Last year, extraordinary floodwaters inundated the homes of some 15,000 Vermonters. But as of the end of last month, only 5,100 had received any housing recovery assistance.
Those are just some of the findings of a disaster recovery action plan being developed by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development that could bring Vermont more than $21.6 million to help individuals and businesses recover.
That much-needed funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would help individuals and businesses still reeling from Tropical Storm Irene and last spring’s floods.
"We’ve assessed to the best of our ability what’s out there and tried to assign this money to address some of those critical needs that we know of already," says Josh Hanford, director of the Vermont Community Development program which is still trying to identify the worst hit areas.
Hanford says hearing from the public this month will help his agency tweak how it assigns potential incoming dollars to meet the state’s local recovery needs. So far, the agency estimates, there’s still $22 million needed to assist businesses; $5.4 million for farms. FEMA estimates there are still more than 1,500 homes that need support estimated to cost nearly $25 million. Some of that need might be covered by other agencies and programs.
But across Vermont, the unpredictable arithmetic of Tropical Storm Irene has obliterated local budgets, putting many communities under severe fiscal stress. Hanford says the federal government, however, is requiring that the state targets 80 percent of the HUD money to just two Vermont counties – Washington and Windsor.
"That’s a real challenge, knowing all the need that’s in Windham County." Hanford says. "We’re seeking some flexibility on that from HUD, working with our Congressional delegation. But as of yet we don’t have that, so we have to work under the conditions we have."
The Agency of Commerce has until the end of July to develop a comprehensive disaster relief plan, so beginning this week it is holding public hearings in Brattleboro, White River Junction and Montpelier.
Agency of Commerce & Community Development Hearings
– June 5, 2012, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Latchis Theater Studio 4 in Brattleboro
– June 7, 2012, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction
– June 12, 2012, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m., Montpelier Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier
The state will also take written public comment via email at ACCD.CDBGDisasterRecovery@state.vt.us