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Vermont Plans To Request Disaster Aid For Halloween Storm, An Increasingly Common Practice

Three people look at a map.
John Dillon
VPR File
From left: Deputy Public Safety Commissioner Chris Herrick, Gov. Phil Scott and Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn at a press conference after the Halloween storm. The state plans to request disaster aid to deal with the storm's aftermath.

Vermont is receiving $500,000 in emergency federal funds to fix roads damaged by an Oct. 31 storm, which Vermont Emergency Management estimates caused about $5 million in total damage around the state.

There’s likely more federal assistance to come, as the state plans to seek a federal disaster declaration — and that process of seeking a disaster declaration after an extreme weather event has become increasingly common in recent years.

Including significant disaster aid after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, Vermont has received 15 federal disaster declarations and one emergency declaration in the last 8 years. It's a relatively small sample size, but the number of disaster declarations in Vermont has increased over the decades.

"It's consistent with what the data has been telling us and what our state Hazard Mitigation Plan projects, which is that we are seeing climate change and we're seeing an increased frequency of violent precipitation events," said Ben Rose, Vermont’s recovery and mitigation section chief.

Ben Rose spoke with VPR’s Henry Epp. Listen to their conversation above.

Rose said on top of a greater frequency of storms, the state has also requested federal aid after extreme weather more often in recent years.

"We've always had a good batting average of getting almost all of the disasters we request, because we've gotten pretty good at knowing when to request them," Rose said.

That's because Vermont has "more practice than most states," Rose said. Due to the state's small population, Rose explained, Vermont has a lower threshold for qualifying for federal disaster aid than other areas.

"We've always had a good batting average of getting almost all of the disasters we request, because we've gotten pretty good at knowing when to request them." — Ben Rose, recovery and mitigation section chief

"In order to be considered for federal public assistance, the state threshold would have to be met," Rose said, "which is $1.53 per capita, times the population of the state."

That puts Vermont's disaster threshold at about $1 million statewide, much lower than states with larger populations.

"For other parts of the country, a very serious storm might only be confined to a few counties, and they wouldn’t qualify," Rose said.

As for the prospects of receiving federal dollars to reimburse repairs stemming from the Halloween storm, Rose said it could be a few more months before local communities see any money.

"Sometime in the coming year, we'll hopefully get reimbursement to those communities that were the hardest hit," Rose said.

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