Governor Shumlin Announces Additional Assistance Package for Towns
SEPTEMBER 20 - MONTPELIER - Governor Shumlin was joined by Treasurer Beth Pearce and other state leaders today to announce an Irene recovery package for municipalities struggling with the effects of the tropical storm.
“We recognize that the disaster is putting a strain on local governments,” said Governor Shumlin. “This assistance package will help ensure that they have the support they need to emerge stronger than before the storm hit.”
The financial package includes:
- $24 million in advanced State payments: To assist towns struggling with immediate cash flow needs, the State will advance payments of key state and federal programs. $6.2 million in town highway funds have been delivered this week instead of on October 15. $12.3 million in Current Use payments will be advanced this week rather than on November 15. $5.8 million in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) payments will be delivered shortly, instead of by October 31. This is not new revenue to municipalities, but faster revenue, and will help ease short-term cash needs.
- Local bank loans: Vermont’s local banks will be offering loans to communities in need with favorable terms.
- Municipal Bond Bank loans: The Municipal Bond Bank has initiated a program to assist towns with low-interest loans to finance response and recovery efforts. In the short term, the Bond Bank will provide stop-gap funding to local banks as needed and may provide direct loans in the future.
- FEMA Community Disaster Loan (CDL): The State has requested that FEMA initiate its CDL program to assist towns with low-interest loans.
“The assistance we are announcing today will help the municipalities hard hit by Tropical Storm Irene,” said Treasurer Beth Pearce. “This package provides a series of options for communities; they can opt for all, none or part of the options beginning with short-term financing all the way through long-term bonding. The banks are on the ground providing short-term financing and the State is advancing payments to municipalities to provide some relief for their short-term cash needs.”
Towns are also struggling with the massive impact that Irene had on the municipal transportation infrastructure. During the first week of Irene Emergency Response Vermont officials at VTrans realized the extent of damage to local roads and mobilized additional resources to aid towns. VTrans reached out to the Regional Planning Commissions and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for assistance. Vermont’s 11 regional planning commissions (RPCs) formed a State Resource Coordination Center with the mission of helping towns with not only local highway recovery, but also other forms of storm-related assistance.
Regional Commission staff have been assessing damage to the local system and today report that Irene washed away more than 1950 local roadway segments, undermined more than 917 culverts, and damaged more than 200 bridges owned by municipalities. Today, 184 roads and 94 bridges, within the municipal system remain closed. The regional commissions launched their emergency efforts in coordination with VTrans with the goal of helping towns get the majority of their roads open, safe and passable by winter.
“The goal of our efforts is to work with towns face that continued stress and mobility challenges, and to help them get back on their feet and establish access through emergency repairs,” said VTrans Secretary Brian Searles.
Road assistance for towns includes:
- Unmet Emergency Needs Assessment: VTrans has asked towns to request assistance for any unmet emergency needs. Unmet emergency needs include closed bridges, failed roads, and impassable roads that need to be made safe and passable before winter. Towns should submit that information to the Regional Commissions as soon as possible and VTrans will work to coordinate additional resources to help towns.
- VTrans has found that there is a shortage of bridge parts nationwide due to the tremendous need brought on by weather all over the country. To ensure that towns receive the temporary bridges they need before winter, VTrans will serve as a clearinghouse and source of information on bridge acquisition and a resource for ordering these structures and parts where needed.
- VTrans and the RPCs will create and update town maps depicting open and closed town roads so the traveling public can plan accordingly. These maps are being used by customer service representatives at VTrans’ Irene Storm Call Center, which can be reached at 1-800-VERMONT. They are also available to the general public at the agency’s website at www.aot.state.vt.us. To view them, users should activate the “local roads and bridges” section of the Google map. Smart phone applications of the Google map are also accessible on the Vtrans website.
- Associated General Contractors (AGC) Clearinghouse: AGC is coordinating Vermont contractors available to help towns repair damaged roads and bridges. This is the principal resource for towns that need outside contracting for rebuilding.
- Public Assistance (PA) Teams: State & FEMA PA teams are on the ground assisting communities with paperwork needed to obtain reimbursement for FEMA-eligible costs.
“Vermonters have responded to this disaster with determination, tenacity and hard work,” said Governor Shumlin. “It is in large part due to the indomitable spirit of Vermonters that our recovery is going so well. All recovery is local and this package will help ensure that our communities have the support they need.”