Lake Ontario flood relief gets $55 million from NY

Sales Tax, Flood Relief Pass NY Assembly

ALBANY - A reworked deal at the state Capitol on Thursday will mean $55 million in aid to help victims of Lake Ontario flooding, instead of $90 million approved by the Legislature earlier this month.

Lawmakers reached an agreement with Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week to allocate the $55 million for homeowners, businesses and municipalities who have dealt with extraordinary lake flooding in Monroe County and neighboring counties.

The final package, which was approved Thursday, is a compromise with Cuomo, who balked at the $90 million and questioned whether the state had the money to fund the original bill.

"This agreement maintains critical relief for homeowners and immediate support for lakeshore businesses as they rebuild and recover from this season’s devastating flooding," said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, who brokered the deal with Cuomo's office and the Senate's sponsor, Sen. Pam Helming, R-Canandaigua.

Morelle said lawmakers had to either reach a deal with the Democratic governor or face him potentially vetoing the bill -- which he suggested last week he might do. The Democratic governor has also installed several other programs to help the regions.

Cuomo said the money, which was part of a package of measures in a special session of the Legislature, should be more than enough to cover homeowners' costs.

"It’s the estimate of what you need to spend," Cuomo told reporters. "I don’t even think they will get to the $55 (million). I think the actual need will be below that."

The grants will cover damage caused by flooding that occurred between Jan. 1 and June 30.

The bill includes $15 million for homeowners with grants of no more than $50,000 for repairs that are not paid for by insurance. There is no cap on household income.

For a non-primary home, there is a cap of household income of $275,000, the bill states.

There is also $15 million for small businesses, farms, homeowners associations, not-for-profits and rental units. Those grants will also be $50,000, but $20,000 for owners of multiple dwellings.

The money will be administered by the state Urban Development Corp. and preference will be given to homes and businesses with the greatest need, Morelle said.

The bill also lets local governments lower the property assessments of homes damaged from the flooding, as well as lets homeowners take a state income-tax deduction if they have to dip into their retirement accounts to pay for home repairs.

The money is expected to come from various state pots, particularly money controlled by the state Dormitory Authority that has been criticized for being used for pet projects by governors and lawmakers.

State officials said a problem with the initial legislative bill is that it also didn't have a cap on the amount that could be awarded.

So the measure, for example, also includes $15 million for local governments, not to exceed $1 million for each grant.

There is also $10 million for additional storm recovery.

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