BUFFALO, N.Y. — Ever since the historic Christmas week blizzard, we've been telling you about the efforts of the state and Erie County to get federal funding assistance to cover storm response costs.
Now the state's formal request to the White House has been filed, including elements that deal with the human suffering and death toll from the storm.
With the response to the massive storm system in December, which devastated the City of Buffalo and Erie and Niagara counties, the accumulation in storm response costs mostly focused on items such as equipment, private contractors, staffing, and other supplies.
Erie County's tabulated cost for the county alone was $22.1 million, which County Executive Mark Poloncarz stated earlier this month, as he said he tried to make that need for assistance clear in a one on one discussion with President Biden.
The City of Buffalo's storm response cost has been pegged at $10.2 million.
So now Gov. Kathy Hochul has made that formal disaster declaration request to the Biden Administration without any specific cost listed.
It also includes FEMA assistance requests for Genesee, St. Lawrence and Suffolk counties, and she specifically is seeking money for the families of the 47 area victims who died in the blizzard.
That would people like Anndel Taylor of Buffalo, who was a nurse trying to return from East Aurora to the city. One victim was also from Niagara County.
Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen is also the senior pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church. He feels this is crucial as an added element to cover expenses for funerals and especially counseling.
Pridgen says he handled several funerals for victims.
"The more unexpected it is, often the more hard it is on the families," he said. "Because after a storm like this, you have to come up with an average if there's a burial of $7,000 to $15,000 unexpectedly, so it can be a life-changing expense."
He added: "One of the persons who I buried left a teenage son. That situation will definitely need some type of interaction, or at least that will be available to them. And I think that it is an out-of-the-box thought and request, but I think one that would be very much appreciated by those families and by our community."
As for counseling for the victim's loved ones, Pridgen says there's another issue even with this report and the government request.
"That makes it even more traumatic when you can't even grieve in private, because it is a very public story. And so we have to consider that and be very respectful of that in how to approach it," Pridgen said.
Governor Hochul's news release did not make mention of the also very costly November lake effect storm with up to 71 inches, which incapacitated the Southtowns and part of Buffalo. It did cause any identified deaths. That is even though U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer previously said it may be included for an assistance request.
U.S. Reps. Brian Higgins and Nick Langworthy are also in support. A spokesperson for Higgins says funeral and counseling federal assistance was offered for past storms, such as hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.