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The economic effects on Vermont from Tropical Storm Irene are still being calculated and the full impact may never be known. But even without final numbers, it is clear that the storm’s overall effects are significant and unfavorable. The storm destroyed a great deal of personal wealth and public assets, and changed many lives forever. Prior to Irene, the current nationwide recession and tentative local economic conditions had already deeply affected Vermont’s economy, with retail, tourism, agriculture and the housing sectors all targets of the downturn. About 225 businesses contacted the Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s (ACCD) 828-3211 line immediately following Tropical Storm Irene.
The majority of the calls were referred both to FEMA to encourage registration and to VEDA to determine whether the impacted business might qualify for a disaster loan. Following the spring flooding event, VEDA set up a loan program that helped 39 businesses in Vermont with loans totaling $1.4 million. After Tropical Storm Irene, VEDA launched a similar program and increased the loan limit to $100K. VEDA has approved 305 loans totaling $14.9 million; 249 loans were commercial loans and the remaining 56 approved loans were aligned with agriculture. We continue to work with the federal Economic Development Agency (EDA) on determining more accurate impact numbers – particularly in the hardest hit areas.
Vermont farmers face hardships similar to other business owners. All told, statewide agricultural losses due to Tropical Storm Irene are estimated at $10 million. The potential value of feed damage – mostly to an estimated 120,580 tons of corn silage – is still unknown due to fermentation and the potential for molds within harvested feed. If all feed were to be condemned due to poor fermentation and high levels of mold, the cost to replace the feed would exceed $8 million.
As noted, livestock farms lost feed for animals, which can affect income over time. Vegetable and fruit farmers lost direct income from the loss of product inundated with flood waters.
Statewide, flooding damaged over 400 acres of land producing fruit and vegetables which is estimated to approximate $2.24 million.
This income loss decreases the reserves that fruit and vegetable farms use for spring-planting needs.
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