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New plan to help Vt. homeowners hit by Irene - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New plan to help Vt. homeowners hit by Irene

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JAMAICA, Vt. -

"It was three stories, two full baths," David Kaneshiro said.

And now, there is nothing but a shed left of Kaneshiro's house. The home was one of four on Water Street in Jamaica completely washed away by Tropical Storm Irene. Kaneshiro says the nightmare didn't end there; he has spent years dealing with FEMA.

"I couldn't believe how unorganized everything was," Kaneshiro said. "And information we were getting was conflicting even between FEMA workers."

At first, the four families were approved for FEMA buyouts, but the decision didn't hold. He says they have been playing the waiting game, and two years later, he still lives in a rental apartment with no answers.

"FEMA turned the light off at the end of the tunnel of hope. But now with this new program that we are working with, I think there is the light at the end of the tunnel again," Kaneshiro said.

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced plans for the state to buyout flooded homeowners-- like those on Water Street-- who don't qualify for FEMA and are still homeless.

"Because our congressional delegation has brought us additional federal money, $21 million, to help rebuild from Irene, we're going to be able to use those dollars along with private dollars from the Stratton Foundation and others to help get them their 75 cents on every dollar in a buyout, that other Irene victims are getting," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

The plan calls for the town of Jamaica to pay the 25 percent that federal money will not cover. And the land must be turned into public green space. In order to turn the four lots where the houses used to stand into a useable green space, the town could pay upwards of $200,000.

"The town doesn't have any money left. We are operating on empty now for months, so it's not a done deal yet," said Paul Fraser, a Jamaica selectman.

The town is still trying to fix $5 million in road damage, but says helping Water Street families is a priority.

Kaneshiro has his fingers crossed for a place to call home.

"I hope to find something on higher ground," he said with a laugh.

No specific details have been released regarding the plan and the town of Jamaica and families applying for the aid will have to wait several months for more information.

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