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Vermont Senate approves bill that would send financial aid to flood-affected communities

A shot looking down Main Street in Barre, with store fronts to the left and right and several feet of water on the road.
Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont Public
The legislation includes a grant program that would direct aid to municipalities across the state.

The Vermont Senate approved legislation Friday that includes more than $50 million to help communities across the state recover from the July floods.

The legislation appropriates $30 million to provide the state match that’s needed to draw down federal aid from FEMA. It also contains $12.5 million that will go out in the form of direct aid to individual municipalities.

Caledonia County Sen. Jane Kitchel, the Democratic chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, said towns and cities can use that money to fulfill their own match obligations to FEMA, or to assist individual households that have yet to fully recover from the disaster.

“So our goal was to give that flexibility to each of the municipalities, recognizing the experience could be quite varied,” Kitchel said.

A woman with glasses and white hair speaks while using her hands. Another woman looks on from the side.
Zoe McDonald
Vermont Public
Sen. Jane Kitchel responds to Gov. Phil Scott's budget address on Jan. 23, 2024. Kitchel is the chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

The legislation, which still needs approval from the House, contains significantly more aid for municipalities than Republican Gov. Phil Scott had proposed. Administration officials said in a letter to lawmakers late last month that state grants to communities could make it difficult for the state to come up with the future match money that will be needed to draw down all the federal assistance for which Vermont may be eligible.

Lawmakers haven’t yet decided what mechanism they’ll use to determine how aid will be distributed amongst municipalities.

“We have struggled to put together a methodology that would somehow distribute in a fair way money to the municipalities,” Kitchel said.

She said lawmakers want to distribute funds in a way that’s proportionate to flood-related losses. And she said her committee is working with legislative analysts to draft a framework before the bill goes up for a final vote later this month.

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The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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