NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Controversy is now brewing over President Barack Obama’s New York disaster declaration. As of Wednesday evening, only businesses and individuals in eight upstate counties are eligible for federal recovery grants, leaving people in New York City out of luck.
Afternoones Restaurant on Staten Island was heavily damaged during Hurricane Irene. Over five feet of water flooded the basement, destroying the office, the party room, computers and linens. All the refrigerators and their contents were destroyed, causing at least $75,000 worth of damage.
“This walk-in box held here about $5,000 worth of food and we had to completely throw everything away,” owner Steve Odessa explained to CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
To add insult to injury, Odessa discovered Wednesday that the New York disaster declaration signed by Obama currently only makes individuals and businesses in eight upstate counties eligible for low-cost loans and other recovery aid. New York sought the coverage for 26 counties altogether.
“It doesn’t sound fair to me. I love this place, I don’t want to see it go out of business and if we don’t get relief somewhere that could happen,” Odessa said.
It’s not just Afternoones that was hit. Many businesses and residences in Staten Island were affected as well.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our country, well they need to stay in business. Right now, several of them are so questionable because how far can their vendors extend them,” Loretta Cauldwell, of the Forest Avenue Business Improvement District said.
Congressman Michael Grimm is furious about the situation.
“Its completely unacceptable. What I want to know is how did this process happen,” Grimm said. “I have no idea how these decisions are made. I just feel like once again Staten Island has been left out and I understand that there are other counties, but it’s completely unacceptable.”
In addition to Grimm, there are 17 other New York congressmen who are asking President Obama to reconsider his disaster declaration for the state.