Flood Recovery: What Communities and Individuals Should be Doing Now

WATERBURY – A number of communities have suffered significant damage in this week’s flooding.  Recovery efforts have begun and could eventually include monetary help from the federal government.

The process of obtaining funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has begun, and the state of Vermont is working to get through theprocess as quickly as possible.  Local communities should not delay in making repairs or cleaning up; if Vermont qualifies for FEMA assistance, thosefunds serve to reimburse communities for at least 75% of those costs.

The process of getting FEMA assistance and what communities should be doing now:

  1. Cities and towns should keep close track of all recovery costs, to include:
    1. All materials (including fuel for vehicles and rental equipment) to repair roads, bridges, or other public infrastructure and town buildings.
    2. Pay for municipal employees who are taking part in the recovery, including overtime costs.  This can include office staff working to support those efforts.
    3. Cost of contractors used in the recovery.
    4. Extra costs incurred by the storm.  For instance, if there is a cost associated with closing school above and beyond normal expenses, those may be included.
    5. Costs incurred preparing for the storm; that could include overtime paid to staff acting as spotters along rivers, for example.
  2. Communities should compile all costs and report them to Vermont Emergency Management.
  3. VEM will work with the Agency of Transportation to verify some of the costs.
  4. VEM and AOT will then do a joint local/state/FEMA Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA).

If Vermont shows at least $1-million in verified statewide damages, individual counties would then have to meet a pre-established threshold to qualifyfor a FEMA declaration.  That level is total qualified public damages of $3.27 per capita in that county.  These are not the only factors involved in receiving a Public Assistance disaster declaration, but the monetary levels are the biggest indicator.

Aid to individuals, private homeowners, business owners, renters, and others is more difficult to come by and Vermont has not qualified for so-called “Individual Assistance” since 1998.  However, several state agencies and the office of Governor Peter Shumlin are exploring all avenues to provide relief.

The most likely avenue could be Small Business Administration loans (http://www.sba.gov/taxonomy/term/99).   These funds are advertised as below-market interest rate loans used to help individuals recover.  They would be made available to homeowners, business owners, some non-profits, and renters to recoup uninsured flood losses.

What homeowners and individuals should be doing now:

  1. Ensure your home is safe to return to by having your electrical and heating systems inspected by qualified professionals.
  2. Begin cleanup right away.  Delay in cleaning up can cause things like mildew to spread and make cleanup more difficult.
  3. Contact your insurance company.
  4. Keep close records of how much it costs to clean your home and how much of your property has been lost.
  5. REPORT ALL DAMAGES/LOSSES AND RECOVERY COSTS TO YOUR CITY OR TOWN.  Your community representative will work with the state to see if your recovery costs qualify for assistance.

www.511vt.com<http://www.511vt.com> – road closures
www.vem.vermont.gov<http://www.vem.vermont.gov> – links to flooding tips and resources.
http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/index.php?wfo=3Dbtv: Northern Vermont River Gauges
http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/index.php?wfo=3Daly: Southern Vermont River Gauges
http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/btv/: Forecasts and warnings from the National Weather Service

Mark Bosma
Public Information Officer
Vermont Emergency Management
(800) 347-0488