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Vt. gets grant to better use online resources

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- The state of Vermont is getting a $1.8 million federal grant to help businesses, farms, towns and nonprofit groups use online resources to help respond to disasters such as the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, Vermont's congressional delegation announced on Friday.

The Vermont Council on Rural Development will use the funds for a $2.2 million effort that will offer an array of online tools, broadband infrastructure and counseling for 25 communities hit by flooding.

Interested communities will be asked to apply for the funding from VCRD.

"Irene had a devastating impact on Vermont's physical infrastructure - especially our roads, bridges, houses, businesses and town halls. But virtual infrastructure helped some communities recover more quickly," said Sen. Patrick Leahy. "Vermonters depended on social media, online message boards and websites to find a meal, find a place to sleep or find a way to the nearest gas station that had power. "

Meg Allison, librarian and technology teacher at the Moretown Elementary School, said online tools like the local news site Front Porch Forum were key in providing information to residents affected by Irene.

"In Moretown, the connections we developed through Front Porch Forum gave us an instant ability to share news of flood conditions, to mobilize resources in our recovery, and to provide support for each other, neighbor to neighbor," she said.