As the community response to Tropical Storm Irene’s flooding moves from immediate relief efforts to long-term recovery, a committee has been formed to coordinate the response of multiple agencies and organizations to Windham County residents impacted by the disaster. With representatives from social service organizations, state agencies, faith-based groups and others, the purpose of the Southeastern Vermont Irene Long Term Recovery Committee (LTRC) is to oversee recovery efforts, including volunteer coordination, fund distribution, and the provision of case management and referrals for those in need.
United Way of Windham County provided the initial human services response coordination, but the long term recovery effort in support of individuals will require the coordinated engagement of a broad array of agencies and organizations. This includes incorporating lessons learned to better plan and prepare for the next time the Windham region experiences a disaster.
“A key responsibility of the board of the LTRC will be to oversee the distribution of the recovery funds donated in response to Irene,” said Sue Graff, United Way of Windham County’s Director of Community Investments. In the days and weeks after Irene’s flooding devastated the state, United Way of Windham County set up a fund to be the repository for donations intended to provide for unmet needs of affected county residents. United Way will be the fiscal agent of these funds, which will be distributed by the LTRC through a standard intake and application process, facilitated by social service agencies and trained volunteers.
As the fiscal agent of the fund, United Way will not vote on funding decisions. “These funds are specifically intended to address the needs that remain after FEMA money has come through, after immediate relief has been provided,” continued Graff.
The LTRC will also coordinate community outreach related to other resources and programs. “As a critical piece of the fund distribution process, we are making sure those affected by the flooding know about, and can access, the other resources that are available,” said Graff.
One such resource that is still available – until November 15th – is FEMA funding, which helps both homeowners and renters affected by Irene. Graff cited the common misconception that renters cannot apply for FEMA relief, and emphasized the fact that help is available for both. All affected Windham County residents are urged to register with FEMA by the end of the day on November 15 by calling 1.800.621.3362 or visiting www.disasterassistance.gov.
The Windham Regional Commission (WRC) has volunteered to serve as the convener of the LTRC. “The Commission’s focus has primarily been the coordination of activities among towns and state and federal agencies related to the recovery of public infrastructure,” said Dinah Reed, an Assistant Planner with the WRC. The WRC is well-suited to the facilitation of region-wide initiatives because of its close relationship with the 27 towns of the Windham Region and multiple state and federal agencies. “The human resource organizations and agencies have the lead on this effort because they have the expertise. The role of the WRC in this effort is to facilitate the bringing of these groups together so they can focus on the mission at hand,” said Reed.
As recovery efforts continue, volunteers are still needed for clean-up and rebuilding countywide. Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to call United Way of Windham County’s volunteer coordinator Deb Bunker, at 257-4011 x111. For more information about the Southeastern Vermont Irene Long Term Recovery Committee, contact Windham Regional Commission’s Dinah Reed at 802-257-4547 x109.