Emergency motel housing in Vermont for homeless extended to Dec. 31

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Gov. Phil Scott on Monday extended emergency motel housing for some of the homeless population through the end of the year and urged the Legislature to fully fund his $249 million housing recovery plan that he says includes historic funding for permanent housing for the homeless.

In July, the state extended the hotel voucher program for families with children, the disabled, pregnant women and other vulnerable people, and gave $2,500 checks to those no longer eligible. Scott later moved to keep the program running for those people another 30 days, until Oct. 21.

“Those in GA Emergency Housing currently are some of the most vulnerable, including Vermonters with disabilities, families with children, and households who have faced chronic housing instability,” Scott said in a written statement. “Demand for emergency housing and shelter is a symptom of Vermont’s current housing crisis. Ultimately, permanent housing solutions, not simply emergency housing and shelters, are needed.”

As of last week, the Department of Children and Families was serving 950 families, representing 1,100 adults and 402 children, the administration said. Before the pandemic, the program provided emergency housing to about 2,500 Vermonters a year, officials said.

In April, Scott proposed that $249 million in capital funding be used for housing, requiring the Legislature to release an additional $179 million in federal pandemic relief funding, he said. On Monday, his administration released what they called a comprehensive plan for how the money would be spent, including for longer term motel rentals.

Vermont State Rep. Tom Stevens, a Democrat who is the chair of the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affair, said in the last 18 to 19 months the state has committed more money to housing than it ever has, including $144 million that went to Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to distribute for building purchases and projects.

It’s not as easy as just releasing federal funds and what the governor has proposed in the latest plan needs vetting, he said.

“It’s about knowing where the funds are going to go, how they’re going to be treated, what they’re going to be matched with and how do they fit under the ARPA (American Recovery Plan Act) regulations,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, the Vermont House Progressive Caucus released a statement calling on Governor Scott to use federal dollars and extend the GA housing program through the end of the year, and allocate state funds to extend it until a permanent housing is realized.

Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky said housing needs to be a priority investment in order to end homelessness.

“It seems unnecessarily cruel to keep stringing along weeks at a time or 30 days at a time when we could easily at the very least extend until at least the end of the year,” Rep. Vyhovsky said. “I would argue we should extend until we have permanent solutions and answers.”

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