(The Center Square) — The Biden administration has approved Vermont’s request for a natural disaster declaration following devastating July flooding events.
In a letter to Gov. Phil Scott, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he has approved the state’s request to declare a disaster in the state’s 14 counties, clearing the way for affected farmers to apply for low-interest federal loans and other assistance.
The move comes nearly two months after heavy rains caused devastating floods that submerged thousands of acres of Vermont farmland, causing millions of dollars of damage to crops.
Scott, a Republican, said the declaration will help the state’s farmers “recover and find a path forward through the many challenges they’ve faced this year.”
“Alongside many of their neighbors, our farmers have been greatly impacted by the floods this summer, threatening their livelihoods and our food system,” he said in a statement.
Vermont has committed $1 million to farmers out of its $20 million flood emergency grant program for businesses, according to the Scott administration. It has also made $20 million in grants available to businesses trying to rebuild. The grants are capped at $20,000 each, according to the administration.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it has determined that nearly 3,000 homes in Vermont sustained some type of damage in the flooding, including at least 530 designated as having significant damage and 14 other homes destroyed. The flooding also impacted the state capitol, Montpelier, damaging restaurants and other businesses.
Nearly 1,300 people have received rental assistance from the federal agency, which says it plans to bring in modular homes to provide temporary shelter for impacted residents.
But Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts said the disaster designation can “provide a lifeline to these important farm and food businesses with resources until next year’s growing season.”
“With over $16 million in farmer-reported flood related damage and losses, and severe impacts from frost this May, our farming community has faced a one-two punch this year that some may not survive,” he said.
Vermont is competing with Hawaii, Louisiana and other storm-damaged states for a slice of FEMA’s disaster relief fund following a year of devastating wildfires, flooding and hurricanes that scientists say are tied to climate change.
In July, the USDA approved Scott’s request for a disaster declaration stemming from the May frost that impacted many of the state’s growers, including vineyards and apple orchards.
The White House announced last week that it will seek an additional $4 billion to address natural disasters as part of its supplemental funding request, bringing the total to $16 billion.