In The News

Vermont Senator Peter Welch renews calls for long-term disaster relief funding

May 13, 2024

Flooding in Montpelier July 2023 (file) | Vermont Agency Of Agriculture/Vermont Agency Of Agriculture

In the wake of catastrophic disasters in each of their states in 2023, two Democratic U.S. Senators are calling on their peers to pass long-term relief funding.

In July 2023, Vermont experienced catastrophic flooding from which some businesses, communities and homeowners are still recovering.

In August 2023, wildfires in Maui, Hawaii incinerated the town of Lahaina killing 101 people.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides disaster recovery grants to cities, counties, Indian tribes, and states “subject to availability of supplemental appropriations.”

Last September, a short-term spending bill was signed into law that included $16 billion in disaster relief funding. But Senators from Vermont and Hawaii say the disasters in their states and elsewhere highlight an urgent need to pass long-term funding for the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery program.

Hawaii Democrat Brian Schatz says disaster survivors are running out of time, money and patience.

“These people have been to hell and back enduring the worst horrors of Mother Nature,” Schatz said. “Wildfires, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes. And after all that, after having their lives totally upended overnight, many have been stuck in limbo for months or even years. It’s not acceptable to keep survivors waiting. Congress must act. We need to pass disaster relief funding with the urgency that it demands and get survivors the assistance that they need to fully recover.”

Vermont Senator Peter Welch, a fellow Democrat, says Congress must provide long-term funding in the wake of disasters.

“The money that comes in right away and the help that comes in right away it gives hope to folks,” Welch said. “Our roads and bridges we’re putting them back together. Some of the water treatment facilities that were destroyed we’re putting some of those back together. But the reality is there is a long and lasting trauma and practical challenge of trying to get everybody back on their feet.”

Schatz noted that seven months ago President Joe Biden filed a supplemental request that included funding for the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery.

“But it’s been a year and a half since Congress last funded CDBG-DR and in that time disasters have piled up in every part of the country,” noted Schatz. “Unfortunately, we know more are coming. This funding is urgent. The time is running out and money has run dry. Congress must act and pass disaster aid as soon as possible.”

Welch said the flexibility the grant program provides is vital to communities.

“No matter how competent and how professional our FEMA folks are, the reality is they have to move on to the next disaster,” noted Welch. “And it’s the folks in the community who really have to have the capacity and the tools and the resources to do what only can be done by folks in the community. So the disaster relief funding is the absolutely essential component to allow the full rebuilding if we’re going to have an effective disaster relief program.”

Senator Welch testified at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in December asking that an appropriations package include funding for the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery program.

Story Written by Pat Bradley, WAMC

Story Link: