A fund to help low and middle income Vermonters pay to fix failed septic systems or wells is already seeing a lot of interest, according to the state.
The program was announced late last week, said Adam Miller, Environmental Compliance Division director for the Department of Environmental Conservation, on Monday. At that time, 170 applications had been received.
“It’s using money from the American Rescue Plan Act,” he said. “It’s specifically targeted to provide financial assistance to low to moderate income Vermonters that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and have issues with on-site septic systems or wastewater systems, or their drinking water wells.”
Miller said Gov. Phil Scott had asked for $3 million for the program, but the General Assembly only approved $1 million, for now.
“We anticipate additional funding for future fiscal years but for this fiscal year, it’s just $1 million in financial assistance,” he said, adding that the administration is fairly confident more funding will be approved for it later.
Applications for the grants can be found online at bit.ly/0308Water, along with more information regarding the program and how to sign up for a webinar to learn more which takes place March 18, noon to 1 pm
There are two tiers of eligibility, Miller said. Tier one is for households making less than $65,000 a year. Folks in this tier may have the complete cost of designing and permitting a new well or septic system covered, up to $5,000. The same goes for actual construction, up to $20,000 worth.
Tier two is households with incomes between $65,000 and 200% of the median household income, which right now is about $120,000. These households can have half of the cost of design and permitting paid for, up to $2,500, and half of the construction cost, up to $10,000.
Miller said that for those in tier one, the program will pay for the work directly, while for those in tier 2, they pay the cost up front and get their grant as a rebate.
The program is only for residential homeowners. Landlords can apply if they live in the building they rent out and only have up to four units, he said.
He said that a separate grant program aimed at mobile home parks is expected to be announced soon.
The department estimates that 30% of Vermonters use wells or springs, while 55% of homes and businesses use on-site septic systems. In both cases, less than 1% fail in a given year. The past two years, however, have seen the number of failed septic systems increase by 30%. It is theorized that with people staying home more from the pandemic, more stress was placed on residential septic systems.