Hey, remember that group of six lawmakers who said they wouldn’t support a veto override on any FY24 budget that didn’t provide funding for the motel voucher program and a transition to more permanent housing?
Well, their number has grown to 32, which is far more than enough to doom any override vote. And they seem determined. In a memo released today, they laid out the parameters of an acceptable plan, and it’s a solid piece of work.
CORRECTION. 32, now 33, have signed on to the memo. All agree on the plan, but most have NOT promised to block a veto override. This will all depend on what comes out of budget negotiations.
Their plan would include a $32 million appropriation to keep the voucher program going, mandate a transition plan to move people steadily from motels to longer-term housing, instruct the Scott administration to negotiate lower rates for the vouchers (something they should have done long ago), expand the list of “vulnerable populations” eligible for vouchers, and expand the Adverse Weather Conditions policy beyond wintertime to include late fall and early spring.
UPDATE. The House-Senate conference committee has reaffirmed its commitment to end the voucher program in a quick and discussion-free session. It was condescension at its finest. What’s worse is just as this was happening, I got a fundraising text from the Vermont Democratic Party asking me to help them fight “Phil Scott and extremist Republicans.” Well, I’m sorry, but on the voucher issue, the Democrats are not one whit better than the governor. In fact, the committee made it clear that they’d worked with the administration — not with housing advocates — on finalizing its housing budget plan. So remind me again, if I give to the VDP, what exactly can I expect to get?
The memo is attached below. In addition to the 30 signatories, Reps. Noah Lyman and Peter Anthony are also on board. The budget conference committee is meeting this afternoon and is likely to consider its own housing plan. We’ll see whether it fulfills the conditions laid out by the Rebel Alliance.
DATE: May 10, 2023
Chair Senator Jane Kitchel
Chair Representative Diane Lanpher Senator Richard Westman
Senator Andrew Perchlik Representative Theresa Wood Representative Robin Scheu
FROM: Undersigned members of the House
RE: Pending crisis of mass unhousing
The mass eviction of 1800 households, more than 2500 people, is a humanitarian crisis. A crisis caused not by natural disaster, but by the willful indifference of a handful of leaders across state government making decisions that will unquestionably harm people. We know that the money is available to appropriate. This is a moral and political problem, not a money problem. We know that there is a better way forward. The legislature has an opportunity to create a humane transition plan for Vermonters facing an immediate loss of shelter as the COVID era rules for the General Assistance Emergency Housing program come to an end.
Expediting the placement process for individuals with chronic health issues and other needs is not a meaningful solution when there is still a concomitant crisis of capacity at long term care and skilled nursing facilities. These facilities lack enough beds or staff to support these individuals. Currently there are 125 patients waiting in hospitals because there is nowhere else to go. Hospitals are acutely aware that unhoused individuals enter emergency rooms for shelter, care, and food, and are currently preparing for the increased pressures from the sudden displacement of hundreds of Vermonters.
We call for this committee of conference to:
- Immediately stop the plan to unhouse mass numbers of individuals and extend eligibility for Vermonters already enrolled in the GA Emergency Housing Program until the state creates a transition plan and/or other housing investments by budgeting an additional $32 million to extend the program.
- Create a plan to methodically transition Vermonters from the GA Emergency Housing Program to alternative longer term housing at the rate of 100-200 individuals per month, which reflects the current transition numbers and allows towns to adequately prepare to receive people in their communities.
- Instruct the administration to renegotiate lower rates with motels/hotels and consider purchasing motel/hotel properties that would be suitable for mid- to long term housing while we continue to establish affordable housing across the state.
- Allow an expansive list of vulnerable populations to access temporary housing. This would include, among other categories, individuals experiencing domestic violence, households with children under the age of 18 or a pregnant household member, and/or individuals with chronic health issues, severe mental health challenges, or substance use disorders.
- Codify the Adverse Weather Conditions policy and expand the eligible weeks individuals can access the program from November 1 to May 1 each year.
Rep. Mari Cordes, RN
Rep. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak Rep. Caleb Elder
Rep. Monique Priestly
Rep. Connor Casey
Rep. Josie Leavitt
Rep. Kate Logan
Rep. Taylor Small
Rep. Saudia Lamont
Rep. Jubilee McGill
Rep. Mary-Katherine Stone Rep. Michelle Bos-Lun
Rep. Jonathan Williams
Rep. Ela Chapin
Rep. Barbara Rachelson Rep. Esme Cole
Rep. Kate McCann
Rep. Brian Cina
Rep. Mollie Burke
Rep. Angela Arsenault
Rep. Edye Graning
Rep. Troy Headrick
Rep. Heather Surprenant
Rep. David Templeman
Rep. Joseph Andriano
Rep. Michele Bos Lun
Rep. Brian Minier
Rep. Emilie Krasnow
Rep. Leonora Dodge
Rep. Jonathan Williams
Rep. Rey Garofano