NEWS: More Than 13,000 Vermonters Join Telephone Town Meeting on Flood Disaster Response with Sanders, Welch, Balint, Scott, and Agency Leaders

WASHINGTON, July 28 – On Wednesday evening, Sen. Bernie Sanders hosted a statewide telephone town meeting on Vermont’s flooding disaster with Sen. Peter Welch, Representative Becca Balint, and Governor Phil Scott, as well as federal and state agency leaders playing a critical part in the response and recovery process. Nearly 12,000 Vermonters from across the state joined the town meeting by phone, while thousands more listened in by livestream.

Before opening it up to questions, Sanders, Welch, Balint, and Scott, as well as leaders from FEMA, SBA, and USDA in Vermont, gave opening remarks and updates on the response and recovery process. During the town meeting, news was also announced that Orleans County has been added by FEMA to the federal Individual Assistance Disaster Declaration signed by President Biden earlier this month. This means that residents of Orleans County are now able to apply for federal assistance for personal losses incurred during the flooding. Caledonia, Chittenden, Lamoille, Orange, Rutland, Washington, Windham, and Windsor counties had previously been approved.

Some additional updates that were shared during the town meeting by FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) for Vermont Will Roy, District Director of the Small Business Administration (SBA) Darcy Carter, State Director of USDA-Rural Development Sarah Waring, and State Executive Director of USDA-Farm Service Agency (FSA) John Roberts, include, to date at the time of the town meeting:

  • More than 3,000 Vermonters have applied for Individual Assistance through FEMA;
  • FEMA has visited over 6,800 homes and more than 350 businesses;
  • FEMA has approved more than 680 Individual Assistance applications so far, totaling $4.7 million in aid to Vermonters;
  • SBA has approved $770,800 for a total of 16 loans to homeowners;
  • 464 FEMA staff are in Vermont assessing damage and assisting with sign-ups, 14 teams are going door-to-door to help residents sign up for FEMA.

The Congressional Delegation also spoke about legislation they are expecting to come before Congress to address many of the gaps in federal disaster relief, as well as the work they’re doing to ensure insurance companies in the state treat impacted Vermonters fairly.

Nearly 200 questions were sent in ahead of the town meeting and hundreds more were submitted during the call itself. While all questions will receive follow ups from Senator Sanders’ office, questions taken live reflected common themes, including: recovery assistance for renters, business owners, employees, farmers, homeowners and local governments. Callers asked how to account for lost days of work, how to file claims with FEMA and insurance companies; as well as what resources are available for rebuilding roads and bridges, for addressing the trauma and mental health needs of impacted Vermonters, for cleaning out damage, and for financial support for farms and small businesses to enable them to reopen. Callers who went live during the town meeting were from some of the most impacted towns across Vermont, including Johnson, Londonderry, Barre, Berlin, and many more. And while many questions focused on specific needs, many callers recognized the need for investments in building back in a way that will be more resilient and urged the government officials to keep fighting for policies to address the existential threat of climate change.

“I don’t have to explain to anyone who has been impacted by the flooding as to what that means,” said Sen. Sanders. “It has disrupted people’s lives – driven them out of their homes and businesses and run up huge bills which many people simply cannot afford. Pure and simple: This has been a disaster for thousands of Vermonters. Let me just thank everybody who got on the line for this town meeting – the Vermonters who have asked the questions, the Governor, Sen. Welch, Congresswoman Balint, and all the folks at the federal and state agencies. Bottom line here is that we are going to have to all stick together, work together, and get out of this crisis as best we can and as soon as we can.”

Said Governor Scott: “I appreciate Senator Sanders for putting the call together. My team and I will continue to work closely with him, Senator Welch and Congresswoman Balint as we transition to the recovery phase of our response. We have a long road ahead, but I’m confident that working together, we will get through this and build back better than before. We are Vermont strong, and tough too.”

“It’s been incredibly inspiring to see how Vermonters have come to the aid of other Vermonters,” said Sen. Welch. “But at the end of the day, there’s a reality that folks face about their homes, about their businesses, about their farms. Can they hang on and keep going? Our job — all of us, the Governor, and the Congressional delegation — is to do everything that we possibly can to get you to the other side and to come out of this. We’re going to work together to do just that and to get you the support you need. I encourage everyone to document their losses and report damages to 2-1-1 so we can better understand your needs, and I’m grateful to Sen. Sanders, Gov. Scott, Rep. Balint, and our federal partners for coming together for this important event.”

Rep. Balint said: “Collaboration between federal and state government when our state is in need is so critical to get our communities to the other side of recovery. Thank you to Senators Sanders and Welch, Governor Scott, and the State officials for coming together to keep Vermonters up to date and informed. We will get through this together and the delegation will work tirelessly to make sure no Vermonters fall through the cracks as we rebuild.”

For flood resources, please see below: