With just nine days remaining to pass crucial legislation and avoid a federal government shutdown, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is closely monitoring the situation. An already strained FEMA budget, coupled with a congressional impasse over a bill to keep the government running past September 30th, when funding for federal agencies expires, is posing a significant threat to aid for communities in the midst of natural disaster recovery efforts.
FEMA finds itself in a financial crunch, leading to an indefinite halt in spending and reimbursement for certain long-term recovery projects.
Vermont Democratic Senator Peter Welch has expressed concern that while the funds will eventually be restored, the delay is affecting communities hit hard by natural disasters this summer, where FEMA assistance is urgently needed.
“We can’t afford to delay this, plain and simple. It is entirely unacceptable for us to withhold assistance from the people of Maui, Florida, and, in this case, Vermont,” Welch emphasized.
Both political parties acknowledge the urgency of replenishing FEMA’s disaster funding. Still, as Congress races against the deadline, the fate of funding for long-term projects remains uncertain.
Vermont, in particular, is still grappling with the aftermath of catastrophic flooding in July, and the impact of the funding squeeze on FEMA is expected to be deeply felt.
Mandy Lacefield, a resident of Johnson, Vermont, vividly recalls the harrowing moments when she, her teenage son, and her husband waded through waist-high water to escape their home.
“We would’ve been trapped in here,” Lacefield recounted.
Their once-beloved home now stands gutted and empty.
“Everything is destroyed,” she lamented.
The Lacefields are not alone in their struggle. Entire towns, villages, and communities in the state are wrestling with the financial burden of recovery, all while federal assistance remains uncertain.
In Johnson, the local post office operates out of a mobile van. In the vicinity of the state’s capital, the city of Barre is still grappling with the aftermath of landslides that decimated trees and threatened homes.
Nicolas Storellicastro, the city’s manager, described the floodwaters as “devastating” and “perilous,” turning streets into “rivers.”
For Barre, the cost of repairs is projected to reach millions of dollars, a substantial sum for a city with a budget of around $13 million. Storellicastro stressed the need for timely reimbursements from Washington, emphasizing that any delays would have a profound impact.
“For our local government, it would be devastating because we simply cannot front the funds needed to restore normalcy,” he emphasized.