Emergency Board Approves Funds For Flood Recovery

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(Host) A new state program to provide special loans to businesses hit hard by recent flooding is ready to swing into action.

The state’s Emergency Board has approved Governor Peter Shumlin’s plan to use a million dollars in state funds to leverage another $3 million in emergency economic development money for the program.

Businesses will be eligible for a maximum loan of $25,000, and there will be no interest or payments for the first year.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) This loan program could be an important lifeline for Capital Stationers in downtown Montpelier. Kent Bigglestone is a co-owner of the business that his family founded in 1950.

He says the store’s basement was flooded with five feet of water and as much as $25,000 in greeting card inventory was destroyed.

(Bigglestone) "Paper and water do not mix together. All our carry over from the holidays that don’t sell we’ll store in the basement. We’re kind of prepared for the water, but when you get five feet of water in the basement you just can’t prepare for that."

(Kinzel) Bigglestone says he’ll definitely apply for a loan as a way to help rebuild his inventory during a traditionally slow summer season.

(Bigglestone) "This hopefully will be a little shot in the arm, where I can replace some merchandise. A lot of our vendors that we did have are working with us a little but obviously they need their money and this could help to get that coming in."

(Kinzel) State officials are promising to make loans available within five days of receiving an application. Bigglestone says that short turn around time will help a lot.

(Bigglestone) "You hear all these stories like in New Orleans and all these other natural disasters where people are waiting months and months for their money. This day and age, for five days – if it really comes true – I think is fantastic."

(Kinzel) There was little doubt that the Emergency Board would vote to support the Governor’s plan.
Senate Finance chairwoman Ann Cummings is a member of the Board. She says this program will help many businesses get back on their feet.

(Cummings) "To have just enough cash in hand to feel like they can get the carpets cleaned, and order some inventory and get a new cash register so they can open their doors … and I think it’s a lifeline and gives them hope and it keeps them moving until we can do something more significant."

(Kinzel) The Governor says he’s also asked the federal Department of Agriculture to make a number of loan programs available to farmers who have seen their fields devastated by the flooding.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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