New York State to cover local share of Irene and Lee recovery costs

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the Middleburgh Fire Department today, announcing that New York State will cover the local share of flood recovery costs in 25 counties. Photo by David Avitabile of the Schoharie County Times Journal; reproduced by permission.

Local officials in flood-ravaged towns across New York State are breathing a sigh of relief today, after an announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the state will be picking up the tab for the local share of flood recovery funding. Cuomo visited the Middleburgh Fire Department today, in hard-hit Schoharie County, to make the announcement before an audience of about 150 local officials and residents.

Disaster recovery projects are usually funded by FEMA at 75 percent, with the remaining 25 percent split equally between the state and local towns, counties or villages. The local share of costs -- 12.5 percent -- doesn't sound like a lot compared to the entire cost of the projects. But for last year's flooding, all those local costs add up up to a whopping $61 million in New York State alone.

Many local governments have been struggling to find the funds to cover their share of projects, and also to pay up front for projects they will eventually be reimbursed by FEMA for. Some, like Prattsville, have borrowed large sums of money to keep recovery efforts moving forward. Others are unable to borrow -- like the tiny village of Fleischmanns, where local officials say they need $1 million just to get the village's recovery projects started. Still others have turned to private fundraising, like an effort in the Sullivan County town of Neversink to save a covered bridge damaged in the floods.

The flood has also eroded the budgets of local governments, in more ways than one. Middleburgh mayor Matt Avitabile said that the village lost about $19,000 in property tax revenue as a result of the flood -- about 5 percent of the village's $750,000 annual budget. For Middleburgh, he says, the governor's announcement is very welcome news.

"The community really needed something like this," he said. "This money is a big piece of the puzzle. We still have a lot of work to do, but the outlook looks better."

A press release issued by Cuomo's office today gives estimates of the cost of recovery projects in each of 25 counties, and the amount of local costs that will now be covered by the state.

The total cost of recovery projects whose local share is being covered by the state is estimated at over $487 million.

Schoharie County tops the list in damages, with an estimated $102,577,294 in recovery projects, and a local cost of over $12.8 million.

Local governments in other Catskills counties will be getting large amounts of money from the state: nearly $4 million for Delaware County, $4.5 million for Greene County, and $3.8 million for Ulster County. Local costs in Sullivan County, most of which was relatively unscathed by the floods, will be covered at an estimated $462,265.

The funding for the local costs, according to Cuomo's press release, will come from money set aside by the state Legislature and additional federal funds requested by the Governor.