Home Commentary A Note from Your Legislators: Vermont Flood Recovery: A Look at What’s...

A Note from Your Legislators: Vermont Flood Recovery: A Look at What’s Been Done

Photo by John Lazenby.
By Vermont State Reps. Jonathan Williams and Peter Anthony (Washington-3, Barre) and Reps. Conor Casey and Kate McCann (Washington-4, Montpelier)

As the 2023–2024 legislative session comes to a close, it’s important to reflect on the progress made to aid Vermont’s recovery from the devastating floods of July 2023. The Vermont Legislature has been hard at work addressing the aftermath of this natural disaster, aiming to support communities and bolster resilience for the future.

In the wake of the heavy rains that caused over $1 billion in damages and disrupted countless lives, Vermonters have been grappling with the long-term effects of the floods. However, steps have been taken to alleviate some of these burdens and prepare for similar events in the future.

One significant achievement has been securing much-needed funds for municipalities. With millions of dollars allocated in Local Economic Impact Grants, towns facing budget shortfalls because of the floods are receiving assistance. Additionally, measures have been implemented to streamline processes for municipal aid distribution and property tax abatement, easing the financial strain on affected communities. Barre City received $1 million dollars, and Montpelier received $750,000 through this act.

In the new state budget, there are $5 million dollars budgeted on contingency for flood-impacted businesses, and $3.5 million for raising flooded homes. This is a far more economical way to preserve housing, rather than building new structures. In total, more than $40 million dollars have been allocated to flood response this year. 

In terms of emergency planning and response, legislative efforts have focused on enhancing the state’s readiness. This includes codifying the Emergency Management Plan and conducting thorough reviews of past responses to identify areas for improvement. The state will seek to ensure better communication during emergencies (e.g., 2-1-1 and VT-ALERT), and will work to improve access to assist vulnerable populations such as those with disabilities or limited English proficiency. 2-1-1 will also operate 24/7. 

Flood safety measures have also been prioritized, with legislation passed to integrate wetland conservation with downstream community protections. By identifying flood hazard areas and implementing mitigation strategies, Vermont aims to minimize future risks and align with national standards for flood insurance. Additionally, the management of dams is being restructured to enhance safety and emergency preparedness.

Infrastructure resiliency is another key aspect of the recovery effort. Best practices for building and repairing structures have been outlined, with a focus on minimizing flood risks. Moreover, grants are being provided to towns to improve critical infrastructure through a new Community Resiliency and Disaster Mitigation Fund. 

While much has been achieved in the realm of flood recovery and resilience building, there is still more work to be done. The support and collaboration of legislators, advocates, and community members have been instrumental in advancing these efforts. By continuing to prioritize preparedness and proactive measures, Vermont can better navigate future challenges and safeguard the well-being of its residents.