MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont 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 October 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, a Republican, 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 Affairs, said that, in the last 18 to 19 months, the state has committed more money to housing than it ever has. That includes $144 million to Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to distribute for building purchases and other affordable housing-related projects. He said it’s more complicated than just releasing federal funds, and that what the governor has proposed in the latest plan needs vetting.
“Determining what those projects are and where they have to be isn’t just simply releasing the money,” Stevens said. “We’re going to continue. We know that the money exists in the [American Recovery Plan Act] funds and we’re going to continue to look at projects and processes that will result in more housing.”
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