House spending committee seeks to extend emergency housing benefits through June
By Guy Page
The House Appropriations Committee has recommended extending emergency housing benefits for another three months, from April – June. The allocation is included in the budget adjustment act now under consideration by the Legislature.
As the Legislature grapples with how much assistance to offer homeless people, and for how long, neither lawmakers nor the Scott administration seem intent on asking emergency housing assistance recipients to actively address (if possible) the root causes of their homeless status.
At present, the State of Vermont does not require people receiving emergency housing services to address the causes of their homelessness. Services are offered, but there’s no requirement they be accepted.
That’s what Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday, January 24 at a press conference when asked directly by Vermont Daily Chronicle.
The Legislature has been taking testimony on the causes and solutions for Vermont’s persistent homelessness issue.
Not all homelessness has a ‘root cause.’ Vermont suffers from an acute housing shortage. Many hard-working Vermonters simply can’t find available housing. It’s a huge issue, both in importance and in the sheer number of opinions about why people are homeless and how the State should help.
But here’s what we haven’t heard yet: whether people receiving emergency housing services are required to work on any challenges that resulted in their being homeless.
According to House General testimony last week, reasons people need emergency housing include (but aren’t limited to):
– domestic abuse
– mental illness
– substance abuse
– unemployment or underemployment
– failure to pay rent
– transition from incarceration
– inadequate housing supply.
Gov. Scott emphasized his administration offers people assistance in addressing individual’s reasons for homelessness. And he’s right. State social workers offer many assistance programs for the abused, mentally ill, and substance-abusing population.
But require emergency housing recipients access these services? See video for his detailed answer, and apologies for the sketchy sound quality. But in a word: no. “I don’t know that we have any specific requirements,” Gov. Scott said. An administration official backed him up, saying that services are offered, but are not required.
Protecting abuse victims from lawsuits – The Vermont House Wednesday, February 1 gave initial approval to H45, protecting stalking and abuse survivors from abusive lawsuits.
Abusive litigation occurs when “the party who is filing, initiating, advancing, or continuing the litigation has been found by a court to have abused, stalked, or sexually assaulted the other party,” the bill says. It will be up for third and final reading today.
Forestry operation expenses doubled last year – Randolph forester and former Dept. of Forest & Parks manager Sam Lincoln told the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee Wednesday his parts, repair and energy costs are all up over 100% in 2022.
“The profitability is elusive,” he said.
On the plus side, rising natural gas prices have increased demand for wood chips, he said.
Lincoln also laid to rest the myth that foresters are all about clearing virgin forest. In fact, most of his work involves managing forest that is in the Current Use program, which offers tax benefits in exchange for little or no development.
Universal school meals? Ag committee member says no – During the pandemic, the Legislature funded school breakfast and lunch for all public school students, regardless of income. Like many pandemic measures assisted with federal funding, the Legislature is considering whether to maintain universal school meals with state revenue.
Rep. Charles Wilson (R-Lyndon) says children in need must be fed, but universal school meals are not a good idea – not only for taxpayers, but in the long run, for the children themselves. Excerpts from a VDC interview yesterday:
“There is no such thing as a free meal. It’s teaching kids that you just come to school and get a meal, raising children with the idea that there’s free lunch. I mean, when it’s necessary, kids need to be fed. But it’s a parent’s responsibility. Everybody knows that there is no such thing as free lunch. Somebody is paying for that.”
Mayor will oppose Burlington civilian police oversight charter change – Mayor Miro Weinberger and local leaders from healthcare and service organizations, labor, and the local business community will hold a press conference at 1:45 pm Thursday, February 2 to express their concern and opposition of the proposed charter change on the Burlington Town Meeting Day Ballot that, if passed, would create a new independent department of the City for police oversight. If approved by voters, the charter change must be approved by the Legislature.
Non-citizen voting OKed by Vermont Supreme Court – Speaking of charter changes, the Montpelier and Winooski charter changes allowing non-citizen voting in municipal matters was allowed to stand by the Vermont State Supreme Court in a January 25 decision.
Deer weighing stations in decline – Deer hunting in Lamoille County remain strong, but it’s getting harder to to find a weighing station, the January 19 News and Citizen reports. The rural county is down to one weighing station – the Cambridge Village Market.
The main problem is staffing. A state Fish & Wildlife official says many stores running weigh stations are Mom and Pop affairs paid about $1/deer. The proprietors often can’t go outside to weigh a deer if there’s a customer inside.
Weighing stations are declining statewide but Lamoille seems the hardest hit, the official said.
And BTW – the biggest buck taken last year was an eight point, 216-pounder in Hyde Park by Edward Friedeich, the News and Citizen reports.
Categories: State Government