President Bush on Tuesday issued a major disaster declaration for western New York following a record-breaking snowfall in the Buffalo area earlier this month.
The declaration triggers federal aid for uninsured losses to homes and businesses caused by the Oct. 12-13 storm.
State and federal inspectors spent part of last week in four counties assessing the damage. Officials had estimated the cost to be at least $95 million.
The assistance, to be coordinated by Federal Emergency Management Agency, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other disaster expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.
Federal funding is also available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations.
The storm dropped up to two feet of snow on the region, causing more than 380,000 homes and businesses to lose power and closing some schools for more than a week. Almost all customers have had power restored.
FEMA had already issued an emergency declaration within days after the storm. That declaration ensured that cities and towns would be reimbursed for the cost of debris removal and safety-related expenses such as overtime and the operation of shelters.
The federal government will reimburse 75 percent of the costs, while the state has agreed to pay the remaining 25 percent.
In hardest hit Erie County, officials estimated the cost of debris removal, overtime and related expenses at $90 million, including $35 million in Buffalo, according to the State Emergency Management Office. In Genesee County, the cost was estimated at $2.3 million and in Niagara County, $2.2 million. Damage in Orleans County was assessed at $427,000.
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