By Michael Bielawski
Vermonters who saw significant damage to their homes now have a formal estimate for the most money they can hope to obtain from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): $41,000.
The state says as of Monday there were 4,694 reports of damages to residential homes and 865 reports of damages to businesses. At a press conference Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security/FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer William F. Roy during an interaction with Bob Kinzel from VPR clarified the situation.
“Just so people know, for homeowners, who have suffered enormous damages, the best case scenario for them and from FEMA is $41,000?” Kinzel asked Roy.
Roy responded, “That is a very correct statement, sir. You know, the first thing we look at is insurance to determine how much insurance will pay the homeowner, and that will play into how much money we see from FEMA.”
He added that after determining the payouts from the insurance companies, any leftover costs, that’s what the FEMA money can help with.
Kinzel noted that some folks have lost their entire homes and that money won’t be enough for many. Roy then reiterated what the FEMA money is for.
“It’s to help people to kickstart their recovery after the disaster,” he said. “But if the federal government was responsible for all this then there wouldn’t be any insurance. So we all have to take responsibility for our properties. So the money that FEMA gives from Congress is to help kickstart that recovery process.”
Kinzel also asked if FEMA is in any danger of running out of funds. Roy responded by saying that FEMA has reassured them that they “have enough money to deal with the current disasters that we have.” He added that disaster funding ultimately needs to be approved by Congress.
Governor says “We could sure use your help”
At the start of the conference, the governor spoke about the challenges of managing large amounts of debris. He said, “If you are available, we could sure use your help.” He said those who wish to help can sign up at Vermont.gov/volunteer.
Scott added, “Over the next two months as we transition towards recovery we need to continue helping Vermonters to get rid of debris.”
Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison noted that even damages that have already been repaired or have been disregarded as just a nuisance, she emphasized that the government needs to know.
“Your report will help the state get an accurate accounting of the scope of damage,” she said.
She also spoke about all the debris removal, saying, “As of yesterday nearly 3,000 tons of debris had been removed under the state contract. This is on top of all of the debris removal on the local level. We are making significant headway, but we know there’s more debris to be picked up and disposed of.”
She added that there will be a large push this weekend to deal with that situation, and “it will be fueled by volunteers.”
Long term solutions
The governor was asked for more permanent solutions to massive flooding so that when it happens again the damage will not be so great. He said getting important infrastructure to higher ground is one thing.
“Raising some of the utilities, some of the electrical infrastructure, some of the furnaces, and so forth … raising them up will create an opportunity so that we can withstand some of the storms. Not putting everything in the basement and raising things up a bit, without actually raising the foundations but moving things around a bit will help.”
He added that putting more work into culverts and dam infrastructure is another strategy.
Farms are struggling too
Also at this presser was David Zuckerman, the lieutenant governor who is also a farmer. He shared some about how the agricultural sector has managed all the flooding.
“I learned this last weekend from some Congressional staffers that actually those of us who have suffered added diseases or crop losses not necessarily from floodwater inundation but just from continuous rains, that we should be reporting that to FSA.”
He mentioned that there’s been about 9,000 acres of flooded farmland that’s been documented so far. He said that farmers are doing what they can to salvage crops that are still good.
He added, “There are dozens of farms that have lost their crops underwater.”
The governor’s weekly conference can be seen on his Facebook page, This discussion about the FEMA payouts starts at about 26 minutes.
The author is a reporter for Vermont Daily Chronicle.