ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The state will provide about $10 million to hundreds of flooding victims in the Mohawk Valley, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday in another promise to scrape together for aid what is a small slice of the state budget.
Cuomo promised details should be announced by Wednesday. He had said earlier that he and lawmakers were trying to find state aid for the victims after federal aid for individuals was rejected Monday.
Disaster areas were declared after flooding June 28-July 4 in Allegany, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Franklin, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Otsego and Warren counties. The Federal Emergency Management Agency decided this week that the flood victims weren't eligible for individual grants and low-interest loans to repair or replace their homes.
The amount of aid needed is small in a $135 billion annual state budget.
State comptroller's office audits show executive agencies spend $100 million to $150 million each year in discretionary travel expenses including car rentals, meals, lodging and airline baggage fees each year. The current budget also provides millions in tax breaks to lure "The Tonight Show" back to New York as part of $420 million in tax credits to film and TV productions doing work in the state.
And in June, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said state revenues were $360 million more than projections so far.
"The state will figure out a way to do it," Cuomo told public radio's "Capitol Pressroom" on Tuesday. "We're not going to leave the homeowners hanging, period ... if your house was flooded, this is a lifetime."
Legislative leaders support action by Cuomo or by legislative approval, if necessary. But Cuomo said calling the Legislature back to session could take two weeks and cost the state tens of thousands of dollars.
"We are willing to do whatever we can to help the people of the Mohawk Valley recover and rebuild after the destruction caused by these terrible floods," said Scott Reif, spokesman for the Senate Republicans.
"Every member of our conference believes we must deliver aid to these hard-struck communities," said Sen. David Valesky of the Independent Democratic Conference which shares the Senate majority with Republicans.
Cuomo also said he would fully support a Senate proposal to create a reserve fund from annual budgets to be used to help victims of natural disasters.
"Between the frequency and level of devastation, we are not prepared for this and we need to be," Cuomo said. He said hurricanes Irene and Lee and Superstorm Sandy in the past few years alone hit 60 to 70 percent of the state. FEMA is providing $30 billion in aid to government and individuals on Long Island, New York City and the lower Hudson Valley hit by Sandy last fall.
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