TAKE ACTION: Public Hearings on the Governor’s Budget Proposal Monday 2/25
Four weeks ago Governor Phil Scott announced his recommended state budget for FY 2020, effectively “kicking-off” the appropriations and budget process in the Vermont House.
The Vermont House and Senate Committees on Appropriations are holding regional public hearings on the Governor’s Recommended State Budget for the 2020 fiscal year. There will be hearings
across the state on Monday, February 25, 2019 from 6pm – 7pm (5:30pm – 6:30pm at one location), and they’re an incredible opportunity to raise your voice in support of programs and initiatives you care about. Click here for details on times and locations, or see below.
ALERT: $1M cut proposed to VHCB — Request full, statutory funding at $21.8M While the Governor’s budget is only a recommendation and not law, it is still important to view the budget as a statement of priorities. To that end it is troubling that the budget includes a proposal to cut $1 million in funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, which funds vital affordable housing and conservation efforts throughout the state.
This proposed cut comes at the same time that increasing strength in the real estate market is generating record high revenues from the Property Transfer Tax (PTT), roughly half of which are supposed to go to VHCB by law. Increasing property values and transactions put pressure on affordable housing and land conservation. That is why lawmakers years ago dedicated a portion of the PTT to go to VHCB – to create more affordable housing and conserve our vital farms, forest lands, and important natural areas.
Please ask budget writers to provide full, statutory funding for VHCB through 50% of the Property Transfer Tax. For FY 20 this would mean approximately $21.8 million. Full funding would also offset the $1.5 million reduction in VHCB base funding that goes to repay the Housing Bond for 20 years. Across Vermont, there is a ready‐to‐go pipeline of community‐driven projects depending on the efficient and effective VHCB investment strategy. Without full funding for VHCB, many of these projects will be delayed for years.
Click here for additional talking points on VHCB.
ALERT: Support increases for State programs that reduce & prevent homelessness To help reduce and ultimately end homelessness in Vermont, we need increased investments in supportive services and housing-related financial assistance.
An estimated 180 federal rental assistance vouchers have been left on the table since 2012 because there isn’t enough funding for the supportive services needed to accompany them. This is more than the 139 Vermonters counted as chronically homeless statewide in the 2018 Point In Time Count.
Hospital emergency departments are seeing homeless Vermonters with mental health crises because they have no place else to go. A recent in-depth study showed that lack of housing precipitated the crisis for 75% of those interviewed and they stayed in the ER an average of 21 days, while those who weren’t homeless stayed only 4 days.
In many cases homelessness can be prevented through rental arrearage assistance. Legal Aid estimates that 42% of evictions for non-payment of rent could be cured with less than $2,000 each in back rent payments.
Ask budget writers to increase funding for proven homelessness reduction and prevention programs with successful outcomes, like Family Supportive Housing, the Housing Opportunity Program, Vermont Rental Subsidy program, and Housing First!
ALERT: Ask lawmakers to reject proposed cut that would dismantle SASH In addition, the budget proposes a $541,947, or 56% cut to Support and Services at Home (SASH), an innovative care program piloted in Vermont and now spreading nationwide. Current State funding for the program is $974,000. This is a very significant cut that would kill the program.
SASH currently serves roughly 5,000 of our lowest income older adults and people with disabilities at over 140 affordable housing sites all over the state. SASH participants realized an average savings of $1,227 per person per year in Medicare expenditures, and participants experience tremendous health improvements in the program. Without SASH, many seniors will end up in less independent housing or nursing homes at greater expense to the state. This is a model, Vermont-grown program which has received national coverage — something we should be proud of, not destroying. Ask appropriators to restore $541,957 to SASH.
Click here for additional info and talking points on SASH.
ALERT: Speak out against cuts to housing & supports for ex-offenders The Governor also proposes an $800,000 cut to the Department of Corrections Transitional Housing Program, which is essential to helping people who have done their time and fulfilled their debt to society to integrate successfully back into their communities. With this funding, local, community based programs provide transitional housing, housing search and retention services, and/or other reentry supports including mental health, substance abuse and employment services. This cut comes on top of over $280,000 in cuts during the current fiscal year, for a total two-year reduction of just under $1.1 million. The Administration says the local programs being cut or elimi
nated are either underutilized or not achieving desired outcomes. However, the overall program should not be cut as long as we still have hundreds of prisoners out of state and inmates in-state who have served past their minimum sentences but are still in jail because of lack of housing. Ask appropriators to restore $1 million to DOC Transitional Housing.
ALERT: Tell lawmakers to reinvest “caseload savings” in families on Reach Up The FY20 budget contains $3.2 million in reductions to the Reach Up program, a combination of caseload reductions, cuts to community programs and other “savings.” This comes on top of $4.36 million in Reach Up “caseload savings” and related reductions in FY19.
For at least the last ten years the maximum grant has been set at 49.6% of the 2004 cost of basic needs.
In today’s dollars, families are given only about 35% of what they need to meet basic needs.
The last time Reach Up had a cost of living adjustment was in 2004.
The Reach Up “housing allowance” is a mere $198 a month, $223 in Chittenden County.
Even if adjusted to 100% of need, the Reach Up benefit would only be at a subsistence survival level for families with children. Reach Up is fundamentally a program designed to ensure that children are safe, warm, sheltered, clothed and fed. Scooping “caseload savings” out of the budget is essentially taking much needed funds away from children living deep in poverty.
Ask budget writers to reject the concept of “caseload savings” in the Reach Up program and reinvest every penny available into the benefits for families with children. When fewer families with children need Reach Up, the funds allocated should be used to increase the benefit for the current and future recipients and invest in supports that help families get off Reach Up.
Click here for additional info and talking points on Reach Up
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If you’d like to learn more about VAHC’s legislative priorities, go here.
We hope that you’ll consider attending one of these public hearings – your input is invaluable to making sure legislators know what issues you care about the most:
Morrisville – People’s Academy High School, Auditorium, top of Copley Avenue
Rutland City – Rutland Public Schools, Longfellow School Building, Board Room
St. Johnsbury – St. Johnsbury House, Main dining room, 1207 Main Street
St. Albans City – St. Albans City School, Library, 29 Bellows Street
Winooski – Community College of Vermont, Room 108, 1 Abenaki Way
Springfield – Springfield Town Hall, 96 Main Street, 3rd Floor Conference Room (Selectmen’s Hall) 5:30-6:30 p.m.
For more information about the format of these events, or to submit written testimony, contact Theresa Utton-Jerman or Rebecca Buck at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or at 802-828-5767 or toll-free within Vermont at 1-800-322-5616.