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Candidate faults Vermont governor for rosy FEMA forecast

Randy Brock watched as Jeb Spaulding answered questions about FEMA funding on Wednesday.

Toby Talbot/Associated Press

Randy Brock watched as Jeb Spaulding answered questions about FEMA funding on Wednesday.

WATERBURY, Vt. — Governor Peter Shumlin’s administration misled lawmakers and the public about how much federal aid the state was likely to get for rebuilding after Tropical Storm Irene, state Senator Randy Brock, a Republican candidate for governor, said Wednesday.

Standing outside the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury, which was closed by flooding from Irene, Brock ­asserted that administration officials provided overly optimistic assessments to lawmakers during the past winter and spring about how much aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be available to Vermont.

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He said e-mails between state and FEMA officials, newly released by the administration in response to public-records requests, indicate that Shumlin’s aides had information they weren’t sharing with lawmakers when they were writing budgets that incorporated hoped-for FEMA funding this past spring.

‘‘I’m saying that based on the information that was released yesterday, there were clear warning signs that funding was in jeopardy, and that that information should have been disclosed to the Legislature at the time we voted, and it wasn’t,’’ said Brock.

Administration secretary Jeb Spaulding said the state received unofficial assurances from FEMA that the agency would supply most of the estimated $120 million needed to replace the state hospital and redevelop a state office complex that surrounded it.

In June, a month after the Legislature adjourned, FEMA officials told their state counterparts that the process of applying for and receiving FEMA funds would be far more complicated than earlier thought, Spaulding said, adding that the administration informed the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee when it held a summer meeting in mid-July.

For example, Spaulding said it was only in June that the state learned from FEMA that much of the funding to replace the state hospital might be in jeopardy because the building was heavily damaged, but not destroyed, in the flood.

‘‘Was I confident that FEMA would participate substantially in the state hospital replacement plan? Yes I was,’’ Spaulding said. ‘‘Did the information change? Yes it did, and we reported that to the Legislature.’’

E-mails show the state pressing the federal agency during the winter for assurances of funding as the Legislature wrote its general fund and construction budgets for the coming year.

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