OSWEGO — State officials are opening up potential aid dollars for residents whose secondary property was affected by this year’s historic flooding along the Lake Ontario shore.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the policy change during a visit earlier this month to SUNY Oswego, saying individual aid disbursements to property owners would be expanded to cover residents with second homes impacted by record-setting high Lake Ontario water levels from the beginning of the year through Sept. 30.
The governor’s visit to the the Port City accompanied the announcement of $43 million in disaster relief and economic development funds, part of the $300 million-dollar Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI). REDI efforts, led by Cuomo, call on communities along the Lake Ontario shoreline to devise a plan to protect property on the shore from flood damage caused by record-setting high water levels, as well as bolster the local economy.
Through the 2019 Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Flood Relief and Recovery Program and the New York Homes and Community Renewal department, the state is extending funding availability of up to $50,000 in individual grants to qualifying residents in Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence and Wayne counties. The total relief package for secondary homeowners amounts to $8 million, according to state officials.
“The aftermath of historic flooding along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River has had a disastrous impact, and we are fortunate to have the resources available to aid repairs on both primary and secondary residencies," Cuomo said. "As we embark on regionally-significant rebuilding and resiliency projects across the region, it is equally important that New York provide financial assistance to help homeowners in these communities with their recovery efforts."
Application criteria for homeowners includes:
- Second homeowners with a qualified gross income of less than $275,000 may apply. However, priority will be given to those with a qualified gross income of $175,000 or less.
- Funding to address damages to secondary homes will be considered following fulfillment of primary residence applications, which will be given priority. Primary homeowners must have applied by the Oct. 31, 2019 deadline.
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow praised the state’s efforts to provide relief to county residents.
“It’s still an excellent decision to help homeowners throughout Oswego County and all along the lake. It’s the right thing to do,” Barlow told The Palladium-Times. “Regardless of how much time they spend at the residence they should be able to receive assistance with repairing the damage they’ve sustained through no fault of their own.”
Shawn Caroccio, a guidance counselor at Oswego High School who owns a lake house in Scriba, said he has applied for assistance and is awaiting to hear from state officials on the next step of the program. Caroccio also noted his property “was flooded with 2 feet of water” as of this past weekend.
“Last Friday — with the combination of high winds and the water level being high for this time of year — my seawall took another pounding that resulted in more undermining of it. It also broke off more of the wall, creating a void where any high waters can flow directly in,” Caroccio said in a Tuesday interview with The Palladium-Times. “This past week, I had to have large concrete blocks brought in to shore up the wall. I am hoping that I will be refunded for those once the money has been awarded.”
Caroccio added he is grateful for any grants that could help with the rebuilding of his property but was frusturated with ongoing consternation over Lake Ontario water levels.
“I am sad to say that I am feeling this is just a band aid that is and could be ripped off without controlling the lake level,” he said. “There has to be a happy medium that will work for all parties involved. It can't just be one sided.”
The period for applications submission is open until Dec. 10. The application can be found at: https://hcr.ny.gov/lake-ontario-st-lawrence-river-flood-relief-and-recovery-grant-program