Updated: 10/8/21 – 6:08 P.M.
BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG)—Residents in Steuben County are still recovering from flooding in August and according to local leaders, community emergency funds for flood victims are tapped out.
Community agencies raised about $119,000, funded in part by a donation from Corning Inc.*, after flooding devastated the southern part of the county. Officials at United Way of the Southern Tier, which is overseeing the fund, said that as of last week the fund had been depleted.
Assistance was distributed to 56 households who experienced damage from flooding caused by Tropical Storm Fred, which made landfall in areas along Tuscarora Creek from Aug. 18 to Aug. 19. As a result, around half needed new furnaces.
“These aren’t small repairs,” said Steve Olix, director of emergency financial services at Catholic Charities Steuben-Livingston. “A furnace is anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000.”
Along with Catholic Charities, Arbor Housing and Development, the Red Cross and Pro Action of Steuben and Yates have been tasked with distributing money from the county’s emergency fund.
Many of the homes flooded are still without heat, electricity or insulation, and winter is coming.
“I’m working with one family right now that’s going to have an estimate done today to see about a furnace being put in, and we’re already in colder weather, so they’re staying in a house without a furnace right now,” said June Crandall, who is assisting families affected by the flood through Be the One Steuben.
Olix said Catholic Charities is working with families who have been displaced to make their homes inhabitable again. But not all necessary repairs were immediately visible.
“The weather was alright, so the furnace might not have been the first thing on your mind,” Olix explained. “You’re like, ‘Oh no, the walls are coming down.’ Or, on the flip side of that, you replace your furnace or you replace your water heater, and then you’re like, ‘Oh no, the wall was falling down.’”
More than 350 households in Steuben have reported damages to 211, the central line for residents in need.
According to the Steuben County Office of Emergency Services, state officials assessed damages at more than 225 homes and businesses countywide in the process to submit a disaster declaration request.
Few residents in the area have flood insurance, in part due to outdated flood maps. Agencies like Catholic Charities have pulled from other internal funding sources to find money for flood victims.
“If a place is deemed uninhabitable, or if it’s really unsafe, we’ll do what we can,” Olix said. “We’ve put people in hotels for months. If that’s what we have to do, that’s what we’ll do.”
Finding new homes for the households whose properties were irreparably damaged has been challenging due to the limited availability of affordable housing in the county, Olix said.
But Olix said it would be most helpful if Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds became available. Steuben County officials are awaiting word on whether disaster aid will be approved for the region.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul submitted a disaster declaration request to President Biden in September. FEMA announced in a press release Friday federal funding would be made available to eight counties, including Cayuga, Cortland, Steuben, Tioga and Yates.**
*Full disclosure, Corning Inc. is a WSKG underwriter.
**Post was updated to include the most recent information.