Reflections: A year of Flood Crisis and Recovery

By Sue Minter, Executive Director

As we approach the 1-year anniversary of the historic flooding that devastated so many communities, many challenges persist. Despite thousands of volunteers and millions of dollars invested in supporting flood survivors over the past year, too many families remain displaced from their homes and waiting on recovery plans. In the Central Vermont communities of Barre, Montpelier, and Johnson, there are both hopeful signs of recovery and continued struggle. While many businesses have reopened, others have closed or are still inching back with open doors yet fragile margins. Tremendous progress has been made to support flood survivors and address future flooding, but the hard truth is that recovery efforts take years to complete. Vermont has moved through a phase of “immediate response”, is in an active “recovery” state, and will face the prospect of years of “long term” recovery.

Capstone’s work to support affected residents is more active than ever in this recovery phase with our long-term case management program. Funded by a FEMA-funded Disaster Case Management grant our case managers and construction coordinators work with local Long Term Recovery Groups (LTRGs). They connect with individuals and families in need of help to develop recovery plans and seek assistance from the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund. Although the work is slow and arduous, we continue to make a difference in the lives of still struggling neighbors. We know that people facing economic hardship are disproportionately impacted by natural disasters and face the greatest barriers to recovery in the aftermath of this flood. Capstone’s work has deepened as many of our low-income clients navigate multiple challenges of high prices for food and rent, along with the burden of high costs for home repairs and recovery.

For all of us, the message is clear – we continue to face the threat of extreme weather across our state. For many this threat is very real and deeply traumatizing. Climate change is here and it is real. Our world needs to adapt to the “new normal” with urgency and resiliency. By reimagining communities with extreme weather in mind and reducing fossil fuel dependency, we can adapt. That is why Capstone has expanded its focus on climate justice. Our work weatherizing homes now includes opportunities for transitioning to more sustainable heat sources. Our financial and energy coaching helps clients navigate the complexities of financing clean energy transitions. We currently support flood survivors with more flood resilient and green energy based rebuilding plans. Lastly, we have transportation programs to help our clients finance efficient used vehicles or secure rides in an all-electric vehicle.

We thank all our donors and volunteers who stepped up in extraordinary ways to support their neighbors through disaster. Capstone is here for the long haul, doing our part to help our communities become more resilient and be part of the solution for our future.

Please join your neighbors at one of these upcoming flood anniversary events:

Montpelier: Flood the Streets with Art

Barre: 2023 Flood Anniversary Commemoration

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