Irene disaster fund needs millions more to fulfill requests for aid

Governor Shumlin and David Coates, head of the Vermont Long Term Disaster Recovery Group. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Gov. Peter Shumlin and David Coates, head of the Vermont Long Term Disaster Recovery Group. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

In a press conference Tuesday to bring attention to the one year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28, Gov. Peter Shumlin, flanked by representatives from the Irene Recovery Office, the Mad River Long Term Recovery Group and the Vermont Long Term Disaster Recovery Group (LTDRG), acknowledged that challenges remain for the state’s recovery efforts.

Shumlin and the recovery group representatives touted their successes, but they also admitted that they are $6.4 million short of settling the requests for assistance — 700 and counting — in their queue.

David Coates, chair of the LTDRG, summed up the state’s Irene recovery efforts.

“I guess I have some good news and I have some bad news,” he said.

The good news, according to Coates, is that, as of Aug. 6, the state has sold 27,000 “I Am Vermont Strong” license plates, raising over $490,000 for the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund.

“This is all in the bank,” Coates said. (In April, Shumlin reported 25,000 “I Am Vermont Strong” plates had been sold, when, in fact, 25,000 was the number that had been put into the distribution stream.)

Officials hope that license plate sales will bring in another $500,000.

“I would just urge everyone to buy a license plate,” Coates said.

Shumlin also was encouraging sales of the plates.

“I am going to be promoting and selling ‘I Am Vermont Strong’ license plates to anyone who will buy them. I know I personally bought three two weeks ago,” Shumlin said.

Some $3.6 million has been raised, including the $490,000 from the license plates. The LTDRG has distributed $1.6 million of that to 128 “cases” during the past year. Cases are applications for financial assistance submitted to the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund on behalf of individual households with recovery needs that haven’t been adequately met by FEMA or personal insurance.

The bad news, Coates said, is that 700 cases remain and more applications are expected. In fact, 100 of those cases have come in within the last few weeks.

The average disbursement per case is $12,000, which means that approximately $8.4 million is needed to address the current caseload. LTDRG has $2 million left over from $3.6 million previously raised.

Given the current caseload, resolving 128 cases over the past year may strike some as an lackluster achievement, it was noted at the press conference.

Coates explained that cases take a long time to reach his committee because they must first pass through FEMA and private insurers but he said that once they do reach the LTDRG, they are promptly addressed.

“We are the fund of last resort,” Coates said.

Coates hopes additional contributions will arrive from other sources as well. Rotary International recently donated $412,450 to be distributed to affected counties by community action agencies.

“We certainly are going to have to go out to the community at large and individuals to raise those kinds of funds,” Coates said.

Shumlin emphasized, “We need to continue to be generous with our dollars.”

Coates said a golf tournament fundraiser with Vermont native and 2011 PGA champion Keegan Bradley is being held Aug. 27 at the Woodstock Inn & Resort to raise funds for the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund but he did not cite other specific fundraising efforts.

Alicia Freese

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  • The funds to make Irene victims whole can be found by reducing the extremely excessive subsidies for producing expensive energy with capital-intensive wind and solar systems.

    Almost all summer there has been no wind. To tie Vermont’s economy to wind energy is beyond rational.

    Destroying fragile, pristine, CO2-absorbing ecosystems on top of Vermont’s ridge lines to build expensively-subsidized wind turbines with a lifecycle-cost-of-energy, LCOE, of 10 c/kWh (subsidized) and 15c/kWh (unsubsidized) is beyond rational, as ample CO2-free energy is already available at about 6c/kWh from Hydro-Quebec under long-term contracts.

    These projects exist as tax shelters for the rich to avoid income taxes. What they pay less, others, who are much less wealthy, have to make up for. There is no free lunch.

    Federal subsidies are:

    – 30% of the capital cost of $25 million as a gift.
    – production tax credit of 2.2 cent/kWh for 10 years,
    – 5-yr accelerated depreciation write-offs,
    – PLUS state subsidies that also reduce their state income taxes.

    All enable the top 1% of households that “invest” in such project to avoid federal and state income taxes for many years.

    Households and small businesses, already stressed because of the nearly-no-growth economy and declining household incomes and business profits since 2007 get “rewarded” with increased electric bills to pay for the expensively-produced wind energy that does not reduce CO2 emissions anywhere near to what is claimed by promoters, such a Shumlin, Blittersdorf, wind turbine vendors, etc.

    Read these articles and you will be much better informed about wind energy.

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