Scott gives 30 days to the hotel program | New

A paid program for several hundred homeless Vermonters to live in hotel rooms got a stay from the governor on Tuesday.

The program was due to end later this week.

“I got the team together this morning and said we should have a 30 day break to think about how to get everyone back on the same page and give us the opportunity to re-engage. and to make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons, ”Gov. Phil Scott said. “We thought we were all on the same page, we all had the same goal, but it seems to be breaking down as we get closer to the date, so I thought it was a good idea to take a break for 30 days and we’ll come and get everyone together.

The governor said details had not yet been worked out, but the administration planned to work with people in the program to find financial assistance for more permanent housing.

On Monday, Vermont Legal Aid and other homeless advocates held a press conference calling on Scott to extend the benefit. It was a follow-up to a letter he sent to Sean Brown, commissioner of the Department for Children and Families.

According to the letter, the 84-day deadline for the general emergency housing assistance program should be revised for several reasons. Among them are the rise of the delta variant of COVID-19; the fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency extended its 100% cost share until the end of the year; and the shortage of rental housing available in Vermont.

About 541 Vermonters would lose the advantage on Thursday, Vermont Legal Aid argued.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Scott was asked, given FEMA’s expansion, why wouldn’t Vermont continue to offer this benefit until the end of the year.

“Again, I don’t think this is good for those involved in the program in general,” Scott said. “We talked about it a lot before. There is a need for enveloping services; they do not always receive this attention when they are somewhat isolated in hotels and motels. There is less capacity in some hotels and motels, especially at the start of the tourist season. So there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account with this, so what we want is to do what’s best for everyone involved and we’re not sure that’s the right approach.

Scott said the state will need to be creative to meet capacity needs, but said he hopes some program participants will use incentives to leave him and find permanent housing.

For many, this program ended in July, but was extended for eligible people with disabilities.

Many homeless advocates were delighted to hear Scott’s announcement on Tuesday.

“I thank the governor and his staff for making the important decision to extend the housing assistance deadline and to give the Ministry of Children and Families and our community partners more time to identify housing solutions. for people in need, ”said the Speaker of the House. , Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, in a statement that followed shortly after the press conference. “I firmly believe it is important that we continue to monitor the situation as the extension deadline approaches, and extend the deadline further if we feel we need more time to create housing solutions. “

Her Senate counterpart, Pro President Tem Becca Balint, D-Brattleboro, was also excited to hear about the extension.

“If we end this program now without additional planning, vulnerable Vermonters will be heading into the woods with tents. This is the reality of the situation on the ground, ”she said in a statement.

She said that several months ago, when a compromise plan was agreed with the Scott administration and other stakeholders, those speaking were unsure of what the current state of the pandemic would be.

“They didn’t know that the ongoing health crisis would have such an impact on housing in our area that we would have virtually no housing available in many communities,” she said. “It is not enough to offer these homeless people in Vermont extra money to find permanent housing if there is no housing available. “

She said the break would leave some time for a new deal to be reached.

“On behalf of our clients, we thank the advocates, including youth advocates, lawmakers and people with lived experience who have joined our call for this extension, and in doing so, have sent a powerful message to the Governor Scott on who we are as a statewide community. Vermont Legal Aid attorney Mairead O’Reilly said in an email. “Shelter is a basic necessity that no one should be without. And this pandemic continues to teach us that when we avoid evictions and homelessness, our communities are stronger, healthier, safer and more prosperous. “

If someone is denied the 30-day extension, O’Reilly said she should call Vermont Legal Aid at 1-800-889-2047.

keith.whitcomb @ rutlandherald.com


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