Montpelier, Vt. March 21 – Governor Phil Scott, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Peter Welch, and Representative Becca Balint today announced that President Joseph Biden has declared a Major Disaster for Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans, and Washington counties, which suffered substantial damage during the December 22-24, 2022 winter storm.
A Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) identified nearly $3 million in program eligible costs incurred by public and non-profit utilities and communities in recovering from the storm, far exceeding the $1.14 million minimum Vermont must demonstrate for a disaster declaration. The eight counties included in the declaration each exceeded the $4.44 per capita county indicator needed to qualify communities and public utilities for assistance.
The Major Disaster declaration allows municipalities and qualifying non-profits like public utilities in those counties to receive 75% federal reimbursement for storm response and recovery. Those costs include power restoration for municipal utilities, repairs to public roads, bridges, and other infrastructure that was damaged during the storm, as well as removal of debris from public rights of way.
“I’m thankful that President Biden has approved our request and appreciate the continued support and collaboration of our Congressional Delegation,” said Governor Scott. “This storm was particularly difficult, occurring in the heart of the holiday season, and I’m so grateful to all our public servants, first responders, utility crews and more for their hard work to keep Vermonters safe”
“It is good news for Vermont that President Biden has approved the federal funding and support we need to recover from December’s storm,” said Sen. Sanders. “I very much appreciate the work of Governor Scott’s team and local emergency managers to keep Vermonters safe during the storm, and the efforts of our local utilities and line workers through the holidays to get people’s power back on. The reality is, dangerous and costly storms like this are becoming more common because of climate change. I will continue to push for meaningful steps to address the existential threat of climate change in the Senate, while also ensuring sufficient federal funding is available when we need it to recover and rebuild.”
“This storm did serious damage across Vermont during the holiday season, and we couldn’t have made it through without the dedicated emergency responders who kept our communities safe,” said Sen. Welch. “From utility workers to public safety officials, so many folks played a role in protecting Vermonters and mitigating damage from the storm. I’m grateful to everyone who worked around the clock on the ground and to the Biden Administration for streamlining these funds as we work to rebuild stronger and more resilient.”
“Destructive weather patterns due to climate change are unfortunately becoming the norm. To prevent and recover from these kinds of disasters it’s critical we take action to confront the causes of climate change while providing necessary funding to address its effects. I’m grateful for President Biden’s support in helping to rebuild our communities following last year’s devastating winter storms. The Congressional Delegation will continue to work alongside the Governor and our state’s first responders to keep Vermonters safe and our communities resilient,” said Rep. Becca Balint.
The Public Assistance disaster declaration also includes funds from the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). The program provides funds for any Vermont city or town to make improvements to roads, riverbeds, and other projects to increase the resilience to flooding and other hazards in a particular area.
Municipal leaders in Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans and Washington Counties can begin the process to apply for reimbursement for damages incurred in the storm by attending an upcoming applicant briefing, which will outline the requirements for receiving federal awards and maximizing eligibility of repairs. The dates and locations of those meetings are listed below. All are in person.
- Tuesday, March 28, 10 a.m.: Vermont Electric Co-Op, 42 Wescom Road, Johnson
- Wednesday, March 29, 10 a.m.: Vermont Department of Public Safety, 45 State Drive, Waterbury – A VIRTUAL OPTION WILL ALSO BE OFFERED FOR THIS SESSION (details will be listed at www.vem.vermont.gov)
- Thursday, March 30, 10 a.m.: Washington Electric Co-Op, 1 Kelton Road, East Montpelier
Information on the Public Assistance program and how municipalities can apply is available at: http://vem.vermont.gov/funding/pa.