“I can’t tell you how grateful I am to President Obama for his concern and responsiveness. He turned around that request on a Sunday in less than three hours,” Shumlin said.
Windham, Chittenden, Washington, Rutland and Windsor Counties had already received the declaration.
Some individual property owners in Bennington County sustained massive damages, including the loss of homes, following major flooding on Aug. 28 from Irene’s torrential rains. Swollen rivers cut through banks and washed away homes in several places.
Shumlin said the individual assistance declaration makes private property owners eligible for up to $30,400 in cash grants to help cover the cost of repairs. Additional low-interest loans are also available to help cover uninsured property losses, he said.
“This is a really important break for us,” Shumlin said.
The declaration also provides more assistance to businesses that suffered losses as a result of the storm. “They’ll qualify because of this declaration for hundreds of thousands of dollars in low-interest loans to get back on their feet,” Shumlin said.
Those with insurance may still be eligible for help from FEMA if their insurance policy does not cover all their needs, Shumlin said.
To receive assistance, individuals must register with FEMA by calling 1-800-621-FEMA, or visiting www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
Officials said those seeking assistance should have the following information available:
- Current telephone number
- Address at the time of the disaster and current address
- Social Security number
- A general list of damages and losses
- If insured, the name of insurance company, agent and policy number
- Bank routing number for any direct deposit.
After registering, eligible applicants will be called to set up a free property inspection. Inspectors are FEMA contractors and carry identification badges. They do not make a determination regarding assistance. Applicants will receive a letter from FEMA regarding the status of their requests for federal assistance. Some will also receive an application for a low-interest disaster recovery loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“Take pictures, keep receipts and call FEMA,” Shumlin said. “They will send an assessor and get you help as quickly as they can.”
FEMA has dispatched 35 field representatives who are currently visiting counties that have received the individual disaster declaration. Those representatives are available to provide additional information and answer questions.
FEMA spokeswoman Denise Worhach said 52 residents in Bennington County have already applied for assistance. More than 1,500 have applied statewide. FEMA has paid out more than $3.1 million in assistance, mostly for housing assistance, Worhach said.
Meanwhile, Shumlin said the state’s recovery from the devastating storm is progressing rapidly. He praised residents as well as road, utility and other construction crews, for their hard work.
“I am just amazed. Only in Vermont would we come as far as we have in the last six days. I am so proud of Vermonters who are reaching out to their neighbors,” he said. “We have just seen so many acts of generosity. That’s what’s going to pull us through.”
Contact Neal P. Goswami at firstname.lastname@example.org