Hunger Free Vermont urges governor to not lift State of Emergency

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Hunger Free Vermont urges governor to not lift State of Emergency

Wed, 06/09/2021 - 5:17pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Hunger Free Vermont and 130 other Vermont businesses and organizations are urging Governor Phil Scott to NOT lift the State Emergency Order. Loss of funds tied to the declaration of emergency that are helping households afford basic needs in this unprecedented time would be detrimental to Vermont's economy and health.

Dear Governor Scott:

We are reaching out to request that you delay fully lifting the State Emergency Order to ensure the continued safety of vulnerable Vermonters until more complete plans are in place to expand State support for access to healthy food and safe housing. 

We applaud the efforts to ensure that gaps remain filled while work continues on more permanent solutions, and appreciate the leadership you and State agencies have provided in addressing the health, housing, and economic needs of Vermonters throughout the pandemic.  Our state vaccination rates are exemplary and will ensure protection from COVID-19 into the future.  However, while we share hope that many aspects of life are returning to normal, for many Vermonters, the emergency is far from over. And given Vermont’s dearth of low-income housing and a food insecurity rate of 1 in 10 prior to the pandemic, “normal” was never acceptable. The recovery for Vermonters with low incomes, for those experiencing homelessness, and for those facing hunger, will be slow.  Maintaining access to critical FEMA-funded programs supporting Vermonters’ access to basic needs like food, emergency housing, and more depends upon the continuation of a declared State of Emergency in some form. That support is essential.   

The economic impact of COVID-19 remains widespread and continues to severely impact communities across the state. Hunger remains higher than ever before and levels have not decreased in the past year; an eviction crisis still looms; hunger and housing insecurity also disproportionately affect families with children and BIPOC Vermonters. The increased vaccination rate and continual decrease in COVID cases are certainly cause for celebration, but most people in our state are still living in a state of emergency.  12% of Vermonters report that their children aren't eating enough because families can't afford food, and 23% are struggling to cover usual household expenses. Many remain unable to access newly available jobs due to challenges with childcare, transportation, and more. 12% report struggling to keep up with rent, and many others cannot find housing at all. The charitable food and shelter systems simply cannot be a sustained support for all of these needs.

The State of Emergency supports our businesses as well as the most vulnerable.  Since March of 2020, the Department for Children and Families Economic Services Division has issued over $45 million in emergency allotment benefits to 3SquaresVT households. These funds not only support the food budgets of nearly 70,000 Vermonters, but they stimulate our economy and support our local food retailers and farmers by keeping millions of federal dollars each month in our communities, especially during the summer and fall months when local food is abundant in stores and at farmers markets throughout the state.

The innovative and highly successful Vermont Everyone Eats program has distributed over one million meals purchased from local restaurants to Vermonters across the state through 134 distribution sites. We join you in celebrating this initiative’s triple-impact approach, as it supports local businesses, farmers and growers, and food access. Restaurant owners across the state have shared that this program is the primary reason why they have remained in business and not had to lay off their staff members. Hundreds of people, in particular older, disabled, and homeless Vermonters unable to otherwise access food, are depending on this innovative program right now. Continued funding for Vermont Everyone Eats is also tied to the continued state of emergency declaration.

Loss of funds tied to the declaration of emergency that are helping households afford basic needs in this unprecedented time would be detrimental to Vermont's economy and health.   

We request that when reducing COVID restrictions to help open up our economy, you will also recognize the ongoing health and economic distress of many Vermonters and sustain key elements of the Emergency Order to protect Vermonters who are food insecure and facing homelessness. Specifically, we request ongoing support for prepared meals to eligible recipients of the GA Emergency Housing vouchers residing at hotels, a ramp down of the Vermont Everyone Eats Program that allows hubs and restaurants to continue to fill in the most critical regional gaps in meal provision, and your administration’s continued work to ensure the continuation of 3SquaresVT emergency benefit allotments for as long as possible. We believe that unless a new plan is in place to ensure all in Vermont can meet these two most basic needs, our entire recovery is jeopardized.

Thank you for your consideration of these requests, and for your ongoing work to ensure not only a strong recovery from this pandemic, but a future in which all Vermonters’ most basic needs are secure.  

Sincerely,

The 130 undersigned Vermont businesses and organizations: 

ACORN Network

Actors Theatre

Another Way

Arlington Food Shelf, Inc.

Aunt Dot's Place

Barre Congregational Church

Bethany Bowl Free Community Meal

Bethany United Church of Christ

BHA/Meals on Wheels of Central VT.

Brandon Area Food Shelf/Brandon Senior Citizens Center

Brattleboro Housing Partnerships

Burke Senior Meal Site

Burlington Children's space

Burlington Housing Authority

Butch + Babe's

Cabot Village Store

Capstone Community Action

Cathedral Square

Centre Congregational Church

Champlain Islands Foodshelf

Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity

Christ Episcopal Church, Montpelier

Colchester Community Food Shelf

Community Development

Community of Vermont Elders

Cornerstone Restaurant Group

CVTNOW Central Vermont chapter National Organization for Women

Deacons of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont

Disability Rights Vermont

Downstreet Housing and Community Development

Duxbury Elf Food Shelf

East Calais Community Trust

Edible Brattleboro

Episcopal Deacons of Vermont

Feeding Chittenden

Feeding The Valley Alliance

First Presbyterian Church of Barre

Food Connects

Franklin Grand Isle Community Action/CVOEO

Full Ladle Community Meal, Montpelier

Good Samaritan Haven

Grandmas Spanish kitchen

Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services, Inc. (GBICS)

Green Mountain United Way

Groundworks Collaborative

Guilford Cares, Inc.

HANDS (Helping and Nourishing Diverse Seniors)

Hinesburg Food Shelf

Holland Food Bank. Abenaki Helping Abenaki Nulhegan Abenaki

The Hunger Councils of Vermont

Hunger Free Vermont

Hunger Mountain Co-op

Jay Foodshelf

John Graham Housing & Services

Lamoille Community Food Share

Lamoille Community House

Lamoille Family Center

Lamoille Health & Human Services Resourse Command Center

Lamoille Health Partners

Laraway Backpack Program

Laraway School

Listen Community Services

Little Rivers Health Care, Inc.

MARK BBQ / Everyone Eats

Milton Family Community Center

Montgomery United Methodist Church Food Pantry

NEKCA

New Community Project

Northeast Kingdom Council on Aging

Northeast Kingdom Human Services Inc.

Ottauquechee Health Foundation

Our Place Drop-In Center

Pine Forest Children's Center

Pingala Café

Putney Foodshelf

Randolph Area Community Development Corporation

Randolph Area Food Shelf

Reading/West Windsor Food Shelf

Red Panda Essex

Richmond Community Kitchen

Richmond Food Shelf

Richmond Food Shelf and Thrift Store

Roxbury Food Shelf

Rutland Free Clinic

Screamin' Ridge Farm, Inc

ShareMRV

Sheffield Food Pantry

Showing Up for Racial Justice, MIddlebury

SNA-VT

South Royalton Health Center

Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA)

Spectrum Youth and Family Services

Springfield Family Center, Inc.

St. Augustine Free Community Lunch

St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Vergennes, VT

Sustainable Woodstock

Sweet Alchemy

The DREAM Program

The Giving Fridge

The Health Center, Plainfield

The Intervale Center/Vermont Everyone Eats

The OVERLOOK CAFE

The Rutland Salvation Army Community Center

The Salvation Army

The Skinny Pancake + ShiftMeals

The Veterans’ Place Inc.

The Woods Lodge

Thetford Food Shelf

Tomorrow's Builders

Townshend Community Food Shelf

UCM Monday Community Lunch

United Way of Northwest Vermont

Vermont 211

Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition

Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance

Vermont Foodbank

Vermont Legal Aid, Inc.

Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council

Vital Communities

Voices for Vermont's Children

VT Episcopal Deacons

VT Works for Women

Waterbury Area Senior Center

Westgate Housing Inc.

Williamstown Food Shelf

Winooski Housing Authority SASH

Wolcott United Methodist Church

Worcester Food Shelf

Zenbarn

Source: Hunger Free Vermont hungerfreevt.org 6.9.2021