by Andrew Martin
President Barack Obama has issued disaster declarations for three Vermont counties. On Thursday, June 13, President Obama declared that the public infrastructure damage in Chittenden, Essex, and Lamoille counties constituted a major disaster. The damage to the three counties occurred during the heavy rain and severe flooding seen between May 22 and May 26. Following the flooding, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin asked that the president make a disaster declaration for the affected areas.
The disaster declaration means that communities in the three counties that suffered the damages can now receive at least 75 percent federal reimbursement for repairs to infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, which were damaged during the storm.
“This is helpful news for the state, and for the towns which suffered such serious losses during these storms,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said in a press release on the news, “This assistance from our federal government will help these Vermont communities repair the damage to roads, bridges and other public infrastructure that occurred.”
Preliminary damage reports after the storms identified at least $1.5 million in damages in the three counties, although it is believed that the actual total is much higher. Only $1 million in damages must be shown statewide to qualify a state for the disaster declaration. The high figure for the damages in the three counties was due in part to several roads that completely washed out or were made impassable.
The repairs to the damaged roads and bridges began immediately after the flooding, but the communities conducting the repairs are now eligible to be reimbursed for that work by the federal government. Along with being paid back for the actual work, a community can also seek to be reimbursed for equipment rentals, fuel for that equipment, the cost of work done by outside contractors, and overtime for municipal employees.
The Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security will be holding kickoff meetings in Chittenden, Lamoille, and Essex counties in the near future to better help the communities involved understand and start the application process for reimbursement. The date and locations of these meetings will be released when finalized.