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Tropical Storm Fred: Why do homeowners and businesses feel forgotten in Steuben County?

  • / Updated:
  • Rebecca Swift 

Rick Andrews, co-owner of H.P. Smith & Son Funeral Home in Woodhull, is one of the Steuben County residents who felt the wrath of Tropical Storm Fred last August.

“We incurred a lot of expense out of our pocket,” Andrews says, noting he spent around $100,000 to repair his business after flooding. He adds, he spent close to $20,000 on new boilers, saying, “We had to do it.”

Andrews stood by a group of republican lawmakers Thursday in Woodhull where they urged the state to, “Finally provide direct, no-strings attached flood relief,” according to a release. That release says there was an estimated $35 million in damages for the region.

‘THIS IS USELESS’: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R-Corning) says residents need more (video)

Lawmakers ask the state to provide more aid to residents

Lawmakers called on Governor Kathy Hochul to ensure that $1 million in emergency repair grants will go toward reimbursing those who already took out loans for repairs, according to a release.

One of the State Assembly members leading the charge is Phil Palmesano, (R-Corning).

“We got a call from the Governor’s office, saying, hey we have some news. They said we have $1 million we’re going to provide to homeowners. But here’s the problem. They said this is not for reimbursable costs. We said this is useless. This is not going to help anyone. This is seven months after the storm. Those families had to go out and get new boilers, furnaces and water tanks then to prepare for winter. We talked to people who took credit cards with Home Depot or Lowe’s put all their expenses on that. They took out loans or depleted their savings.”

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, R-132

State already taken steps to help flood victims

We reached out to Governor Hochul’s office for a response. A spokesperson gave us the following statement Friday:

“In response to Tropical Storm Fred, New York State immediately applied to FEMA for individual assistance for Steuben County residents, but was denied aid from the federal government, both initially and following an appeal. As a result, Governor Hochul committed $1 million in emergency funding to eligible homeowners, creating a program similar to those in other counties across the state where individual assistance had been denied by FEMA. We remain in close coordination with our federal partners to ensure that all parts of New York State can get the help needed to recover from disasters and build resilience to protect against future ones.”

Back in January, Governor Hochul said the U.S. Small Business Administration will make low-interest loans available to homeowners and businesses affected by Tropical Storm Fred in mid-August to aid in their recovery.

Meanwhile, those who are faced with the storm’s lingering effects hope there’s more relief on the horizon.

“We were told that our disaster wasn’t a large enough disaster to qualify for enough funding,” Andrews says. “But to us it was a big deal.”