Federal aid coming to Highland Falls residents impacted by catastrophic flooding

Sonia Rincón Image
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
Governor Hochul announces more help for flood victims
Governor Hochul announces more help for flood victims impacted in Highland Falls. Reporter Sonia Rincon has more.

HIGHLAND FALLS, New York (WABC) -- Help may soon be on the way for residents in Orange County dealing with the aftermath of last week's catastrophic flooding.

It's been a little more than a week since the nearly 10 inches of rain caused a disaster in Highland Falls.

Things looked better, but many people's lives have been thrown into chaos. Well water isn't safe, lots of people are staying in Red Cross shelters like hotels and motels because of structural damage to their homes, and they can't have gas, electricity or water.

Volunteers at Sacred Heart Church are giving those residents a lot of what they need, but what they need most is financial assistance.

"Half our house has to be rebuilt underneath," resident Jeanette Hodgins said.

Hodgins' family is one of many who can't go home yet because of structural damage from the flooding nine days ago. She picked up bottled water from the Red Cross at a local church because the water is not safe to drink where they are staying.

That's where Governor Kathy Hochul made the announcement that help is on the way in the form of $3 million, which will be available to homeowners in grants of up to $50,000.

"I doubt that most people have enough money in their bank account to cover unanticipated damage," Hochul said. "Your appliances are forever ruined, you have to put new boards on your porch, new carpeting and drywall in the basement."

Homes along the Highland Brook, which spilled into basements and eroded foundations, can certainly use it, but it's not the same as individual assistance from FEMA.

"I think it's wonderful, and that's a start, but FEMA needs to come in here and help these people," said Sallie Dorsch of Sacred Heart Food Pantry.

There's hope that FEMA will help. The governor says she requested that in a letter.

"We've been in constant communication with the White House explaining to them the extent of the damage," Hochul said.

But in the meantime, Highland Falls homeowner Mervin Livsay said it's just a matter of moving forward.

"You can't sit back and wait," Livsay said.

Homeowners with devastating damage like Livsey are cleaning up. Some are getting help from nonprofits and volunteers.

"You've also got these homeowners that are underinsured and uninsured and that's where we come in and make sure they're getting served, and they kind of fall through the cracks," said Edward Graham of Samaritan's Purse.

"I have about a thousand structures that have significant damage from water and people are living in them right now," Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus said. "Have 20 that are red flagged which means they should be demolished. And some are being occupied by the homeowners because they have nowhere to go."

That $3 million in state aid is being administered by a nonprofit called the Rural Development Advisory Corporation. They are handling the applications for those grants of up to $50,000. You can the find the application on their website. https://rupco.org/

The good news is that FEMA is on the ground investigating the damage which is up to an estimated $50 million.

They are already funding for infrastructure repair, but their investigation teams arrived on Tuesday, so individual assistance could still be coming as well.


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