Gov. Peter Shumlin said today that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will reimburse the state for $4 million in Irene-related expenses for work performed by National Guard units. The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) successfully appealed a decision of the FHWA that would have made those expenses ineligible for reimbursement under the Emergency Relief program. FHWA is now allowing eligible emergency repair work performed by the National Guard to be reimbursed under the relief program when such work is not otherwise funded by another federal government agency.
"National Guard troops were vital to Vermont's recovery effort, saving lives and property in the hardest-hit areas, and helping with road and bridge repair," said Gov. Shumlin, noting that Guard troops from other states rolled into Vermont immediately after the Tropical Storm slammed the state on Aug. 28 with critical transportation assistance. "We appreciate the federal reimbursement and recognition that National Guard help was deserving of funding and support."
The Governor said this change in policy -- recognizing that States should be reimbursed for the work of Guard troops when assisting state transportation crews in appropriate tasks -- will be important for other states moving forward.
Transportation Secretary Brian Searles agreed, adding, "The National Guard units deployed were an integral part of our recovery operation and we are pleased that FHWA has chosen to recognize and value that contribution appropriately. I am pleased that the diligence and persistence of our team here at the Agency has paid off in this matter."
FHWA's November 2009 Emergency Response Manual stated that because the National Guard does not fall within the range of agencies specifically authorized to perform "force account" work, those funds could not be used to pay for Guard services. FHWA now has determined that a state transportation agency may use the workforce of another entity to supplement its own workforce so long as the supplemental workforce is under the state transportation agency's direct control. They will be revising the next edition of their manual to reflect this change.