Vermont group aids craftspeople hit by hurricanes

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(Host) Since 1985, a small Vermont-based non-profit has been helping craftspeople recover from natural disasters. As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, the Craft Emergency Relief Fund has been especially busy in the wake of a series of hurricanes that have hit the southeastern U.S.

(Zind) Craftspeople are among the smallest of small businesses. They produce and sell their products from shops often located in their homes. A fire or hurricane can quickly rob them of their livelihood.

In the wake of the recent hurricanes, many craftspeople in North Carolina and Florida are turning to CERF – the Craft Emergency Relief Fund.

(Cornelia Carey) “This is probably the busiest we’ve been in the last 10 years.”

(Zind) Cornelia Carey is executive director of CERF. She says the Montpelier-based organization has been getting about 10 calls a day from craftspeople who have suffered losses in the hurricanes. Some have lost both their homes and their source of income.

CERF offers disaster relief grants of $1,000 and loans of up to $8,000. The amounts may be modest, but it helps craftspeople pay bills and begin to reestablish their businesses while they’re waiting for insurance payments and assistance from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Susan Phipps is a goldsmith in Asheville, North Carolina. After Hurricane Francis poured over three feet of water into her workshop and store, she called the Craft Emergency Relief Fund.

(Phipps) “It’s been such a huge relief and the fact that they’re willing to give you a loan and help you work this out quickly, versus FEMA is going to take up to two months for me to see any money, which is a long time when you have bill that are due now.”

(Zind) Phipps says she hopes to be back in business in a month. She says she had no insurance for her losses. Cornelia Carey says craftspeople are chronically underinsured and the fund holds workshops to educate them how to protect themselves from natural disasters.

The Craft Emergency Relief Fund receives money from the National Endowment for the Arts and a number of small foundations, but Carey says most of the budget comes from other craftspeople – who themselves may someday have to turn to the fund for assistance.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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