State aims to raise more money to help Vermont flood victims

Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 7:03 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2023 at 7:08 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - As the weather gets colder and the holidays approach, state officials say there are still dozens of flooded homes without heat and businesses that haven’t reopened. Now, the state is looking to shift fundraising efforts into overdrive.

The Quirky Pet in downtown Montpelier-- like other businesses-- took on four feet of water in July.

“This store has been my life for 12 years, and it was just chaos,” owner Cindra Conison said.

Conison has spent the last four months mustering up funds from all over: a Small Business Administration loan, state grants and money from Montpelier Alive made possible by donations this summer and fall.

Over the next six weeks, Gov. Phil Scott wants to “sharpen” Vermont’s flood recovery efforts.

“The way you showed up from the summer into the fall is a testament to the strength of our communities and our resilience, but again, there’s more work to do and more money to raise to help those recover,” said Scott, R-Vermont.

He says he wants to double the $1 million raised already through the Vermont Strong license plates, and by selling Darn Tough socks and Vermont Gloves.

Proceeds will be split between businesses and the Vermont Community Foundation for home repairs, other household needs, food and mental health for flood survivors.

“There’s a ton more work to do and there’s an incredible need,” said Dan Smith of the Vermont Community Foundation. “Especially as the weather turns and people are living in challenging conditions in their homes and work.”

And businesses like the Quirky Pet. The need for business assistance is immense. A state grant program has paid out an average of more than $30,000 to some 500 businesses.

Back in Montpelier, Conison says she was able to keep sales going by diversifying and selling a new catnip product.

She says she is getting ready to open this week. But even then, some say Montpelier isn’t fully back until the greater business community has recovered.

“We feel the world for them and we’re not open, really open until everyone who wants to open is open,” said Richard Sheir of Montpelier.