Trump signs disaster declaration

MONTPELIER — President Donald Trump has signed a major disaster declaration for Vermont following significant flooding earlier this year, qualifying the state for federal aid in recovery efforts, Gov. Phil Scott said Thursday.

The public assistance disaster declaration by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will allow communities and public utilities in affected areas to receive 75 percent reimbursement from the federal government for storm response and recovery efforts, including debris removal and repairs to public infrastructure.

The disaster declaration covers Addison, Bennington, Caledonia, Orange, Rutland, Washington and Windsor Counties.

Significant flooding occurred following a period of heavy rain between June 29 and July 1.

Scott asked FEMA to assess damage caused by the flooding on July 6. FEMA officials were in Vermont the following week to review affected areas.

“This declaration will provide much-needed financial relief for the communities that were affected and continue to have significant cleanup and repairs to complete after this storm,” Scott said in a statement Thursday. “I commend the local and state officials and work crews for their recovery efforts, and thank our federal partners, including FEMA and the White House staff, for their responsiveness.”

A preliminary damage assessment completed by FEMA identified $4.7 million in public infrastructure damage, which easily exceeded the $1 million threshold the state had to show to be considered for a disaster declaration. State officials have identified more than $6 million in damage.

The seven counties affected by the storm also exceeded the $3.61 per capita damage threshold. That will allow municipalities in those counties to seek federal assistance in recovery efforts.

Scott’s office said local municipal leaders will be able to begin seeking reimbursements from FEMA after applicant briefings “in the coming days.” The briefings will outline the requirements for receiving federal aid to local officials.

Vermont Emergency Management and the state Agency of Transportation will also help local officials through the process.

Thursday’s declaration follows Scott’s official request to FEMA, which provided a recommendation to the president. In a late-July letter to the president, sent through FEMA, Scott warned of economic hardship if the request was not approved.

“Without this assistance, there would be double-digit increases in local property taxes to cover repairs,” he wrote. “The total statewide sum of infrastructure impacts from this event exceeds $6.6 million. For a state of only 626,000 people, that is more than $10 of damage for each individual in the state, over 7 times the $1.43 statewide per capita indicator.”

The declaration also includes funds from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for towns, state agencies and approved nonprofit organizations. The program provides funding for a variety of mitigation activities, such as home buyouts, structural elevations, flood proofing and public infrastructure upgrades for roads, bridges and culverts in vulnerable locations.

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