Funds will begin to flow for damage

Gwen Chamberlain
Volunteers who will be going to homes where flood damage has been reported include (from left) Beulah Decker, Sue Hilligus, Anne Meyer-Wilbert, Annette Hoban, Chet Briggs, and Brandon Jenson.

It’s been a little more than a month since the flood waters raged across portions of the area. In that time, thousands of dollars have flowed to a number of funds in an effort to help a neighbor in need.

In addition to the grants and low or no interest loans that will be given to businesses and individuals through established government programs, at least four other funds have taken in donations.

Now the challenge to ensure fair and unduplicated distribution of those funds begins.

Paul Barrett, publisher of the Finger Lakes Times, says the fund established by the daily newspaper and the Bank of the Finger Lakes has taken in more than $41,000, and he has already begun to issue checks to individuals who have been screened by the American Red Cross. That fund has already paid for gas cards and debit cards for groceries.

Barrett, who was working at a newspaper in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, says the concept for The Penn Yan Flood Relief Fund was to take in money as quickly as possible and get it into the hands of people in need right away.

A similar fund begun at The Lyons National Bank at the urging of Penn Yan businessman Jim Long with promotional support from The Chronicle-Express and other media has collected more than $16,000 according to LNB Branch Manager Sue Andersen. A chicken barbecue last week brought more than $4,600 to that fund.

The Yates Community Endowment Foundation has raised more than $67,745 including anonymous donations totaling $35,000 and $30,000 from the Nord Family Foundation. Renee Bloom, executive director of the Keuka Housing Council, the agency that will administer those funds, has also applied for a gift from the McGowen Foundation.

The American Red Cross has collected donations for the local disaster assistance. Figures were not available at press time.

On top of these organized community funds, some businesses and individuals received donations from online fund-raising efforts, like Go Fund Me, where over $50,800 has been raised for 18 businesses or families. Proceeds for the funds range from $100 to $18,085.

Assessing needs

Monday afternoon a small group of volunteers met at The Living Well in Penn Yan to prepare for gathering information to help people in need. The volunteers were assigned addresses where there has been documented or suspected flood damage.

Sandi Perl, one of the driving forces behind The Living Well, says the addresses were compiled from lists of calls from people who said they need help and from assessors who took note of addresses as they drove past the property.

The volunteers will ask the resident and/or property owner for more information about the amount of damage that the property sustained, what work has been done and what work still needs to be done.

Perl said Yates County Public Health officials are concerned that some people may have pumped their basements and cleaned out the mud, but continue to store items in damp cardboard boxes.

They will leave up to five plastic totes at each address along with information on the safe storage of items to prevent mold growth. Additional totes will be available at The Living Well at 121 East Elm St., Penn Yan.

Chet Briggs, who was recruited by Perl to coordinate the volunteers, said another goal is to find out what work needs to be done at each property, and then prioritize the effort to help people.

Perl says there are over 400 addresses around Yates County on the lists. The Living Well had been contacted by 91 people who said they needed help after the floods. According to information she received from the Yates County Office of Emergency Management, 25 properties have sustained major damage, 25 have sustained some damage and 11 have been condemned.

The next step

Once the volunteers have visited each property and retrieved as much information as possible, the team will compile the information and develop a plan for how best to assist individuals.

At the same time, Perl has planned a meeting with representatives of the other funds for next Tuesday, July 1 to work out details about how to avoid duplication of efforts or to coordinate the best match of funds to applicants.

Some of the funds may have income limits or other eligibility criteria that might make some people ineligible for funds, while other sources might not require such limits.

To apply for help

• The Finger Lakes Horizon Economic Development Center (FLHEDC), in conjunction with the Yates Endowment Fund, Rochester Area Community Foundation and in partnership with Keuka Housing Council is now accepting applications for emergency grants for businesses and non-profit organizations impacted by the flooding in Yates County. The FLHEDC is administering the grants from a pool of money assigned from donations that have come into the Yates Endowment Fund over the past month.

The FLHEDC staff began reviewing applications June 20 and will hold review sessions every Friday until funds are exhausted. Awarded funds will be based on a number of considerations.

Applications can be found online at www.fingerlakesedc.com or at the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center offices at One Keuka Business Park, Penn Yan. For questions please call Alex Taylor or Steve Griffin at 315-536-7328 or email Alex Taylor at Alex@fingerlakesedc.com.

• Keuka Housing Council Executive Director Renee Bloom says the council plans to use the agency’s remaining repair funds to help homeowners who qualify. Other existing programs, such as Weatherization Fund and NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) and USDA programs can help residents and landlords.

• The Small Business Administration is setting up a temporary office in Yates County to process applications from homeowners, renters and businesses for special low-interest disaster loans. The loans can be used to make repairs, replace household items or clean up debris. Any renter, homeowner or business that suffered significant damage as a result of the flooding in any contiguous county – Ontario, Seneca, Schuyler and Steuben – is eligible for these SBA loans as well.

The SBA can now provide qualified recipients with low interest loans up to $40,000 to renters and homeowners to replace personal property, $200,000 to homeowners to repair, replace, or clean up damaged homes, and up to $2 million to business owners to repair damaged businesses. Interest rates are set quarterly but currently can be as low as 2.188 percent for homeowners and 4 percent for businesses.