.

Flooding from Tropical Storm Irene affected 26,837 owner-occupied homes; FEMA figures show Irene flooding caused damage to 1,001 homes in Schoharie County, 565 in Schenectady County, 320 in Montgomery County and 251 in Saratoga County.

Grants that would be distributed are meant to fill in gaps for those whose rebuilding costs exceed money they received from insurance or FEMA.

Sarah Goodrich, director of the post-flood rebuilding organization SALT, which is focusing on the Schoharie Valley, said Hurricane Sandy is helping to keep disaster recovery alive as a topic in upstate New York.

Focusing on business recovery, she said, is as important as getting victims back into their homes. The loss of business from disasters leads to fewer local jobs, which in turn sends people elsewhere to live, thereby reducing the potential activity businesses would see, she said.

“Revitalizing communities means you have to revitalize businesses,” Goodrich said.

 
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