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Rep. Rebecca Holcombe's
special panel on
VERMONT'S HOUSING CRISIS
Wed. Nov. 15, 2023
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Rep.Rebecca Holcombe 


Windsor Dems Annual BBQ. Aug 27, 2023
(turn the sound on in the right lower corner of video)

Flood
Update

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Our region was spared the worst of the flooding, but our hearts go out to neighbors across the state.

 

We are all grateful for our local town crews, who worked long hours to check on people, clear damage and reopen roads.

 

The damage is significant and widespread.

 

The storm closed 136 state roads and an untold number of local roads. In communities across the state, homes and businesses have been flooded. 

President Biden approved the Governor’s request for a major disaster declaration for Vermont, enabling assistance to individuals and communities affected by the flood.

 

The declaration includes funding from the federal Public Assistance (PA) and Individual Assistance (IA) programs.

 

The PA program provides communities with a minimum of 75% reimbursement for emergency storm repairs to public infrastructure.

 

The IA program supports individuals affected by the disaster in seeking reimbursement for necessary expenses and serious needs.

 

Residents of Windsor County were already eligible to apply for IA, and as of today, residents of Orange County are as well.

 

Links to apply are at the bottom of this message, along with links specific to farmers. 

You can and should report damage online at this link.

 

If you need help, you can also reach out through your local Emergency Management Director.

 

See the contact information by town below. 

How to respond? 

We are at the beginning of a long process of recovery.

 

While we are grateful for the federal support, it is also true that federal assistance will not cover all damage.

 

Much of the aid will come in the form of low interest loans, not grants.

 

While federal emergency rental assistance may be available to those who have lost their homes, people must find places to rent in order to access this assistance.

 

The flooding made our existing lack of housing even more acute, underscoring that many Vermonters are just a flood or emergency away from homelessness.

I spoke to a colleague today who is aware of 35 families in Montpelier who are currently unhoused by the storm.

 

Moving forward, how will we house people in weather-related emergencies if we already lack enough housing for people facing emergencies?

 

In Johnson, the municipal wastewater treatment center was destroyed for the third time in 25 years and is now releasing untreated sewage into the Lamoille River.

 

How can we build back differently with our eyes on long term resilience?

 

In Hardwick, I saw a hotel that had fallen into a river and heard about the over 100 loads of fill that were used to patch just one hole in the road.

 

How do we rethink infrastructure for a climate-altered future?

 

While the devastation of Montpelier has been in the news across the nation, how do we make sure we are also lifting up less visible and less

wealthy communities like Barre?

These are all questions we will be grappling with in the coming months.

 

Being clear-eyed about the impacts of climate change on our infrastructure and our agriculture will help us get back on our feet more quickly.  

 

Paying attention to our housing shortage and the needs of Vermonters in less wealthy or more rural areas will keep our people safe. 

As you or the people you are helping put in claims, remember that floods are generally not covered under traditional insurance policies, nor are earth movement such as land slides.

 

You must specifically have a flood insurance policy to have coverage in a flood.

You may remember that during the 2011 flood named Irene, business loss of income coverage often happened because of utility endorsements on a policy.

 

Coverage in a traditional policy enacts even during a flood if the power company cannot provide power to you.

 

Most in the state maintained power through this storm, so are not eligible for this protection.  

Every person who experienced a flood loss must complete the process of requesting a claim through their insurance company AND receive a denial letter to be presented to FEMA.

 

FEMA requires this to begin processing claims.

 

Again, you need to be denied in order to have your FEMA claim processed. 

 

As people work to recover, I share the experience from a colleague whose house now has rocks piled to the roof on the backside, and a stream running through the living room.

  • She said, “if I had to be evacuated from my home, and am now considering a rebuild, I need to ask myself:  “what will my method of evacuation be the next time?” 

  • There are no easy answers here, but the probability is there may be a next time.

 

  • Buyouts are an option, but a typical buyout at 75% leaves little, and of course, given the shortage of housing, it is hard to get back into a home, let alone a home that is affordable. It is also possible some people will end up with mortgages bigger than their payouts.

 

  • My colleague’s rivers and streams specialist, through tears, recommended a buy out.  As he said, “We keep working against the flow of Mother Nature. We need serious planning to work with it.” 

 

We all have some work to do on strong and smart measures to mitigate future disasters.

 

We can make the future better and enter it prepared, but only if we move forward with eyes open and ready to adapt to the reality of what lies ahead, rather than what we remember of the past. 

Experiencing a traumatic event, especially on top of the trauma of the last few years, can catch up with people.

 

If you or someone you know would benefit from support in response, you can use the contacts at this link to Vermont Partners intake and crisis lines to find support or text 741 741 to get connected to support. 

Here is a useful guide from Vermont Public on the FEMA aid process.

Resources for help and opportunities to volunteer (at bottom)

A list of recovery and disaster assistance resources can be found at https://vem.vermont.gov/flood.  

 

Resources for Individuals

  • 3SquaresVT Replacement Benefits: If you experienced a "Household Misfortune" such as a flood or power outage lasting over 4 hours and lost food, you may be eligible for replacement benefits. Report the loss within ten days of the incident. More information here.

 

 

  • Vermont 211: Report damaged homes and access resources by dialing 2-1-1 or visiting Vermont211.org.

 

  • Flood FAQs: Visit the Vermont Emergency Management website for frequently asked questions related to flooding: VEM Vermont Flood FAQ.

 

  • Mold Cleanup Guide: If you choose to clean up mold yourself, ensure your safety by following the CDC's mold cleanup guide available at cdc.gov/mold/cleanup-guide.html.

 

  • Guidance for Vermont Flood Recovery, Health, and Safety: Stay informed about health and safety guidelines related to flood recovery by visiting healthvermont.gov.

 

 

Resources for Businesses:

  • The Small Business Association (SBA) Vermont District Office encourages small businesses to download a copy of the Vermont Small Business Development Center’s Disaster Recovery Guide for Business.

 

 

  • Vermont 211: Report damaged properties and access resources by dialing 2-1-1 or visiting Vermont211.org.

 

  • Flood FAQs: Visit the Vermont Emergency Management website for frequently asked questions related to flooding: VEM Vermont Flood FAQ.

 

  • Guidance for Vermont Flood Recovery, Health, and Safety: Stay informed about health and safety guidelines related to flood recovery by visiting healthvermont.gov.

 

Resources for Farms/Agriculture:

  • UVM Drone Assistance for Farmers: The University of Vermont has a drone available to help farmers survey flood damage. Schedule assistance by emailing uas@uvm.edu.

  • Guidance for Flood-Damaged Crops and Hay: Contact UVM Extension for guidance on managing flood-damaged crops, hay, forage, and corn. Reach out to Heather Darby at heather.darby@uvm.edu or call 802-782-6054 or 802-656-7610. Visit uvm.edu/extension/nwcrops for additional information.

  • Farm First: Access free technical, legal, financial, and mental health services for farmers at Farm First. Visit farmfirst.org or call 1-877-493-6216. 

 

Resources for Volunteering/Donating:

Note:  If you help with cleanup, please take care to protect your health.

 

Floodwater silt is toxic and can become aerosolized - wear good masks and eye protection.

 

Wear strong gloves and waterproof footwear.

           

Make sure your tetanus shot is up to date.

           

Bathe thoroughly after contact with flood water or silt.

           

See a licensed healthcare provider if you develop rashes or other symptoms.

 

 

  • Montpelier Volunteer Opportunities: Explore volunteer opportunities in Montpelier through Montpelier Alive by visiting their volunteer form.

 

 

 

  • The Vermont Main Street Flood Recovery Fund promises to issue grants to small businesses affected by the disaster. The fund's board includes State Treasurer Mike Pieciak and Sue Minter, executive director of Capstone Community Action in Central Vermont.

 

 

  • Please note that these resources are subject to change, and it's advisable to check for any updates or additional information through the provided links or by contacting the respective organizations.

 

Together, we can help our state recover and rebuild from this natural disaster. -Rebecca

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End of Session State House Update

 

The 2023 legislative session is over.

 

On June 20th, we reconvened to override Governor Scott’s multiple vetoes, including his veto of the state budget.

 

We also passed a companion bill that protects the people harmed most by our housing crisis. We tasked the Governor with prioritizing keeping people housed and provided him with the flexibility and resources to do so.

 

We also now require the administration to collect and share data that can be used to track and verify housing needs AND their progress on spending hundreds of millions of budgeted dollars to create new affordable housing. When the legislature reconvenes next January, we can check on progress and address any gaps in the FY24 Budget Adjustment Act. 

 

The budget we passed represents a significant investment in re-knitting our wellbeing and social infrastructure, from expanding capacity in assisted living and nursing homes to building affordable housing and emergency shelter, from taking action on climate to investing in child care.

 

We made investments to keep people safe, including investing in: E-911 and emergency dispatch, updating our state IT networks and critical infrastructure, addressing staffing shortages in our judiciary system to help with court backlogs, funding the important social equity work of Vermont’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Land Access and Opportunity Board.

 

We made a long-overdue increase to Department of Motor Vehicle fees that have not been adjusted to keep pace with inflation since 2016. This means we can close the gap in the Transportation Fund, which pays for critical fixes to our roads and bridges.

 

Every bill is a compromise, but we took strong steps forward on housing and the environment, on essential social safety nets and on protecting basic rights. 

And of course, we have more work to do. We look forward to hearing from you over the summer and fall. 

Read our full end of session report here

Read our full Town Meeting report here.

 

Watch the latest video from the state house here.

 

Rebecca Holcombe

Representative Windsor-Orange 2

Norwich   Sharon    Strafford   Thetford

Rebecca on the Budget

"Our numbers are people and the work these people do is our purpose" - Holcombe, Appropriations Committee

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J

I’ve been so energized by my conversations with you on the sidelines of little league games, at your doors, at the dump, and over seedlings at the farmers market. 

I’ve heard over and over from you that we live here because we love it, but high costs and lack of housing and child care make it expensive and hard to stay. If regular people can’t afford to make our communities home, we risk becoming museums, with more weekenders than people raising kids. 

For some of you, protecting our communities means continuing to lead our transition to green, local and renewable energy. There is no future for Vermont that is not green, local and renewable.

But we also need to put our shoulders together and push on hard issues like housing, child care and giving everyone a fair chance.

We all know people who couldn’t live here because they couldn’t find or couldn’t afford housing. We all know seniors who are anxious about whether they can continue to afford their homes.

This leaves many seniors stressed, families frustrated, and our region short of health care professionals, child care educators, green energy technicians,construction workers, and employees for our region's businesses. 

To live here, young people need to be able to work. I chaired the Norwich child care committee last year. We learned from families and child care workers that we need state leadership and regional coordination to manage this market. Otherwise, some towns may be left without options, some families may not have child care at all, and our child care educators may not earn enough to provide for their own families.

I know the difference between treating symptoms and treating causes, and I’ve worked with the budgets that represent almost a third of our state’s expenditures. I saw first hand how shifting the costs of mental health from the state budget to school budgets raised property taxes and left gaping holes in the state’s fragile mental health system. 

NEWS

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