State lawmakers at odds over flooding grants
State lawmakers are moving to provide grants to property owners affected by the flooding from Lake Ontario and this year's high rainfall, but they disagree about how to best address the situation.
The state Senate unanimously passed its bill that establishes a $55 million grant program for homeowners, businesses and municipalities damaged from flooding. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Pam Helming (R-Canandaigua), says the state aid would only kick in after other assistance.
"It’s a last resort," Helming said. "So anyone who is making application will have had to exhaust all of their personal flood insurance, federal dollars before they can apply for the grant."
The Senate bill would help those affected by flooding along Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River. That's why some assembly members, like Democrat Addie Jenne from the North Country, are pursuing their own grant legislation excluding Lake Erie and Lake Champlain flooding.
"I am not certain they have been impacted to the degree that we have been on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, so the Assembly bill tightens up the geography that's impacted and has access to these funds to the communities that have really been the most impacted," Jenne said.
But Helming says the flooding has had far-reaching consequences for many New Yorkers.
"The infrastructure problems that these communities are experiencing don’t just impact people who live along the lake," Helming said. "The impacts to sewer systems, to drinking water systems, they impact a much larger area."
The Assembly's bill calls for $105 million in grants, including money for future flooding mitigation renovations.
"I think this sends a clear message that mitigation should be part of it and that the extent of the damage is more than maybe what the Senate has put it," Jenne said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he is pursuing his own legislation that he seemed to indicate will be more narrow in focus.
"We want to help people, we are a compassionate state, when there’s an emergency we come together, but I want to make sure we are helping the right people in the right areas and we are doing a factual determination," Cuomo said.
The governor has already approved $10 million in grants for municipalities and $5 million for small businesses.