Vermont Congressional Delegation Sends Letter to FEMA Urging Improvements to Disaster Response and Individual Assistance Access

The Vermont Congressional Delegation, including Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Senator Peter Welch (D-VT), and Representative Becca Balint (VT-AL), sent a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell on May 9. The letter urges Criswell to work with Congress and the Delegation to improve disaster response ahead of future emergencies and address the many challenges Vermonters have faced in accessing FEMA Individual Assistance (IA) after devastating floods affected the state in July 2023.

In the letter, the Delegation thanks FEMA for the help it has already provided to Vermonters. However, the letter also draws attention to FEMA’s inadequate direct housing assistance, unclear application process, and insufficient technical assistance for impacted Vermonters seeking aid. The letter highlights multiple cases of failure on FEMA’s part to communicate not only with impacted Vermonters but also the Delegation itself.

According to the letter, following the flooding, FEMA worked in coordination with Vermont state officials to provide more than $23 million in housing assistance through the Individuals and Households Program (IHP). However, only 11 households in the state ultimately received any Direct Housing Assistance.

The letter asks FEMA to answer a variety of questions related to disaster case management, the Direct Housing Assistance program, and IA determinations. The Delegation implores FEMA to answer these questions and host a staff briefing by May 29, 2024.

Many, if not all, of the challenges raised in the letter are problems that have been cited by NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) in the past as indicating that systemic disaster housing recovery reform is urgently needed.

The Vermont Delegation now awaits FEMA’s reply.