Schumer & Gillibrand push for immediate approval for NY State’s request for federal major disaster declaration

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From the office of Senator Chuck Schumer:

Following New York State’s request to the administration today for a Major Disaster Declaration (MDD), U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand wrote a letter urging immediate approval. The Senators stress that after the hundreds of new confirmed coronavirus cases in New York State since the president issued an Emergency Declaration, the MDD is necessary for the fight in the nation’s coronavirus epicenter.

Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand’s letter to President Trump can be found below:

Dear President Trump:

We write in strong support of a Major Disaster Declaration (MDD) for New York in the wake of the corona virus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. This will provide New York with access to the full funding of the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) and ensure the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has the resources and authority needed to address the COVID-19 outbreak in New York swiftly and effectively.

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5207 (the Stafford Act) authorizes the President to grant a MDD any natural catastrophe that the President determines has caused damage of sufficient severity and magnitude. While the Stafford Act does focus on kinetic events, like fires or floods, this pandemic outbreak has caused serve damage to the state of New York. To assess the severity of the damage, FEMA and New York would traditionally engage in a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) as outlined in 44 C.F.R 206.33. In this case, subsection (d) would allow FEMA to waive the need for a PDA as the damage caused by the COVID-19 outbreak is so severe. We support New York’s request to have FEMA’s Region 2 Administrator utilize this exemption and speed the flow of aid to New York.

If granted, this MDD should allow FEMA to provide New York with Public and Individual Assistance under the Stafford Act at a 75% federal to 25% state cost share for eligible expenses and activities. Specifically, Governor Cuomo has requested Individual Assistance from three programs: Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Temporary Shelter Assistance, and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Additionally, New York has requested Public Assistance for Emergency Protective Measures, Debris Removal, and Direct Federal Assistance. Importantly, a MDD would also provide New York State with access to the full $42.643 billion available with the DRF, as of February 29, 2020 according to the March 6, 2020 Disaster Relief Fund: Monthly Report – Fiscal Year 2020 Report to Congress. According to FEMA’s Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide v3.1, emergency protective work could include assistance such as: medically necessary tests and diagnostics treatment, stabilization, and monitoring; a one-time 30-day supply of prescriptions for acute conditions or to replace maintenance prescriptions; vaccinations for survivors and emergency workers to prevent outbreaks of infectious and communicable diseases; durable medical equipment; consumable medical supplies; temporary facilities, such as tents or portable buildings for treatment of survivors; leased or purchased equipment for use in temporary medical care facilities; security for temporary medical care facilities; use of ambulances for distributing immunizations and setting up mobile medical units; and dissemination of information to the public to provide warnings and guidance about health and safety hazards using various strategies, such as flyers, public service announcements, or newspaper campaigns.

As of March 17, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported COVID-19 cases across New York, including: 644 in New York City, 380 in Westchester County, 131 cases in Nassau County, 84 in Suffolk County, 23 in Albany County, 22 in Rockland County, 15 in Orange County, 10 in Monroe County, 9 in Saratoga County, 8 in Ulster County, 7 in Erie County, 5 in Schenectady County, 2 in Allegany County, 2 in Greene County, 2 in Onondaga County, 2 in Putnam County, 2 in Tompkins County, 1 in Broome County, 1 in Clinton County, 1 in Delaware County, 1 in Herkimer County, 1 in Montgomery County, 1 in Ontario County, 1 in Rensselaer County, 1 in Sullivan County, 1 in Tioga County, and 1 in Wyoming County. While the immediate health risk to the majority of the New Yorkers is thought to remain low, the challenges of community spread have already begun to strain state and local government responses, particularly health departments. New York State and local officials are working hard to mitigate the outbreak and protect New Yorkers and ongoing federal resources are badly needed to support those efforts.

As New York continues to address the escalating outbreak of COVID-19, we urge you to expeditiously grant the state’s request for a MDD and instruct FEMA to stand ready to provide all available assistance to save lives and protect public health and safety in New York while continuing to work closely with state and local officials.

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