Some much-anticipated financial relief might be on the way to Long Beach.
Last week, Sen. Charles Schumer urged the federal government to approve a Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement rate of 90 percent for public recovery efforts in New York.
Under federal law, FEMA must reimburse 75 percent of the cost of repairing public property damaged in a disaster. The agency can increase the rate, however, if the money the state receives for such storm-related repairs exceeds a pre-determined amount.
“[After Sandy], local governments swung into action and laid out a ton of money — taxpayers’ money,” Schumer said at a press conference at Freeport’s Nautical Mile on May 1. “They are the ones on the front lines. The idea that they should have to wait [for funding] makes no sense.”
Long Beach suffered about $200 million in public-property damage from Sandy, and for months, city officials have been calling on FEMA to provide the city the maximum reimbursement. The city was grappling with financial problems prior to the storm, and officials expressed relief that 90 percent reimbursement is now a possibility.
“It would have been crippling to the city’s financial well-being,” City Manager Jack Schnirman said of what the city would be responsible for paying with a 75 percent reimbursement rate. “It’s safe to say it would’ve been a nightmare scenario. To put that kind of burden on residents who have already been so badly affected by the storm would’ve been too much to ask.”
FEMA can kick in a larger percentage of reimbursement if the total the state receives exceeds $133 per resident, or $2.6 billion. The state surpassed that threshold on April 30, when FEMA allocated more than $267 million to the Long Island Power Authority through its public assistance program.
Schumer said that $900 million is at stake — the difference between a 75 percent reimbursement rate and 90 percent. “That’s a big burden for New York,” he said. “Imagine if you’re a little locality. That is a huge amount of money.”