Wed, Feb 29, 2012 04:31 PM
By LEE J. KAHRS
Vermont has served as a model for its rapid response and ongoing
recovery from Tropical Storm Irene five months ago. Now, a recent
grant from federal government will be used to support the aid
systems Vermont has established to help those still in need.
Vermont Irene Recovery Officer Sue Minter said in an interview
Monday that a $2.4 million grant from the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) announced last week will be used to extend
the employment of 11 case workers who have been working with
survivors of the flooding. She said the grant would help extend the
system the state already created to help those victims of the
"We have an inter-agency team that goes to towns, as well as
volunteer committees and case managers who have been hired and
trained specially to work with these committees," she said. "The
state paid for the first four months and no, because of our
success, FEMA is giving us money to sustain this system."
Minter acknowledged that the number of case managers will drop from
the current 16 to 11. However, she said the funding is a testament
to how Vermont is being viewed from the outside.
"Relative to other states, Vermont stands out, and FEMA has been
very impressed," Minter said. "This is really a testament to the
Vermont Strong spirit."
The grant was written and applied for by the Vermont Agency of
Human Services, which will contract with three Community Action
agencies for the 11 case managers through August of 2013.
Those case managers will work with the same clients from start to
finish, identifying the assistance already received, prioritize
what disaster related needs remain, and locating the resources
available. Case managers will follow up with individuals to
ensure all needs are met.
The case managers will be working in partnership with 11 Long Term
Recovery Committees around Vermont. Minter said those still
in need of case management services should call 2-1-1 to be
referred to the appropriate Long Term Recovery Committee.
Minter was asked how she and her staff intend to get people who may
have not registered with FEMA even now to dial those numbers and
ask for help.
"We're trying desperately to reach out to folks who have registered
with FEMA," she said. "But we know there are folks who haven't
reached out. We're continuing trying to do more marketing of this
whole program, such as public service announcements."
Minter said the state is working closely with The Vermont Disaster
Relief Fund (VDRF), created by the United Ways of Vermont in
cooperation with the Vermont Voluntary Organizations Active in
Disaster and Vermont Emergency Management, and the Vermont Long
Term Disaster Recovery Group (VLTDRG), a private non-profit working
with the American Red Cross and the Vermont Community Fund.
The VDRF provides funds for survivors once they have exhausted
private insurance, federal, state and local funding resources. FEMA
covers up to $30,400 in damages to homeowners whose property has
The VLTDRG is distributing the funds and deploying volunteer
assistance to Vermonters who continue to need help rebuilding their
lives after Tropical Storm Irene. The nine-member group is charged
with assessing the financial and resource needs of disaster victims
who have lost their homes or who have experienced large financial
losses and have exhausted all other options for financial
While the state recovery system and the FEMA funding to continue
the work is being lauded by the congressional delegation, Sen.
Bernie Sanders issued a cautionary statement regarding the grant
announcement that he hopes will help those who have yet to access
the state support system.
"There are many Vermonters who have had trouble navigating the
array of federal, state, private and non-profit assistance, and
there are others who have regrettably fallen through the cracks,"
he said. "This grant will provide much-needed resources so the
state and community action agencies can work with these individuals
and families to make sure they are getting all of the assistance
they are eligible for."
Another goal of the state is to keep this recovery story on the
front burner as long as necessary, even in unaffected areas of
Vermont, because it's far from over.
"A lot of Vermonters don't know there are ongoing needs," she said.
"They think the roads are open and Irene is over. They have no idea
of the need that's still out there."