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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Schumer to FEMA: Kick in 90%
(Page 2 of 3)
Alexandra Spychalsky/Herald
Sen. Charles Schumer met with local officials to request that FEMA up its share of public-property repairs from 75 to 90 percent.

He explained that FEMA must make a request for the change to the federal Office of Management and Budget. Increased reimbursement has not been an issue for the victims of comparable disasters — the agency provided 100 percent reimbursement after Hurricane Katrina, Schumer said — but three things stand in the way of the change.

First, he said, there is currently a shortage of federal money. Second, there is sequestration, the automatic federal spending cuts that went into effect on March 1. And third, Schumer said, a group of conservative politicians want to limit the government’s participation in disaster relief.

“New York is not demanding something that other places haven’t gotten,” Schumer said. “We don’t think the rules ought to change. If [the OMB] doesn’t approve it, I will go over their heads to the White House to get it approved.”

New York contributes its share to help others around the country who have suffered disasters, he said, but now many people from other areas don’t think New Yorkers should get the same benefits.

“[Long Islanders] have sent billions of dollars of their tax monies to the West when there have been forest fires, to the Mississippi and Missouri valleys when there has been flooding, to the Gulf and to Florida and to the lower Atlantic Coast when there have been hurricanes,” Schumer said. “Just as New Yorkers honored our commitment to the rest of the country, because we are one nation, we believe that the rest of the nation should honor the same commitment to us.”

City Councilman Len Torres said that a variety of public works projects in Long Beach would be eligible for the potential additional money: the boardwalk reconstruction; infrastructure repairs such as upgrades to the city’s pumping system; and mitigation efforts, like installing storm protection on the bay side of the island.

Beyond FEMA’s share, the remaining costs are usually split between the state and the municipality, and even if the 90 percent rate is approved, that will still leave Long Beach with a $10 million tab. City officials said they are still seeking additional funding to offset the remaining cost.

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