When a disaster strikes and the president declares a federal disaster, money not only goes directly to those in a community affected, but also to the local economy from the temporary workers deployed to support the recovery efforts.
“We not only purchase supplies and services, but our staff rent cars, stay in hotels, shop in stores and eat in local restaurants,” said Federal Coordinating Officer James N. Russo. “That adds up to a tremendous economic impact. It is the equivalent of a new business relocating here.”
About 500 federal employees have been deployed to Vermont since Tropical Storm Irene hit on August 27, with most stationed in the Burlington area. It is estimated that over a period of several months these workers will spend many thousands of dollars on food, lodging, gas and other expenses.
The field office is expected to remain open through February, but many employees will be downsized as work is completed, and more Vermonters will be hired as needed. So far, 50 locals have been hired.
“The positions are short-term temporary jobs in numerous areas of the recovery operation, but they are critical to our efforts in helping the state get back on its feet,” Russo said. “We take our responsibility to hire local people very seriously, and we’re delighted with the quality of workers we’ve found.”
Vermonters have been hired to perform tasks ranging from administrative duties to reaching out to residents applying for assistance. When positions are available, they are posted at Vermont Job Link.
In the meantime, FEMA’s counterparts in the state are encouraging staff to take advantage of all the state has to offer. “We encourage everyone to buy local,” said Mike O’Neil, director of Vermont Emergency Management. “We provide lists of restaurants, shops and tourists spots from all over the state for them to go on their days off. Maybe a few will even take up skiing in the coming months.”