July 19, 2017

Picente Urges Federal Leaders to Reevaluate FEMA Aid

News Photo

County Executive frustrated by lack of emergency assistance to local flood victims

Frustrated by the lack of federal and state aid in the wake Oneida County’s recent flooding, County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. has urged federal leaders to loosen the restrictions on FEMA aid and reevaluate the way it is distributed.

In letters to President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Kristen Gillibrand and Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, Picente said the current way FEMA aid is granted and allocated is fostering needless suffering in smaller communities that are hit with natural disasters.

“Local governments and our tax payers are left with unmanageable costs to fix infrastructure, including roads, bridges, culverts, retaining walls, detention ponds and many others,” Picente said in his letter. “We are left alone to assist families and small businesses who have lost everything or have had their livelihoods swept away. There is no fairness in having to raise taxes to unbearable levels to deal with these issues when FEMA has a $14 billion budget, presumably to deal with disasters. A budget also funded by residents in my community and others just like it.”

After flooding ravaged portions of Oneida County on July 1 — particularly Whitesboro, where 17 houses were condemned, New Hartford, Kirkland and Utica — Picente and the Board of Legislators allocated $2.75 million for flood relief efforts, including cleanup, victim assistance and flood mitigation projects to prevent future flooding.

No federal or state aid has been provided as of yet.

Picente told the federal leaders that not only are the thresholds required to qualify for FEMA money unrealistic, but even when the funding is granted, the process of obtaining it is a “bureaucratic nightmare.”

“Federal aid for emergencies money should flow directly to local governments with the knowledge, ability and willingness to actually deal with the problems,” Picente said. “Sending it directly to counties would be less expensive, more efficient and do more good.”

View letters here

Oneida County Partners