Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited an American Red Cross bulk distribution site Sunday afternoon and praised volunteers for their extraordinary work in the aftermath of the flooding that struck Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery and Oneida counties.
Cuomo spent a few minutes with Red Cross volunteers who were assisting residents whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the late June floods by distributing water, sports drinks and cleaning supplies and providing physical and mental health services and emotional support in the parking lot of the Herkimer Kmart.
Cuomo told the volunteers in times of crisis, he knows he can count on the Red Cross.
“The Red Cross always makes people feel better and puts smiles on their faces,” he said.
Earlier Sunday, Cuomo deployed the state Department of Financial Services’ Mobile Command Center to Herkimer County to help homeowners and businesses affected by the heavy rains and devastating flooding that occurred on June 27 and 28.
Sunday was the third day the Red Cross had opened bulk distribution sites throughout the affected counties, said Matt Michael, a communications officer with the Red Cross. In addition to the site in Herkimer, the Red Cross also opened a site in the city of Oneida.
“We’re thrilled Gov. Cuomo took time out of his busy schedule to visit with our volunteers and praise the wonderful work they’re doing for our region,” said Rosie Taravella, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross Central New York Region. “We will continue to work with the governor’s office and all of our government and nonprofit partners to ensure the residents in the affected areas get the services they need.”
Through Saturday night, Michael said the American Red Cross had provided 315 overnight shelter stays, nearly 20,000 meals and snacks and more than 2,100 cleanup kits and comfort kids to residents affected by the floods. The Red Cross on Sunday also continued mobile feeding in Oneida and Herkimer counties, and it provided mobile feeding and mobile distribution of cleanup supplies in the city of Oneida on Monday.
“Hats off to the local elected officials who have worked extraordinarily well as well as to all the public employees who have metaphorically killed themselves the past few days working so many hours. I don’t know how they are still on their feet,” Cuomo said during a press conference Sunday at Herkimer County Community College. “The sun is starting to shine. We are beginning to see the light at the other end of the tunnel.”
During the press conference Cuomo vowed to push harder than he already has to bring Federal Emergency Management Agency aid to the affected communities.
The governor filed for a federal disaster declaration last week, but he said he is yet to hear back from the White House. He said he planned to call President Barack Obama on Monday to urge him to issue the declaration to move the recovery process along.
Page 2 of 2 - If FEMA is not responsive to his request, Cuomo said he would call the state Legislature back in session to address the situation. He also said he would have to see how creative his administration could be to provide help to the weatherworn counties.
“The state of New York will stand behind that disaster declaration and we’ll turn to the state for help and the state will be there,” said Cuomo.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Monday it is reviewing Cuomo’s request and is working with the state on preliminary damage assessments.