Shumlin seeks disaster declaration

MONTPELIER – Gov. Peter Shumlin made a formal request Friday for federal disaster relief to help 10 of Vermont’s 14 counties pay for repairs to the power grid and other public infrastructure damaged in a winter storm last month.

The administration said Addison, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans, Rutland, Washington and Windsor counties have damages that meet federal standards to qualify for a Public Assistance disaster declaration.

The disaster declaration, if granted, would allow communities and public utilities in impacted counties to receive a 75 percent reimbursement for storm response and recovery. Those costs include debris removal and repairs to the power grid, public roads, bridges and other infrastructure damaged during the storm.

A preliminary assessment by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that started on December 17 has identified nearly $4 million in damages in Vermont during the storm between December 9 and 12. The state is required to show $1 million in damages to qualify for a disaster declaration.

The 10 counties also showed more than the minimum of $3.50 per capita required to be included in a declaration. The damages identified in the initial assessment are only a partial accounting of total damages suffered in the severe snow storm, the administration said, and the final tally is expected be higher.

If the disaster declaration is granted, communities and public utilities will be reimbursed for 75 percent of the cost of eligible work. Eligible expenses include equipment rentals and fuel for that equipment, the cost of contractor assistance, employee overtime tied directly to storm response and restoration as well as other expenses.

The request has been sent to FEMA for review, the administration said Friday. FEMA will review the request and send a recommendation to President Barack Obama, who has the ultimate authority to approve or reject the request.

The application also seeks funds from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, according to the administration. The federal program provides 75 percent reimbursement for projects that reduce the likelihood of damages to public infrastructure in future disasters.

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