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Vermonters urged to continue reporting damage from major flooding

Officials urged Vermonters at a press conference Tuesday to continue reporting damages to Vermont 2-1-1 in hopes of garnering additional federal funding as people assess losses from the major flooding earlier this month.

Gov. Phil Scott told listeners that even if they’ve completely cleaned up from the flooding to still report their damages to 2-1-1 to help out other Vermonters in need of individual funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Even if your basement flooded and you've already taken care of it, report it," Scott said. "A few of our counties have not met the threshold for individual assistance, and I know they need it. So please help your neighbors and report your damage.”

 A man in a button-down shirt speaks at a podium in front of maps of Vermont
Bob Kinzel
Vermont Public
Gov. Phil Scott speaks at a news conference about flood recovery on July 19.

People in places like Orleans County are still waiting to hear if their areas will qualify for FEMA assistance. Many people in Orleans face significant damages as well. Officials announced Friday that residents of Caledonia and Orange counties can now file for FEMA funding.

Scott also added that farmers around the state should report any damages they have so Congress can decide to distribute federal grants to Vermont farms. So far, Scott estimates the floods affected 10,000 acres of farmland.

“It's so important and could be the difference between whether or not Congress provides financial assistance and grants for you and other farmers,” said Scott.

Farmers can report their damages to the Farm Service Agency.

General William Roy, the federal coordinating officer from FEMA, was also in attendance on Tuesday. He provided information and services available to those seeking federal assistance.

 A man in a white button-down speaks at a podium
Bob Kinzel
Vermont Public
William Roy, FEMA federal coordinating officer, speaks at a press conference Wednesday, July 19.

If you need help filling out FEMA applications, there are in-person resource centers in Rutland and Waterbury. There are also mobile registration centers in all eight eligible counties.

More from Vermont Public and VTDigger: A guide to the FEMA aid process for flooded Vermont homes

Roy also highlighted that those not in eligible counties can still apply for FEMA assistance by calling 1-800-621-FEMA between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., and that FEMA has already approved $4.2 million in funding for Vermont residents. He could not say if Orleans County was close to meeting requirements for federal funding.

Roy also echoed Scott’s urgent message for Vermonters to report damages to 2-1-1.

“This information will help provide the state with an overall understanding of the impact and assist in securing federal funding to not only restore the damages, but to help mitigate against future damages,” said Roy.

The topic of mitigation was also heavily discussed, touching on efforts made after Irene. Scott acknowledged this natural disaster’s relation to climate change and how Vermont must both limit the effects of global warming but also build infrastructure that can withstand events like this month’s flooding.

“We talk about reducing our carbon emissions and so forth, and that's good work. And that's something that we're focused on,” he said. “But it has to be combined with an equal effort of mitigation.”

Roy additionally urged Vermonters to help invest in mitigation efforts. “Every dollar you invest in mitigation action, you offset $6 from impact from a disaster from a future disaster.”

Jennifer Morrison, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, highlighted the work the State Emergency Operations Center has done throughout Vermont in past weeks, including providing bottled water, providing plumbing, electrical, and structural inspectors to public and private buildings, and mobilizing mobile pharmacies and grocery aid to hard hit communities.

She encouraged Vermonters to reach out to local leadership if they feel assistance is needed in their communities.

Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison discusses the state's flood response at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday.
Mike Dougherty
Vermont Public
Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison discusses the state's flood response at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday.

Scott also addressed concerns over political contention at the federal level about FEMA funding. He hopes lawmakers in Congress can avoid these debates and get money to those who need it in Vermont.

“These storms, they don't just affect blue states, don't just affect red states, they affect all states," Scott said. "And so I think there's a realization amongst members of Congress, that it could be them next, if it already hasn't been them.”

Other key takeaways from Tuesday’s press conference:

  • FEMA Assistance: Individuals have until Sep. 12, 2023 to apply for federal relief funding.
  • Renters are eligible for FEMA: Commissioner Josh Hanford from the Department of Housing & Community Development reminded listeners that renters can apply for assistance to aid in temporary housing.
  • The Agency of Transportation is still evaluating roads and bridges: Secretary Joe Flynn said seven state roads remain closed, 10 are partially open, and three bridges need temporary structures.
  • More landslides: Secretary Flynn notified listeners there was a landslide in Johnson on Monday night on Route 15, and two have been reported in Chester. Others have been reported in Barre.
  • Montpelier DMV: The Department of Motor Vehicles office in Montpelier is still closed. Flynn could not estimate when it will reopen. All other offices remain open and people are encouraged to make all transactions online until further notice.

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