New fund aims to knock down the cost of heating systems for flooded Vermonters

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 6:01 PM EDT
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - More money is on the way to help Vermont flood victims get back into their homes and stay warm this winter.

Communities hit by the floods are playing beat the clock to install home heating systems before the snow flies. A new program looks to speed up the recovery process and help get heating and electric systems back online.

Tim Jarvis owns several buildings in Barre that were hit hard by the floods. Fifteen of his units suffered heavy damage. The buildings are still busy with contractors in a race against Mother Nature.

“Even though they are installing the water tanks, we have to make sure the electricians can get in there and do the job in their permitted time because they pulled the permit to get this done,” Jarvis said.

He’s been at ground zero in Barre every day for almost two months planning the rebuild, ordering materials and utilities, lining up labor and logistics. Across all of his units, it will cost tens of thousands of dollars for heat pumps, boilers, electric panels and more.

“We’ve got our cabinets ordered. Half of them are backordered, so we’re waiting on them,” Jarvis said.

Mounting costs for homeowners in a tight labor market.

But just down the street, an announcement of some relief on the way-- $36 million in redirected state and federal funds to help Vermonters get back on their feet, with a package of programs and rebates to replace critical home infrastructure for low- and moderate-income Vermonters.

Some 500 Vermonters have filed claims with FEMA to repair heating systems and officials say this will help beyond FEMA assistance.

“Dollars that are ready to go toward heat pumps, hot water heaters and electric panel upgrades so Vermonters can participate in the clean energy transition as we move forward,” said Peter Walke of Efficiency Vermont.

The workforce remains a challenge, so leaders are also highlighting a statewide contractor registry and greenlighting licenses for out-of-state contractors to work in Vermont.

“We are doing our best to provide all the tools we have available, think outside of the box and provide new solutions,” Vt. Deputy Secretary of State Lauren Hibbert said.

Back at the work site, Jarvis says any help knocking down the price of utilities is welcome because, under new regulations, he and others have to be creative in their rebuilds, placing electric and heating equipment above the floodplain.

A flurry of work trying to bring displaced Vermonters home before the winter.

Next Wednesday, the community in Barre is also beginning a broader community discussion on how people are recovering from the flood and what the long-term future should be.