In the aftermath of devastating floods that wreaked havoc across Vermont, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has played a crucial role in providing much-needed assistance to affected residents. The latest data from FEMA paints a picture of the ongoing recovery efforts, showcasing both the scale of the disaster and the federal government's response.
As of September 17, 2023, a total of 5,663 Vermonters have reached out to FEMA for aid in the wake of the floods. These applications span a range of needs, from home repairs to rental assistance and other essential requirements. What emerges is a narrative of resilience in the face of adversity, as Vermonters seek federal support to rebuild their lives.
$18.5 Million in Aid: A Lifeline for 3,100 Vermonters
FEMA's data reveals that approximately 3,100 applicants have already received assistance through various programs. The total aid distributed stands at a substantial $18.5 million, offering a glimmer of hope to those grappling with the aftermath of the disaster.
Remarkably, a significant portion of this aid, approximately $6 million, has been disbursed within the past month alone. This surge in assistance underscores the urgency and necessity of federal intervention in the recovery process.
Initially, FEMA had set a deadline of September 12 for Vermonters to apply for the Individuals and Households Assistance Program, a vital source of federal aid following federally declared disasters. However, recognizing the ongoing challenges faced by Vermonters, officials extended the deadline to October 12, providing additional time for those in need to seek assistance.
Applications Slow but Counties Vary: A Tale of Resilience
While the deadline extension offers relief, there has been a notable slowdown in new applications compared to the immediate aftermath of the flood. In the past 30 days, just under 1,000 Vermonters have applied for assistance, a significant drop from the 4,700 applicants in the first month following the disaster.
Washington County has emerged as a focal point for FEMA applications, boasting the highest number of applicants both in total and per capita. The resilience of its residents in navigating the recovery process stands as a testament to their determination.
However, data also highlights the recent uptick in applications from two Northeast Kingdom counties, Caledonia and Orleans, which were added to the list of eligible counties after others. This expansion of eligibility demonstrates FEMA's adaptability in addressing evolving needs.
Notably, Addison County, which faced severe flooding later in the summer, remains ineligible for assistance, along with Franklin, Grand Isle, and Bennington counties.
Urgent Needs Addressed: Housing Assistance Takes Center Stage
Housing assistance remains a primary focus of FEMA's aid efforts. Most individual FEMA aid has been directed towards housing assistance, covering repair costs for homeowners and providing compensation for rent to those forced to relocate.
While a significant proportion of aid is allocated to housing, other costs, such as personal property damage, also receive attention. Interestingly, only nine individuals have been deemed eligible for complete replacement assistance for destroyed residences.
Challenges and Appeals: Seeking Fairness in Assistance
It's worth noting that the FEMA data doesn't distinguish between applicants who have been entirely rejected for assistance and those awaiting program responses. Around 1,150 applicants have been referred to the Individuals and Households Program, the initial step towards securing aid, but haven't yet been found eligible or declined.
The data further indicates that 1,052 applicants were ineligible for housing aid due to various reasons, including a lack of contact information, proof of identity, or need for rental assistance. Some applications received approval for certain programs but were rejected for others, contingent on eligibility for different aid categories.
For those denied FEMA aid, the avenue of appeal remains open. State officials have encouraged Vermonters to exercise this option if they believe they have been unfairly denied assistance or have not received adequate support.
Moreover, FEMA has referred at least 320 individuals to the Small Business Administration (SBA), which offers disaster loans to individuals and households. This referral process is a prerequisite for certain types of FEMA assistance, ensuring that residents explore all available avenues for recovery.
In the face of adversity, Vermonters are not only rebuilding their homes but also demonstrating the strength of their community spirit. FEMA's ongoing efforts, coupled with the resilience of the state's residents, embody a collective commitment to weathering the storm and emerging stronger on the other side.