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Locals pleased by Cuomo release of more money for flood-damaged Lake Ontario homes

Niagara and Orleans County leaders said Friday they were pleased by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's decision to release more state money to assist owners of homes damaged by flooding and erosion along the Lake Ontario shoreline last year.

Cuomo said late Thursday that the state has committed $50 million to help Lake Ontario property owners, with a new $15 million allocation, plus another $5 million he had previously released, which received legislative approval this week.

"I will continue to work with the Legislature to secure additional funding for this important program and help the families along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shoreline build back stronger and smarter than ever before," Cuomo said.

Niagara County Legislator David E. Godfrey, R-Wilson, said that he and other county leaders have been trying unsuccessfully for months to obtain official information on how many local homeowners filed claims, how much was spent and how many flood victims are still waiting for help.

Godfrey said he's heard of property owners obtaining state reimbursement for repair work, but he's also heard of others who are still waiting or whose claims have been rejected.

Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne M. Johnson, R-Yates, said it's apparent the state had run out of money from the first allocation.

Johnson said she knows two adjoining homeowners who had breakwalls repaired by the same contractor a month apart. The first obtained reimbursement, while the second was told there were no funds available. She said she expects Cuomo's announcement to solve that homeowner's problem.

The flood relief program is being administered by state Homes and Community Renewal.

"Of the more than $15 million originally allocated for housing in the aftermath of the flooding, the not-for-profits who are executing the recovery work on the ground have committed $12.7 million to impacted homeowners," Deputy Commissioner Freeman Klopott told The Buffalo News by email.

"To date, over 3,400 funding requests have been processed in the few months since the flooding, and more than 500  homeowners have received recovery payments," Klopott said. "We and our not-for-profit partners are taking our role in protecting the interests of homeowners seriously. Each application for funding requires a site visit by the responsible not-for-profit that is designed to protect recipients from price gouging. It also helps us protect taxpayer dollars by determining eligibility for the program.

"The not-for-profits have also prioritized applications of homeowners with imminent life and safety issues in their homes. As these more complex cases are completed, we expect an uptick in the speed of application processing," Klopott said.

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