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NYS denied FEMA disaster declaration for blizzard cost

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied New York State a disaster declaration that could have helped Long Island pay for the cost of December's crippling pre-Christmas blizzard.

Sen. Charles Schumer Thursday blasted the agency and urged an appeal of the decision. Seven counties in southern New Jersey got aid, and Schumer said FEMA left New York and Long Island hanging.

"This decision was flat wrong and we are going to fight tooth and nail to reverse it," the New York Democrat said in a statement.

Local governments look to federal disaster aid not only to deal with major catastrophes, but as a tool to shore up stressed budgets. On Long Island, where storms have been costly this winter, officials were disappointed.

"We think the residents of this area deserve this designation and we think we met the test," said Mike Deery, spokesman for Hempstead, which reported more than $1 million in blizzard-related costs.

According to Schumer's office, state emergency management officials reported damage assessments for Nassau, Suffolk and New York City of about $30 million, well within the FEMA eligibility threshold.

Snow removal and emergency response costs in Suffolk were more than $11 per resident and in Nassau $4.20 per resident, also within FEMA's threshold for counties of $3.05, Schumer's office said.

Philip E. Parr, acting recovery division director for FEMA Region II, which includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, said Schumer is counting costs that are not eligible.

Parr said rules require a statewide per-resident threshold of $1.29 for counties to get aid. And only places with record or near-record snowfalls can submit their costs. Suffolk saw record snows in the blizzard, Dec. 19 and 20, Parr said, but New York City and Nassau did not. That meant only Suffolk's costs, a reported $15 million, could be counted, and the $1.29 threshold wasn't met, he said.

Parr said denials were not uncommon and FEMA is working with Long Island officials to prepare an appeal.

"We want them to get as much federal aid as they are entitled to," he said.

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