WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Rep. Becca Balint (VT-AL) on Monday sent a letter to majority, minority, and Appropriations Committee leadership in the Senate and House of Representatives urging them to ensure that Congress passes federal funding for essential recovery and long-term disaster mitigation work in Vermont following the devastating flooding that hit the state this summer. In the letter, the delegation also called for increasing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) cap for hazard mitigation, making Small Business Administration (SBA) loans forgivable in order to save small businesses, renters, and homeowners from taking on additional debt after experiencing a disaster, and expanding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) emergency grant relief for impacted Vermont farmers, as well as opening eligibility for retroactive enrollment in the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.
“As Vermont continues to respond to, and begins the recovery from, ongoing catastrophic flooding, we urge you to pass federal funding that meets the needs of our state, with a significant focus on funding for long-term disaster recovery and mitigation work. We ask you to move this funding expeditiously, so important federal resources for disaster response and recovery become available to states like Vermont as quickly as possible,” wrote the Vermont congressional delegation to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee Kay Granger (R-Texas), and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).
The flash flooding Vermont experienced from July 7 through August 8 impacted more than 5,000 individuals and families, led to over 200 water rescues, nearly 90 road closures along major routes, and damage to over 200 miles of rail in the state-owned rail system. The initial estimate from the state on flood-related damages is currently totaling in the many hundreds of millions of dollars. Small businesses, farming and rural communities, and individuals all suffered heavy losses, including anywhere between 145,000 and 686,000 acres of agricultural land across the state. Water and wastewater infrastructure was also severely damaged, including the wastewater facility in Johnson, which was completely destroyed and will likely cost upward of $10 million to replace. State inspectors have classified five dams as high hazard and 22 as significant hazards — leaving the state at significant risk for loss of life and property during future storms.
Vermont’s congressional delegation also urged for support in investments in mitigation activities to build long-term resiliency against future disasters and the increasingly dangerous effects of climate change.
Sanders, Welch, and Balint concluded: “While the damage assessments and needs are ongoing, we appreciate your support for the authorization and appropriation of all additional federal disaster recovery and mitigation dollars that Vermont will need for years to come. Thank you for your consideration of our request and for your support of Vermont’s response and recovery process.”
Read the letter, here.