State of Vermont
VLIAC Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council
“Celebrating 42 years of representing the interest of low income Vermonters”
The 2014 Vermont Legislative session began today on Tuesday, January 7, 2014.
This year the legislature will face a $70 million dollar plus deficit and both the Shumlin Administration and legislative leaders have indicated that they will urge the legislature to exercise “fiscal constraint” once again. It appears that any increase in revenues being called for will be saved for the funding Vermont’s Health Care System beyond 2015.
This year could prove to be even more challenging then the past seven years of austere budgeting, due to the reduction of federal funding, the State having used most of its surplus dollars, and one time funding monies that have been applied to cover budget gaps during the past few years.
This pass session, the legislature made a number policy changes in Human Service programs in the effort to reduce spending, called for in the Governor’s Budget proposal. However, reducing the budget allocation did not change the increasing needs. Those needs are evident in in the Budget Adjustment (BA) proposed legislation that the House Appropriations Committee has already begun to take testimony on during the first week of December.
The most striking increase called for in the Budget Adjustment is a request for an additional $3.2 million dollars in the General Assistance (GA) program for temporary housing assistance. The GA funding was reduced to $1.5 million in the fiscal year 2014 budget, by attempting to restrict eligibility through rules changes, but advocates spoke out against the new system and the administration recognized that the changes would put a number of Vermonters in peril.
Although the State has continues to invest in affordable housing and has made some community investments in homeless prevention; federal section 8 housing vouchers have been cut, wages have not kept up, and there simply is not enough affordable housing in the State, so the need for emergency housing assistance is still increasing.
The State has put the “cart before the horse” in a number of programs that make up that make up the “safety net” for the most vulnerable Vermonters. Programs like Reach-Up, Crisis Fuel, LIHEAP and 3 Squares VT, have been reduced by the state or federal government, eligibility has been restricted, and/or mistakes have been made by the state that beneficiaries are being held responsible for repaying.
VLIAC will be focused on maintaining the safety net for poor and low income families in Vermont this legislative session, but will also work to promote those policies and initiatives that help eliminate the barriers to employment, address the root causes of poverty, and invests in the economic future of all Vermonters.
Save the Date – April 4th VLIAC/UCC Day at the Legislature
BY ALICIA FREESE VTDIGGER, DECEMBER15, 2013
Gov. Peter Shumlin told Democratic lawmakers to “plow the ground” for single payer this year and “take the criticism, take the bullets,” before tackling a financing mechanism in 2015. He asked them hold off on new tax proposals until then....