WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Federal relief funds were made available today for snowbound communities in three western New York State counties under an emergency declaration issued for the state by President Clinton, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said the President took the action this afternoon following a review of the agency's analysis of the state's request for federal assistance submitted yesterday. The state has been dealing with the ongoing effects of severe winter weather since January 1.
Immediately after the declaration, Witt designated the counties of Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara eligible for federal funding to pay part of the cost for emergency protective measures undertaken as a result of the snowstorms. This includes state and local government operations needed to protect public health and safety and to prevent damage to public or private property.
Under the emergency declaration, FEMA will provide reimbursement to local and state agencies for 75 percent of the total eligible costs of equipment, contracts, and personnel overtime related to emergency services in dealing with the snow for a 48-hour period. These are the crucial hours when work crews clear snow from emergency routes and roads to critical facilities to permit the passage of emergency vehicles. Related emergency protective measures such as sanding and salting, search and rescue, shelter operations, and police and fire department response will also be eligible for reimbursement.
Witt indicated that additional counties may be designated for assistance later if requested and warranted by further assessments. He named Marianne C. Jackson, of FEMA's regional office in New York City, to coordinate federal recovery operations in the stricken state.