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In Highland Falls, Gov. Hochul announces $50,000 grants for homeowners affected by floods

Gov. Hochul and Orange County Executive Neuhaus surveying flood damage.
Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus
Gov. Hochul and Orange County Executive Neuhaus surveying flood damage.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul was in the Hudson Valley today, where she announced millions of dollars in aid for residents affected by last week’s dangerous floods.

Hochul spoke in Highland Falls in Orange County, one of the hardest-hit areas during the heavy rain and severe floods.

She says while she’s confident that President Biden will approve the state’s disaster declaration request, individual homeowners are facing a specific challenge.

“I feel very confident. We've been in constant communication with the White House explaining to them the extent of the damage, $50 million statewide across many, many of our counties, and it was stunning to see the number of the scale of this storm and how many counties were affected,” she said. “But that is for municipalities. That is to fix the roads and the bridges, the infrastructure, the schools, the town halls, the village halls. And what about the homeowners? Who's taking care of them? And I doubt that most people have enough money in their bank account to cover unanticipated damage.”

Hochul says eligible homeowners can receive up to $50,000 in grants for critical repairs from a pool of $3 million. Homeowners must meet income guidelines, earning at or below 80 percent of the area median income, and the repairs to make the homes habitable must be to a primary residence.

Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus, a Republican, says while the emergency may have passed, it will take months to repair all the washed-out roads in the area. But he says housing is a different story.

“At the end of day, I can fix my roads, the mayor can fix his roads, bridges, the supervisors can fix all our infrastructure,” he said. “It's the average homeowner that didn't have flood insurance like the governor is talking about, that's not going to get that relief. This is probably the most critical thing we can do right now. I have about 1,000 houses that have or structures that have significant damage from water and people are living in right now. I have 20 that are red flag, which means they should be demoed. And some of those are still being occupied by the homeowners because they have nowhere to go.”

Democratic state Assemblyman Chris Eachus of the 99th district says the damage is widespread.

“For those who are out there, it's not over. We still need water. We had 85 wells tested right here in this town. Most of them came back with E. coli. We still need potable water brought in here and so on,” he said. “We need food. These poor people, many of them don't have electricity, they don't have gas. We still need to supply them with food.”

Neuhaus added that the human-scale recovery is moving on to the next phase.

“We’re in the shelter that's been run by the Red Cross. We are now going to be transitioning, we are probably not gonna have any more overnights,” he said. “But we are going to keep this open for food and water for people. We're also going to try to transition from that because we do have the local businesses open down here. So we didn't want to hurt them further. So that you're gonna see a transition.”

Hochul says the state stands with affected residents even if the recovery is deliberate.

“It's at these moments and especially in a community that’s as tightly knit as Highland Falls and some of our surrounding areas, this is our chance to rise up and show the caliber of the people, the depth of our character, the strength,” she said. “This is when you measure the strength of a community, not by the magnitude of the challenges that we're facing. But by the courage and the resiliency, we demonstrate in the recovery. So let's embark on our journey of rebuilding, revitalizing and restoring.”

Residents can apply to the program, overseen by the Orange County-based Rural Development Advisory Corporation, at rupco.org or by calling 845-713-4568 ext. 114.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.