State budget excludes aid for Orange County storm victims, lawmakers criticize Gov. Hochul

The Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected the state's request for individual assistance (IA) for homeowners in eastern Orange County, and then recently rejected the state's appeal.

Ben Nandy

Apr 24, 2024, 10:49 PM

Updated 33 days ago

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Owners of homes that were damaged or destroyed during the historic July 9, 2023 storm learned this week they will receive no financial assistance in the newly approved state budget.
However, a few public officials are making one last-ditch effort to secure government aid.
Barbara Schumacher, a retiree living in a low-lying neighborhood off Route 9W in Highland Falls, said her ground-floor renovation had just been completed two weeks prior to the storm.
Five feet of water submerged the renovated living space, Schumacher said, which had cost about $20,000.
"We lost a lot," she said. "I try not to think about it too often."
The formerly renovated area remains stripped down.
Schumacher and her husband, both retirees, cannot immediately pay for a new renovation.
The possibility that homeowners like Schumacher could be made whole financially through government aid is shrinking.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected the state's request for individual assistance (IA) for homeowners in eastern Orange County, and then recently rejected the state's appeal.
A state grant program for lower income households is out of money.
And now, this year's final state budget offers no further assistance to homeowners.
Many homeowners considered an allocation in the state budget to be their last chance at government aid.
"What are we going to do about it?" Schumacher said. "I mean, we complain, call our congressmen and senators, and all the people who are supposed to make a difference, but what happens?"
Local government officials clearly recall Gov. Kathy Hochul's two visits to Highland Falls following the storm, promising long-term assistance.
"We stand united in our commitment to not just be there the day after when all the attention is on a community and to walk away and leave you with that hangover," she said during a press conference in Highland Falls on July 26, " We're here to help."
Mayor Joe D'Onofrio said those state leaders have not delivered.
"I don't know where they went," he said during an interview at his office Wednesday. "I don't know where they are."
D'Onofrio said he still has hope, and that "we might not have lost yet."
He said he is working closely with State Sen. James Skoufis on new, more creative ways to get a few extra million dollars in state funding to keep the heads of at least 12 local homeowners financially above water.
A representative for Sen. Skoufis said the staff is looking legislative funding options.
"Who has a savings account to be able to repair these damages? Most people don't, not to that amount of money," D'Onofrio said. "I'm just looking for a little help, a little more help for the homeowners, and everything's going to be OK."
News 12 sent a short list of questions based on interviews with homeowners to the state budget office, and are awaiting a response.


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