MESSAGE FROM THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE
Aug. 31, 2011
Susan Allen, 802-279-9483
All isolated communities now have access; utility updates; new storm information
RUTLAND – Gov. Peter Shumlin emphasized today that the aggressive push to help Vermonters, businesses and communities recover in the wake of Hurricane Irene will continue as long as necessary. The Governor reported significant progress today, including the reopening of some critical bridges and roads, restoration of power to tens of thousands of Vermonters, expansion of the 211 system, and state assistance for business owners and farmers.
“While we have a long road ahead, we are making progress to get the lights back on, the roads reopened and people back to work after this historic storm,” Gov. Shumlin said.“ Our immediate priority is to reach and assist people who have sustained serious home, business and farm damage, or are cut-off from motor vehicle access because of road and bridge damage. Today we continued to make headway.”
The Governor said the U.S. Department of Transportation today announced $5 million in emergency funds to help Vermont rebuild and repair roads and bridges destroyed or damaged. That money will be available for immediate assistance.
As of this evening, assessments found that about 120 homes have major damage or were destroyed; three more state roads opened today, 64 remain closed and Transportation crews are working into the night on those projects; 65 state bridges remain closed; four Red Cross shelters are still open, and several local shelters are also housing people who lost housing in the storm.
After hearing of concerns related to the 211 call center being overloaded with phone calls for information and assistance, the Governor’s office worked closely with FEMA and the United Way to triple the capacity, adding 20 new lines. Additional volunteers are needed to staff the line; anyone interested in volunteering should contact the Governor’s office at 802-828-3333.
“One of our priorities was to get the 211 telephone system staffed to the appropriate level to handle this unprecedented call level,” Gov. Shumlin said. He noted that social media, including Facebook, has also enabled Vermonters to volunteer, donate cash to help victims of the storm, and stay up to speed on road closing and other issues.
Power has been restored to all but about 10,000 Vermonters statewide, down from over 50,000 outages on Monday. Bridge inspectors are coming in from other states to assist the Agency of Transportation in getting bridges reopened; truck-loads and helicopter loads of food, water and supplies have been – and will continue to be – delivered to communities statewide; law enforcement is conducting welfare checks to ensure Vermonters’ safety.
1) All of the 13 previously isolated communities now have vehicle access of some sort (some require four-wheel drive access). Transportation crews worked all day on the final community – Wardsboro – and provided access just before 6 p.m.
2) Recognizing that many Vermonters might be unable to meet the Sept. 1 filing deadlines for four programs administered by the Tax Department, the deadline for accepting those documents will be Sept. 30 (must be received by the Department for Property Tax Adjustment Claim; Homestead Declaration; Renter Rebate Claim; and Current Use Application.
3) The Vermont Bar Association, Vermont Legal Aid, Legal Services Law Line of Vermont and the Vermont Volunteer Lawyers Project have pro bono lawyers standing by to help victims of Tropical Storm Irene. Call 1-800-889-2047 to speak by phone with a Legal Aid or Law Line attorney, or be assigned an attorney through the Volunteer Lawyer Project. Visit http://www.vtlawhelp.org/disaster_Irene for answers to frequently asked questions.
4) Gov. Shumlin’s office is working with state agencies to make sure that state laws and permitting requirements aren’t unreasonably slowing recovery efforts.
5) The Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) has allocated up to $10 million in special low-interest financing for Vermont businesses and farms who suffered direct physical damage as a result of Hurricane Irene. The Hurricane Irene Assistance Loan Program funds are available immediately. [see below for more information]
6) Of the 327 Vermont public schools were closed Monday, all but 90 have reopened.
7) The Agency of Commerce and Community Affairs opened a call-line to report business damage from flooding : 802-828-3211.