Legislative leaders react to end of rental and utility assistance

Vermont Business Magazine Vermont Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski and Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint issued the following statement today in regard to changes announced by the Vermont State Housing Authority for Vermont’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP). The pandemic-era program supported by federal funding has paid out nearly $132.2 million and served 14,749 participants as of August 31. The rental program will stop taking new applications October 1 and funding will decrease until November 30 when they will cease. Utility-related assistance will continue until December 31, 2022, and then cease.

See detail below.

Krowinski and Balint: “In our conversations with Vermonters across the state, it’s clear that housing is their top concern. Access to affordable housing, safe and healthy rental units, and housing supports for Vermonters experiencing homelessness come up in nearly every conversation.

“Many of the federally-funded programs to help Vermonters make it through the pandemic, and ongoing recovery effort, were designed to be temporary support systems. One of these programs, Vermont’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP), has been incredibly beneficial to Vermonters, but we knew that it would not be available in perpetuity. However, the changes the Administration announced today are unexpected, and may create serious problems for many renters who were relying on continued support to get back on their feet.

“We know that many of Vermont’s pre-existing services will still be available to those in need, and we appreciate the Administration’s efforts to prioritize funding to protect those currently in transitional housing in hotels and motels, and to help extend benefits through the winter months. However, we are very concerned that the proposed changes happened without consulting an engaged group of stakeholders who have been working on these issues for years. Collaborating with those with lived experience and those in direct service is essential to reduce the impact of these changes and to make long-term plans for how we support Vermonters across the housing spectrum.

“We’re also concerned that as members of the legislature, we still don’t have clear and detailed information from the Administration about how we arrived at this point, how many people will be impacted, and what other supports are available to Vermonters during this transition. There has been significant progress made in getting Vermonters into stable housing, and we don’t want to see that progress eroded. We’ll be focused on monitoring the ongoing implementation of these programs and helping Vermonters access resources. We will also work with our community partners to strengthen long-term planning for how best to support those facing a housing crisis.”

Vermont State Housing Authority

Following are the changes that will be implemented to VERAP beginning October 1, 2022

  1. VERAP will STOP taking new applications for Rent and Other Expenses Related to Housing.
  2. Utility applications will be accepted through December 31, 2022.
  3. Participants who receive rental assistance (such as Section 8) will no longer be eligible for assistance.
  4. Existing VERAP participants (those applying to VERAP prior to 10/1/22) will receive reduced assistance dependent on income, according to the following schedule.
    1. Participants with incomes between 31-80% of Area Median Income:
      1. October 1, 2022, assistance will be reduced to 70%
      2. November 1, 2022, assistance will be reduced to 50%
      3. Assistance will end November 30, 2022
    2. Participants with incomes at 30% of Area Median Income and below:
      1. October 1, 2022, assistance will be reduced to 70%
      2. Assistance will be provided until funding is gone.
  5. Applications for the Benefits of Other Expenses Related to Housing are Impacted as follows:
    1. Except for Stipulation Payments, New Applications will not be accepted after 9/30/22
    2. All Health and Safety Repair projects submitted and approved before 9/30/22 must be completed by 11/30/22 to be eligible for funding.
    3. The process and eligibility requirements for Stipulation Payments is under development
  6. Participants receiving Utility Benefits are impacted as follows:
    1. October 1, 2022, assistance will be reduced to 70%
    2. Utility assistance will be provided for invoices dated up to December 31, 2022
    3. All utility payments will end December 31, 2022

VERAP. 8.31.2022