WATERBURY – With continued uncertainty over whether or for how long Congress will approve funding for the Department of Homeland Security, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont public safety officials today outlined impacts of a shutdown for Vermont. If funding is not approved by midnight tonight most divisions of the federal agency will suspend operations. While Congress is considering a short-term fix, the administration seeks a long-term solution given the importance of the Department.
“What Vermonters expect is for Congress to do its job,” said Gov. Shumlin. Noting that Vermont’s Congressional Delegation has worked hard to urge Congress to pass a longer-term funding bill, the Governor continued, “Homeland security is the last place where Congress should be playing partisan games. This has gone on long enough. It’s time for Congress to pass a long-term bill to fund this important department.”
Vermont Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Joe Flynn has been in contact with officials from the Department of Homeland Security this week to determine what impacts a furlough of homeland security workers could have in Vermont.
Emergency planning, preparedness, response capabilities and day to day operations will NOT be affected at Vermont DEMHS. Emergency Management Planning Grants for the operational functions of DEMHS and Homeland Security Grant Program funds have already been received by the State from DHS. A shutdown could impact some sub-recipient grant funding to Vermont cities and towns. And programs such as the Assistance to Firefighter’s Grant (AFG) will likely be delayed. Many Vermont fire departments have benefited from AFG over the years.
Most visible impacts to Vermont would be a result of furloughs at FEMA. Vermont recently received a major disaster declaration for FEMA Public Assistance following a severe winter storm last December. If employees are furloughed FEMA would not open a Joint Field Office in Vermont nor begin processing PA applications – delaying reimbursement for Vermont communities.
Approvals of local Hazard Mitigation Grant Program projects (those that receive 75% federal funding to help communities reduce public infrastructure damage in future disaster) would cease during the shutdown. This will extend the wait times for dozens of HMGP projects – some dating back to Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
In the event of a new disaster during a shutdown, Vermont has been told that FEMA’s State Liaison Officer will not be sent to assist in coordinating federal assets the state needs during and in the aftermath of a disaster event. And should Vermont experience a disaster event FEMA will not conduct Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDA). PDA’s are an official accounting of damage sustained in a disaster. This assessment is used in determining if the state qualifies for federal disaster assistance. During a lapse in funding DHS/FEMA would acknowledge, but could not process a request from the Governor for a presidential declaration of a major disaster or emergency unless the request would be determined necessary for the protection of life and property.
When DHS funding is reinstated all grant and funding programs will resume, but lengthy queues and backlogs may likely be possible.
Scott Coriell, Governor’s Office: 802-353-1449
VT DEMHS: 800-347-0488