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State offers advance disaster aid to some Vt. towns - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

State offers advance disaster aid to some Vt. towns

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JERICHO, Vt. -

In Vermont, construction season follows mud season. Road crews in Jericho can't wait for the calendar to turn again.

"I know the highway guys are looking forward to winter. Pushing snow's a lot easier than dealing with all these repairs," said Todd Odit, the Jericho town manager.

Planned construction projects are on hold as crews scramble to repair sections ravaged by recent rain. Odit says they're not done calculating damage costs, but the bill will likely be $150,000-$200,000.

"Just when we started getting stuff wrapped up from the May storm, we had the June storm. And then as we're sort of getting stuff wrapped up we had the July 4th and 5th storms, so we've kind of been chasing our tails," Odit said.

At a press conference in Montpelier Wednesday, Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, said the state should float towns that receive disaster declarations from Federal Emergency Management Agency. Beth Pearce, D-Vt. Treasurer, says regularly scheduled payments from the state to communities can be made several months earlier than they're due, giving areas more cash to work with in the near term.

"Our goal is to get these monies out to the towns when they need it most. Waiting for that money costs the town in terms of borrowing, it costs the towns in terms of stress. We want to be there to help," Pearce said.

Vermont can make nearly $40 million in early payments, though Pearce says current and estimated need only amounts to about $6 million.

Early state payouts will allow communities to rebuild before FEMA disaster assistance arrives. When it does, the money will refill funds drained by road repairs.

"The rainy day fund has really been a rainy day fund," Odit said.

Odit says Jericho's financial situation is not dire, but he plans on applying for early payment so crews can get rolling on planned projects, not just emergency fixes.

The state first used this method of increasing liquidity in the wake of Irene when elected officials authorized $155 million in early payments. In order to qualify a community must have a disaster designation from FEMA. So far, that's only official in Underhill and Jericho and those communities have not heard whether June and July's follow-up storms will be covered.

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