More funds on the way for FEMA buyouts

Good news for homeowners impacted by 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene: New York state will use grant funds to cover the 25 percent non-federal share for up to 37 property buyouts.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds will be used to make those enrolled in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s property acquisition program whole.

“The destruction and devastation caused by the combined impact of Irene and Lee has left a lasting impression on the landscape of all of the communities that bore the brunt of these two powerful storms,” Cuomo said in a press release. “But the disruption to the lives of the property owners in each of these communities has been far worse and we must do everything we can to alleviate their financial burden. By assuming the 25 percent share of the costs for the buyouts, we can help individual property owners and their communities continue their recovery and restore their lives.”

To date, according to figures provided by the governor’s office, about 1,140 properties in 17 counties have been processed for FEMA buyouts. The total cost for the buyouts is more than $194 million. The non-federal share is about $48.5 million.

In Essex County, 26 substantially damaged properties have been approved for buyouts, while another 11 have qualified as non-substantially damaged. The total cost for property acquisition, assessments, demolition and site restoration for the 37 properties is $4,741,436, according to Essex County Community Resources Director. FEMA will cover $3,556,078, Mascarenas said.

“I’m assuming that we’re going to get the $1.2 million difference from the state,” he told the Enterprise. “That would make every homeowner whole.”

Without the additional funds from the state, homeowners would receive only as much as 75 percent of the “pre-disaster fair market value of their homes,” Mascarenas explained.

Jay town Supervisor Randy Douglas, chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, credited U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Bill Owens and Cuomo for securing the funds to make Irene and Lee victims whole.

“We can’t have some parts of the state getting 100 percent and others getting 75 percent,” Douglas said, “because the impact is great on the individual that got hammered from these storms.”

Douglas said the county is almost finished appraising properties. Once finished, the county will send notices to homeowners notifying them of their property’s pre-flood value. If homeowners don’t like that figure, they can seek a second opinion.

Douglas said he thinks the appraisals will be satisfactory.

“So many families have been waiting,” he said. “I have two families that have lost loved ones that put in for the property acquisition program. I have families that – physically, emotionally – it’s been a trying time for them, and they’ve had to pay rent or they’ve had to live with relatives. This will just be another part of the recovery process and get them on their feet so they can start moving forward with their lives.”

Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or