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After record-setting wet year, flood relief money starts making its way to Hartford

Flooding causes farmers to lose their crop along the Connecticut River in Rocky Hill and Glastonbury, CT.
Dave Wurtzel
/
Connecticut Public
Flooding causes farmers to lose their crop along the Connecticut River in Rocky Hill and Glastonbury, CT.

A Connecticut program is now providing financial relief to some residents impacted by flooding in Hartford. But one advocate says the state still needs to do more.

Lawmakers last year approved $5 million for the Hartford Flood Compensation Program, which provides financial relief to qualifying residents to compensate them for flood damage that’s occurred since Jan. 1, 2021.

Sharon Lewis, a resident of Hartford and head of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, said she’s lost irreplaceable heirlooms due to continued flooding in the city’s North End.

Speaking on Connecticut Public’s “Where We Live,” Lewis said flooding has made her home uninhabitable for over a year and that the new state program doesn’t cover many of the expenses incurred.

“I spent $28,000 staying in a hotel for seven months,” Lewis said. “Can't find a place to put that on the application, can't find a place to put our relocation expenses.”

Hartford's North End sees frequent flooding. An aging combined water and sewer system, combined with high precipitation, both contribute to the issue. Last year was the third wettest on record for the greater Hartford area.

According to the Office of the State Comptroller, which administers the flood compensation program, 365 Hartford residents have applied for relief as of Jan. 18. Of those individuals, 121 have been approved for compensation.

Sharon Lewis, environmental advocate and affected resident shared her story of losing some of her most prized possessions, family heirlooms and her entire home due to over $100,000 worth of sewage flooding. She has been forced to live out of a hotel for over a month.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
FILE, 2023: Sharon Lewis, environmental advocate and affected resident shared her story of losing some of her most prized possessions, family heirlooms and her entire home due to over $100,000 worth of sewage flooding.

Currently, there’s over $4 million left to help affected residents — and there’s room to change what’s eligible for reimbursement in the upcoming legislative session, State Comptroller Sean Scanlon said.

“There are some tweaks that we hope the legislature will make to this program that can change it so that it can be nimble and accommodating to some of the things we've heard about throughout the first three months of the application process,” Scanlon said.

Property owners who don’t currently live in Hartford are not eligible for compensation, said Dave Altimari, an investigative reporter with the Connecticut Mirror. But Scanlon still encouraged all affected property owners in the city to apply, to help gauge the scope of those impacted by flooding.

As climate change fuels more damaging high precipitation events, Lewis hopes for a quicker solution for North End residents.

“In addition to these grants, perhaps provide loans to people that are not mired down and red tape, Lewis said. “Make it easy and simple for people.”

Hear the full conversation about efforts to address flooding in Hartford's North End on Connecticut Public’s “Where We Live.”

This story has been updated. Connecticut Public's Katie Pellico and Catherine Shen contributed to this report.

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla Savitt focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. Michayla has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that she was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.

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