BURLINGTON, Vt. – With winter in the air and before the snow falls, communities are rushing to repair damages caused by both spring flooding and Tropical Storm Irene and federal and state officials are getting money into the hands of those doing the work.
Nearly $9.4 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds have been obligated to the state under the Public Assistance (PA) program, which distributes the money to municipalities and certain private nonprofit organizations to clean up and repair public infrastructure.
“We are working as hard as we can to get these funds out to the affected communities,” said Federal Coordinating Officer James N. Russo, the head of FEMA’s mission in Vermont. “But we have to follow the process and its safeguards to ensure that the taxpayers’ money is spent wisely.”
Of the nearly $9.4 million obligated so far, roughly half of it – $4.8 million – is allotted for repairs needed from the early spring floods that struck Vermont. Another $2.6 million will cover expenses related to the heavy rains and flooding that occurred later in the spring, while roughly $2 million is for damages caused by Irene.
Towns like Kirby and Concord in the Northeast Kingdom, and East Montpelier in central Vermont recently received payments for projects related to flooding cleanup.
The total public assistance costs for the spring flooding and Tropical Storm Irene are estimated at $171.8 million.
“Obviously, it will take some time to process the paperwork for the more than 4,000 projects we expect to receive applications for,” Russo said. “FEMA will be here for the duration, and we hope the state and municipalities will be patient as we continue our work.”
As mentioned above, the PA program provides funding to repair roads and bridges, put water systems and utilities back in order, rebuild libraries and replace damaged books, repair hospitals and emergency services, rebuild schools and universities and infrastructure restoration statewide.
FEMA’s PA program typically reimburses 75 percent of the eligible cost of these projects, with the state and municipality sharing the remainder.
“Our staff is working as diligently as our partners at FEMA to get funds out the door to the Agency of Transportation and towns who need them,” said Vermont Emergency Management Interim Director Peter Coffey.
The PA funding program process includes the following steps:
- Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) are conducted by local, state and federal officials after a disaster has struck.
- The Governor requests federal assistance.
- The President then grants a disaster declaration for counties within the affected state.
- The state holds applicant briefings to explain eligibility
- The public entity makes a formal request to the state for Public Assistance (RPA).
- At the “Kick-off” meeting, FEMA assigns a Public Assistance Coordinator (PAC) to work with the applicant to prepare project worksheets.
- FEMA coordinates with the State’s Office of Emergency Management and Regional P...