FEMA’s 160 workers fill temporary employment gap

first_imgSome Vermonters saw their homes and cars swamped by this spring’s heavy rains and floods, while others saw their jobs or businesses swept away. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is helping put the state’s economy back on track, not only by providing financial assistance to families and businesses, but also by hiring residents in Vermont to help with the recovery efforts and spending money in the local economy.The agency has hired 10 Vermonters in various positions around the state, according to FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer Craig Gilbert, who noted that the roughly 150 workers at the agency’s Joint Field Office in Burlington are the equivalent of a large business locating there. “The positions are short-term temporary jobs working in numerous areas of the recovery operation, but they are critical to our efforts and to helping the state get back on its feet,” Gilbert said. “We take our responsibility to hire local people very seriously, and we’re delighted with the quality of workers we’ve found.”Vermonters have been hired to perform tasks ranging from inspecting damaged homes to performing administrative duties to reaching out to and signing up residents for assistance. “We really want to put local people to work, not only to help Vermont’s economy but to take advantage of their knowledge of the communities in which we are operating,” said Vermont Emergency Management Director Mike O’Neil.Bristol’s Kate Ash, hired as a Voluntary Agency Liaison Specialist, has been employing her local knowledge to assist community organizations, faith-based groups and voluntary agencies in communities affected by the flooding.  Ash, a 22-year-old graduate of the University of Vermont in 2010, was an intern in U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy’s office before coming to FEMA. In the senator’s office, she worked with the Vermont Council on Rural Development among other groups.Now she is working with other nonprofit and voluntary groups, including the Vermont Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, AmeriCorps, American Red Cross, Vermont 211, United Methodists, and Southern Baptists to help with the recovery efforts statewide.”Our primary goal is to help establish community-led groups who will be able to assist survivors with any disaster-related unmet needs long after federal teams have left the state,” she said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to use my local contacts and for the experience to promote the work of both local and national recovery groups throughout Vermont.”The Burlington Joint Field Office is expected to pump roughly $3.7 million into the local economy, which according to many standard economic models that use an $8 multiplier for every dollar spent, will result in nearly $30 million of local economic impact.”We not only purchase supplies and services, but our staff rent cars; stay in hotels; shop in stores and eat in local restaurants. They have their families come to visit them,” said Gilbert. “That adds up to a tremendous economic impact.”FEMA personnel have been in Vermont since late June, and are expected to remain in the state until late September or through October, though the number of people will be declining as work is completed.last_img