▶ Watch Video: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul says last-minute disaster assistance is “unconscionable” after record-breaking rain

New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Sunday criticized the federal government for leaving the fate of a huge disaster relief program in limbo until the last minute, calling Congress’ eleventh-hour deal late Saturday to stave off a shutdown and reauthorize the program “unconscionable” and “tone-deaf,” given the record-breaking rain that has pummeled her state and others throughout hurricane season.

“For the Republicans in Congress to even toy with the fact and hold over our heads that there might not be flood insurance or disaster assistance up until the final hour, that’s unconscionable,” Hochul said Sunday morning during an appearance on “Face the Nation.” “And it’s tone-deaf to what states like New York and many others are going through in this new era of climate change, where the unknown is becoming the norm here.”

Both Houses of Congress on Saturday evening passed a bipartisan bill to keep the government funded through Nov. 17, which was then signed by President Biden, avoiding a government shutdown that would have otherwise gone into effect. Its passage came just three hours before a midnight deadline, with funding included in the short-term spending bill for disaster relief. The measure reauthorized the National Flood Insurance Program, which was set to expire on Sept. 30, and the stalemate that had persisted in Congress prior to finally reaching a fudning deal Saturday threatened both a shutdown and a gap in the insurance program.

Hochul told “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan on Sunday that local authorities in New York were working to catalogue damages after counties and boroughs across the state were hit with severe rain and flooding on Friday. The costs will help determine if areas “hit a certain threshold in order to be eligible for FEMA reimbursement,” the governor said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on “Face the Nation,” Oct. 1, 2023.

CBS News

“And that’s another whole topic, about how with these all too frequent 100-year storms, and indeed we had a 1,000-year storm event just a couple of months ago, we need to reassess how we reimburse states and homeowners after these cataclysmic weather events,” said Hochul. “And so we’re doing the assessment right now. That’ll take place over the next couple of weeks.”

The remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia brought torrential downpours and flash flooding on Friday to parts of New York. Record rainfall hit John F. Kennedy International Airport, coming in at over 8.65 inches, the Associated Press reported, citing National Weather Service figures. It surpassed the record for any September day, exceeding the amount of rainfall during Hurricane Donna in 1960, according to the AP. 

Calling the weather event “historic,” Hochul declared a state of emergency for New York City, Long island and the Hudson Valley. New York City Mayor Eric Adams reinforced the state of emergency for the city itself and asked residents to shelter in place.

In this photo taken from video, a man drives a scooter through flood waters, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. 

Jake Offenhartz / AP

Since beginning her term as governor of New York in 2021, Hochul has issued nine emergency declarations related to extreme weather.

“We have to be ready for this to happen again, even in another week from now. That is the new world we’re in,” she said Sunday.

“We need help to help build up our resiliency, help the business owners that had to shut down, help reimburse localities for the overtime and the extra resources they had to expend with emergency teams on the ground,” Hochul continued. “We had 28 rescues from our Swiftwater rescue teams, and that should all be reimbursable from the federal government.