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Top FEMA Officials Arrive to Assess Snow Cleanup

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Top officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have arrived in Buffalo to assess the ongoing clean-up from the recent record-setting snow storm.

The price tag from the holiday week snow storm that dumped nearly seven feet of snow in the Buffalo area has reached $30 million. FEMA issued an emergency declaration last week that falls well short of that amount. It limited reimbursable expenses to those incurred in a 48-hour period. And local officials were led to believe there was a $5 million cap on aid.

Congressman John LaFalce, D-Tonawanda, says now that FEMA has arrived in Buffalo, he's confident that number will increase.

"That ($5 million) was never intended to be a maximum," LaFalce said. "FEMA has been extremely responsive in their meeting with the entire congressional delegation. I feel confident that once FEMA gets the information from the various municipalities involved that the 48-hour (time limit) will disappear."

FEMA Coordinating Officer Peter Martinasco has arrived from Washington for a tour of the Buffalo area. He says he'll be meeting with local officials in the coming days about their costs.

"We're going to have to look at the numbers carefully," Martinasco said. "We'll try to come up with something that satisfies everyone."

Martinasco would not speculate about how much in federal aid will end up coming to Buffalo. FEMA will reimburse local governments for overtime costs and the use of private contractors in the snow removal effort. But budgeted snow removal costs will not be covered by the federal aid.