FEMA denies emergency funding to Eastern Orange County residents whose homes were damaged during July storm

As public officials petition Gov. Kathy Hochul to appeal FEMA's rejection, some residents are now planning to move out of the village.

Ben Nandy

Sep 28, 2023, 9:55 PM

Updated 289 days ago

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Some homeowners in eastern Orange County are at a loss following the Federal Emergency Management Agency's decision not to grant emergency funding to help the homeowners repair damage from July's historic storm.
As public officials petition Gov. Kathy Hochul to appeal FEMA's rejection, some residents are now planning to move out of the village.
"They're upset," Highland Falls Mayor Joe D'Onofrio said Thursday in an interview at village hall. "They start to cry. Then I start to cry."
D'Onofrio said 20 homes in the village are still unlivable because of storm damage, and another 200-plus homes are seriously damaged because of the storm.
D'Onofrio said that when he first got the phone call from Rep. Pat Ryan that FEMA denied the Hochul's request that "It was a punch in the gut."
D'Onofrio, Ryan and several other officials at all levels of government are calling on Hochul to appeal.
A FEMA spokesperson said an appeal would trigger further evaluation by FEMA and perhaps by other parties to determine whether the agency's decision should be overturned.
"Once received, FEMA reviews the appeal content, the information in the record, and applicable laws, regulations, and policies to determine the outcome of the appeal," the spokesperson wrote Thursday in an email to News 12. The spokesperson added, "FEMA will request additional information, submit the appeal to an expert for technical review, or make its appeal decision."
Several village residents said Thursday they are repairing their homes only to be able to sell them and move out of the village.
D'Onofrio said federal or state emergency aid must come through in order to bring displaced residents back.
"I have people who are displaced. They're in Newburgh. They're in Rockland County. It's sad," he said. "It's sad."
Vietnam Army Veteran Dexter Bunte's home on Weyant Terrace sustained tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Without FEMA aid, his last hope would be a $50,000 home repair grant through the state's flood relief program.
Many homeowners, though, including Bunte, who has disabilities, do not meet the low income requirements.
Hochul has previously hinted the income requirements may soon change.
Currently, grants are available to homeowners making 80% of the area's median income.
"It was my intention on moving," Bunte said. "I really don't see the rationale with the cap... The logic behind that threshold does not make sense to me."
A spokesperson for Hochul's office said they are disappointed with FEMA's decision are still reviewing their next steps.


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