Another day, another managerial faux pas from The Scott admini — sorry, there’s two of ’em this time.
We’ve got the sort-of discovery of money to partially restore the sudden and severe cut in the Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP), plus a very belated mandate that recipients of pandemic-related unemployment insurance must produce proof of their eligibility. Yeah, from two and a half years ago. Hope you kept your pay stubs!
The latest on the VERAP bungle is the news that they’ve found $20 million they can use to patch up the program a little bit.
Oh wait, they haven’t found it — they “anticipate” finding it.
And assuming they do find it, it will only postpone (slightly) what the administration says is inevitable: assistance cutoffs for thousands of households by the end of November. Even if that “anticipated” money comes good, roughly 3,000 households will see their assistance end [checks notes] nine days from now.
Also, future cutoffs are likely to arrive with less than 30 days notice.
Because the administration can’t predict any farther than that?
Gubernatorial candidate Brenda Siegel, who forced a reversal in administration cuts to the motel housing program last fall by sleeping outside the Statehouse steps for almost a month, sees the pattern: “a lot of jerking people around who are struggling” with all these short-notice cutoffs and last-minute policy changes.
Makes you wonder about the people minding the store at the Agency of Human Services, doesn’t it?
Meanwhile, AHS “plans to begin engaging with service providers and advocates” to discuss how best to end VERAP while minimizing the unphotogenic pain and suffering. “Plans to begin” sounds like the meetings haven’t been scheduled yet. No rush, I guess.
The belated demand for paperwork from Covid-related UI recipients seems to stem from the Labor Department’s original cockup: Its criminal slowness in ramping up the UI program to meet the flood of joblessness in the early months of the pandemic.
In its horribly understaffed response to the situation, the department allowed people to claim benefits without submitting proof that they qualified. Presumably that saved a lot of time processing and checking on said proof. Problem is, the federal government — which paid out all that money — insists on seeing that proof. So the Labor Department is passing on that requirement to the recipients.
To add insult to injury, the department can’t even correctly advise people on how to meet this retroactive mandate:
Many people haven’t responded to the department’s requests, [UI Director Cameron] Wood said, and those who do often don’t understand what they’re being asked to provide.
Even the department itself can’t easily define what it needs; what counts as proof of employment can depend on the type of work someone does
Even the department itself.
It’d be a joke, but thousands of recipients aren’t laughing.
This continuing cascade of managerial missteps has me wondering how many other snafus are happening that never come to the surface. Oversight of the administration is thin on the ground, and I suspect we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. If they can keep a problem under control and out of the press, they are likely to do so.
How often? Who can say. When will all of this tarnish Gov. Phil Scott’s reputation as a capable manager?
Yeah, Vermont, when?