U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) and the Town of Whitestown have reached an agreement to provide up to $20 million in federal funding for property buyouts and deliver long sought relief for homeowners who have suffered from years of repetitive flooding events along Sauquoit Creek. The federal funding comes from USDA NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection-Floodplain Easements (EWP-FPE) program after Congress replenished the program in the Fiscal Year 2019 Disaster Supplemental Appropriations bill. Schumer directly secured additional funding for the EWP-FPE program during negotiations in order to aid communities that have suffered from repetitive flooding events like Whitestown, and now that same funding will be used to remove homes from vulnerable areas in Whitestown and the Village of Whitesboro.
“I have walked the flooded streets, the neighborhoods and talked with families hit one too many times by the Sauquoit Creek’s waters and vowed to fight to deliver the buyout dollars needed to make this happen, and we got it done,” said Senator Schumer. “With this news, families that want to sell their home will have the choice, and families that want to stay can remain, but either way, the option is there, and flood-plagued homeowners in Whitestown and Whitesboro can now breathe a huge sigh of relief. As recovery efforts from natural disasters – including here in Oneida County – increased demand for federal support, Congress responded by providing additional funding to help communities recover in 2019 and beyond. Congressman Brindisi and I worked to ensure that same funding makes its way to Whitestown, remove homes out of this vulnerable area and FINALLY allow residents to move on with their lives.”
With natural disasters and ongoing recovery efforts from previous disasters driving demand for federal funding beyond what is provided through regular annual appropriations, Senator Schumer and other congressional leaders authored a disaster-related spending package. In June of 2019, Congress passed that legislation – known as the FY2019 Disaster Supplemental Appropriations – to provide relief and recovery assistance for Americans affected by recent natural disasters. The legislation included over $265 million USDA NRCS EWP-FPE program. After several months of hard work by local, state and federal stakeholders up to $20 million of that funding will be made available to the Town of Whitestown for property buyouts for eligible homeowners.
Schumer explained that communities within Oneida County have experienced severe and repetitive flooding over the past decade, most recently on October 31 and November 1, 2019. These storms caused significant damage to public and private infrastructure, displacing families and costing localities millions of dollars. Despite mitigation efforts put forward by the Sauquoit Creek Basin Intermunicipal Commission, the Town of Whitestown, Oneida County, and New York State, many residents have no choice other than to seek property buyouts. The agreement between USDA NRCS and the Town of Whitestown will remove homes from this vulnerable along Sauquoit Creek to ensure that this disastrous flooding does not happen again.
Schumer added, “USDA should make these buyouts available ASAP. I am urging them to hold public meetings to inform residents of the process and ensure that homeowners receive the maximum amount of funding as possible.”