Federal dollars are available to Steuben, Allegany and nine other counties in New York state to compensate them for the cost of cleaning up after mid-May storms.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo July 8 announced that his June 16 request to President Barack Obama for a federal major disaster declaration has been approved for Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Delaware, Herkimer, Lewis, Livingston, Ontario, Otsego, Steuben and Yates counties following severe storms and flooding.

The storms and flooding, which began on May 12, Cuomo said, particularly affected these 11 counties.

The president's action makes federal funding available to state and eligible local governments and certain private non-profit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms.

Kevin Niedermaier, director of the Livingston County Office of Emergency Management, said the county’s preliminary damage assessment from the May rain and flooding was $625,000. The threshold the county had to meet is $230,000, making the preliminary assessment almost three times higher.

“It (federal disaster declaration) puts the townships in better positions,” Niedermaier said. “It helps them recoup a lot of the money they spent out of their own budgets. They’ll recoup 85 to 90 percent of their money, which is significant to a lot of the towns, who have tight budgets.”

“You don’t build a lot of extra into the budget. A lot of towns, they have a very defined budget — a very strict budget,” the director added.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state of New York will each send a representative to visit each of the damaged areas, Niedermaier noted. There will be application briefings.

“The county itself will be one of the applicants as well,” Niedermaier said. “These are preliminary assessments. When this whole process is done, it winds up being higher.”

“They’ll (FEMA and the state) visit each damage site and do a project worksheet for each one. There could be multiple sites in each town. They’re required to visit each one,” he said.

Niedermaier said it is difficult to know ahead of time if there’s going to be a federal disaster declaration.

“You put your numbers together. The state has its threshold it has to meet. The Governor submits a letter to the president,” he said. “You just sit back and wait. I’m very pleased that we got this declaration.”

Steuben County Director of Emergency Services Timothy Marshall said the county had to meet a threshold of about $350,000 and it ended up with about $2 million in damage.

“We certainly knew that the potential (for a federal declaration) was there and the state was requesting the disaster declaration, but I just found out when the e-mail went out to everyone else as well,” Marshall said Tuesday.

“Steuben County had close to $2 million worth of public infrastructure damage, which is roads, bridges, culverts, pipes, those types of things,” Marshall added. “It was primarily north central Steuben County — the towns of Prattsburgh and Wheeler were the two hardest-hit areas.”

“What this disaster declaration will do is provide money for infrastructure repair to the roadway and help towns and villages restore their roads and infrastructure and get it back to what they call pre-disaster condition,” Marshall said.

He added, “The state will come out with the federal government and they will have application briefings. They’ll explain the process on how you document your losses. The federal government will reimburse for the materials used to restore the infrastructure. Specifically, it’s 75 (percent federal) and 25 (percent state and local). That’s typically the way it works. Sometimes the state kicks in an additional 12.5 percent. I’m not sure whether the state’s going to do that this time.”