NIAGARA FALLS – When it comes to flood damage reimbursements from Albany, Lockport residents cashed in, but Niagara Falls residents may strike out.
In effect, it could be a case of “first flooded, first served.”
During a brief news conference Thursday in Lockport, after he announced $2.27 million in aid to 313 Lockport flood victims, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that the state is financially tapped out and that the federal government really should be handling the Niagara Falls problem.
That would be the same Federal Emergency Management Agency that refused to aid Lockport home and business owners, saying its rules prohibit it.
Cuomo launched a flood-recovery program after that word came down, and more than 400 applications were taken in Lockport City Hall between July 21 and 23. Thursday, Cuomo announced the resulting aid of up to $31,900 to homeowners and $50,000 to small businesses.
Those checks came on the same day that Cuomo announced help to other victims of flooding in late June and early July in Herkimer, Montgomery, Madison and Oneida counties. Lockport’s flash flood came June 28, during a rainstorm that poured six inches of rain on the city in an afternoon.
In all, the state flood program has issued 1,206 checks totaling $13.6 million, and more may be coming for those areas, according to Cuomo’s office.
But for Niagara Falls, maybe not so much.
“The assessment is still ongoing,” said State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane.
“This is a federal responsibility, by and large,” Cuomo told reporters in Lockport on Thursday. “What happened in this case was, Lockport and the Mohawk Valley at the same time were suffering from floods. We applied to FEMA; FEMA turned us down, not because they slighted us but because we didn’t meet the eligibility requirements. The state stepped in to fill the void left by the federal government. It was extraordinary.”
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster said Friday: “One of the differences between our situation and Lockport is they had the good fortune, if you want to call it good fortune, to be hit in the same storm that did damage across the state.”
For Niagara Falls, where more than four inches of rain filled basements July 19-20, that wasn’t the case.
The state did send staffers to Niagara Falls in the wake of the storm. Dyster said that by the end of July, 1,181 city property owners and 245 from outside the city limits, mostly from the Town of Niagara, had filed damage reports.
Dyster said the city is “going through the motions of seeing if we qualify under FEMA.”