FEMA assistance denied for Highland Falls flood victims as state's appeal fails

Last week, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell sent a letter to New York State Homeland Security Commissioner Jackie Bray, informing her eastern Orange County residents will not receive federal assistance to repair their properties.

Ben Nandy

Mar 25, 2024, 10:22 PM

Updated 20 days ago

Share:

Hundreds of Highland Falls residents whose homes were damaged during the historic July 9 storm are now fully denied federal assistance to rebuild, as the state's appeal for assistance was denied.
On top of the messes they are still trying to clean up following last summer's 8-inch downpour, village residents may soon see a significant increase to the taxes they pay on their damaged homes.
In the fall, the Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected the state's request for individual assistance (IA) for homeowners in eastern Orange County.
The state appealed, which kicked off another assessment by FEMA.
Last week, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell sent a letter to New York State Homeland Security Commissioner Jackie Bray, informing her eastern Orange County residents will not receive federal assistance to repair their properties.
"We reaffirm our original findings that the impact to individuals and households from this event was not of such severity and magnitude to warrant the designation of the Individual Assistance program under FEMA-4723-DR," Criswell wrote. "Therefore, your appeal for Individual Assistance is denied."
"They can use any excuse they want," District 99 Assemblyman Chris Eachus said of the rejection. "We had the damage. There was no question about it. We don't complain when FEMA contributes to disasters all across the nation. It doesn't happen that much up here. We thought that it was our time."
Eachus said he and his colleague State Sen. James Skoufis are seeking relief in this year's state budget for the owners of more than 100 damaged homes in Highland Falls and nearby communities.
The budget is currently being negotiated.
A final version will be released April 1, barring an extension.
Eachus said they are requesting help in the forms of other state programs and an emergency funding source for New Yorkers whose homes were damaged by storms and flooding.
Eachus describes it as "a fund that people can draw from when natural disasters occur and so one like that, because FEMA – I can't believe it – is not being reliable at all."
Eachus is also seeking aid in the state budget for the local infrastructure repairs in eastern Orange County.
Though the agency rejected the state's claim for individual assistance, FEMA has granted assistance to municipal governments to help cover more than $50 million in damage done to infrastructure during the July 9 storm.
FEMA will cover 75% of the infrastructure repairs, while the rest will fall on local municipal governments, including the village of Highland Falls.
Eachus is asking that the state cover all 25% of what local governments would have to cover, a shade over $13 million.
Several officials, including Eachus, told News 12 that if the state does not end up offering assistance to repair infrastructure, Highland Falls residents will likely pay higher taxes on their damaged homes.
Brian Frederickson is prepared for a property tax hike regardless of how much the state might contribute to infrastructure repair.
He hopes, though, the state takes requests by him and village government seriously regarding other funding requests.
"If they want to screw us by not putting us in the budget to help us out, maybe they can help us out with [other grants] to actually fix this," he said, "because this is going to get worse. People are going to lose their homes."


More from News 12