Please read this article in the Vermont Cynic.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 1, 2020
Monica White, Director of Operations, Department of Disabilities, Aging & Independent Living
Monica.White@vermont.gov | 802-241-0354
Older Vermonters and Family Caregivers Encouraged to Take Survey to Help Develop Plan on Aging
The Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living (DAIL) and Vermont’s Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) are conducting surveys to better understand the needs of older Vermonters and family caregivers and the services and resources available to them. What is learned from the surveys will help DAIL develop Vermont’s next State Plan on Aging and will help each AAA develop their regional plan. These plans are guiding documents that will outline our efforts to ensure all Vermonters can age well with dignity.
If you live in Vermont and are age 60 or older, please take a few minutes to complete the survey linked here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Vermontage60.
If you are a family caregiver of any age, caring for a Vermonter age 60 or older, you are invited to take the survey linked here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VTfamilyCG.
If you would prefer a hard copy of either survey, please contact Flint Springs Associates at (802)-482-5100. They will mail you a survey with a return addressed and stamped envelope.
All survey participants have the option to be entered into a raffle for a $50.00 VISA gift card.
The deadline to complete the survey is October 23, 2020.
“We know that Vermonters want to age well, and what you want and need to do that changes over time, and may have changed more during this pandemic,” says DAIL Commissioner Monica Caserta Hutt. “Let us know what’s working – and what we could be doing differently – in terms of meeting our mission to make Vermont the best state in which to grow old or to live with a disability – with dignity, respect, and independence. We value and appreciate your input.”
About the Department of Disabilities, Aging & Independent Living (DAIL):
Our mission is to make Vermont the best state in which to grow old or to live with a disability – with dignity, respect and independence.
Thank you, South Burlington residents for how you have taken the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. We have continued to heed the call for social distancing, and proper face coverings and hygiene and it is working. In the past week, we went from a projection of COVID-19 cases doubling every 12 weeks to now doubling every 40 weeks. As a result, based on science and data, the incremental reopening of Vermont’s economy continues with now limited retail, professional and non profit office openings to the and to lodging for Vermonters or those who have already quarantined for 14 days.. The web site of the Agency of Commerce and Community Affairs is where you will find the most up to date guidance as it is updated regularly.
As sectors of the economy reopen and Vermonters are called back to work, the need for Vermont’s childcare system to be operational again has become a top priority. Earlier in May, there was a ‘slow opening’ of facilities in order to allow the children of essential workers to transition back to their original childcare providers. More than 30 percent of Vermont’s regulated early care programs have been providing care to 1,800 children throughout the State of Emergency. Parents and caregivers are wrestling with competing priorities of workplaces that want them back quickly and school-aged children learning from home for the remainder of the school year. By June 1, they can be fully operational.
To help prepare providers, the Child Development Division, in coordination with the VT Health Dept., have released comprehensive health guidance for the state’s childcare programs, summer camps and afterschool programs to ensure the safety of the children and youth in their care. Additionally, $6 million is available for “restart” grants for a regulated childcare facility or day camp to use flexibly in preparing for the reopening their programs.
Some providers believe that the move to reopen is premature. Many are elevated in age, falling into the primary risk category for serious illness due to Coronavirus. They are also concerned about the impossibilities of social distancing in an environment with infants and toddlers. Likewise, cleaning/disinfectant supplies and PPE are still hard to come by as supply chains take time to reestablish themselves. The Human Services Committee continues to monitor this because It is essential that we continue to address the availability of care for children over the summer and beyond so that parents can return to work knowing that their children are safely cared for.
As this gradual reopening of the economy continues, the Governor and the Department of Health continue to make clear the importance of continuing to be vigilant. We must all continue to practice social distancing, wear a facemask, and practice proper personal hygiene. In addition, sheltering in place for those over 65, and those with underlying medical conditions in order to avoid serious illness continues to be the recommendation.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought unprecedented economic, public health, and social challenges that continue to take a toll on all of us and particularly our elders and those marginalized people who call Vermont home. As we turn towards recovery, we must keep these disparate effects at the forefront of our minds and ensure that no Vermonters are left behind. This is the focus of the Legislature and the Governor going forward. While life will be different, working together we will get through this – as a community, as a region, as a state, and as a nation.
Please join me and the other members of the South Burlington legislative delegation for our monthly meeting with constituents this Monday June 1 at 6:30pm. ( The box next to this article has the details for how to join us on zoom or you can also contact me directly….whether this sentence goes in depends on whether there is a box or ad next to this column) Hope to see you on my screen if not on my walks around South Burlington.
Finally, please feel free to reach out to me if I can be of any assistance through this at all.
We’ve crossed the one month mark since Vermont initiated sweeping actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 and we are now witnessing the annual renewal brought by spring, with its emerging flowers and greenery. Having been confined to our homes for weeks, it is not surprising that we are all anxious to get outside and resume our prior lives; nevertheless, the urge to shred winter’s isolation by jumping back into social activities must be tempered by following the Governor’s Emergency ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe” Declaration.
It is encouraging to see social distancing measures bending the curve of COVID-19. Relying on science and data, the Governor this week has begun to slowly ease some of the initial restrictions. Beginning this week, his latest order authorizes outdoor businesses and construction operations with crews of two or fewer to reopen. Additionally some single person, low personal contact professional services such as appraisers, realtors, attorneys and others are now allowed to conduct business if the specified requirements can be made. This latest order also requires that employees must wear a face covering (e.g.non medical mask, a bandana, scarf) over their nose and mouth.
As the legislature continues its work and hears from Vermonters, we are seeing the severe impacts of this crisis across the state in all aspects of our lives and we are charting a path forward.. Far too many Vermonters are going without pay and lack clarity on how to access unemployment; are isolated; are hungry. How will this change the way we do business? How will we protect the health and welfare of Vermont’s children, you and elders? What is our educational system going to look like when this is all over? As each committee meets, our focus right now is on those immediate legislative changes to deal with COVID-19 impacts.
The breakdown at the Department of Labor has been one of the major issues. The backlog of unemployment claims and the inability of thousands of Vermonter to successfully put in a claim even after hours and days of trying ultimately put too many Vermonters into financial and emotional distress. The steps the Department of Labor took weren’t enough so the Governor last Monday said the State would just issue checks for those who had not been able to get their claims processed. Normally, self employed individuals do not pay into the unemployment fund and so are not eligible for its benefits. However, allowing self employed individuals and independent contractors to be eligible for unemployment benefits was added as part of the federal CARES package that Vermont is now working on to implement. More information can be found at labor.vermont.gov.
Not surprisingly with the delay in unemployment checks going out and with a number of now unemployed workers ineligible for unemployment, the Economic Services Department saw more than a threefold increase in applications for cash assistance ( Reach Up) and for food assistance-(3Squares) as well as inquiries for assistance to their call center. The federal government outlines the rules for 3-Squares and Vermont along with many other states is seeking greater flexibility in order to ensure that individuals have access to the food they need even when they are isolating, are not able to get to the store or have no access to a kitchen.
Please join me and the other members of the South Burlington legislative delegation for our monthly meeting with constituents this Monday April 27 at 6:30pm. The box next to this article has the details for how to join us on zoom or you can also contact me directly. Hope to see you on my screen if not on my walks around South Burlington.
Social distancing will slow the continued spread and exponential growth of this pandemic dramatically. While this can be hard and scary and frustrating, I urge you to continue to pay attention to this and help everyone in our community stay well. Thank you.
Revenue and Spending: Focusing on Structural Changes
Developing a state budget is about much more than numbers. A balanced budget affects peoples’ lives, provides the backbone of our civic life and charts a path to our future. The budget and revenue bills we passed this past week reflect over ten weeks of testimony, analysis, public hearings as well as input from the policy committees. I heard from many of you and the diversity of perspectives in our community is what makes us vibrant. For some, this budget cuts too deep. For some it relies on too much revenue. Unlike the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, there may not be a “just right”… but there is compromise. You expected us to work together and unlike Washington we did.
In crafting a budget the Appropriations Committee was faced with an enormous gap between anticipated spending and revenue of $113 million. How did we get there? Like many other states, when the recession hit, our priority was getting people through the worst of it with short terms solutions and the help of federal stimulus money while waiting for revenues to return to our former 5% growth rate. Trends nationwide don’t support that hope and band aid solutions are no longer the answer. Addressing the structural issues is a multi-year process. Pressures on the budget growth are most notably in health care costs, labor costs and making up for under-funding retirement in past decades. In closing the $113M gap, there are $53M in General Fund reductions, $35M in revenue and $25M in one time money to bridge us to more thoughtful, strategic solutions. This budget creates a path towards long term sustainability and accountability.
The revenue bill makes structural changes in the income tax code to make it fairer and more progressive, recognizing the growing income inequality in this state. It eliminates the deductions for state and local taxes from the previous years. It caps income tax deductions at 2.5 times the standard deduction which for an individual would be $15,500 and for a couple filing jointly would be $31,000. While this plan is unpopular with many non-profits who do not like the idea of capping donations, we learned that over 75% of the benefit from charitable deduction comes from the federal income tax and that this proposal puts us much more in line with our neighboring states. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island offer no state deductions for charitable deductions and Maine has a cap of $18,000. (New Hampshire has no income tax).
The budget we passed this past week (with a vote of 90-53 and I voted yes) makes real progress in addressing structural spending problems and the revenue bill we passed (with a vote of 90-50 and I voted yes) represents significant tax reform. I think it is important (and interesting) to note that there were democratic, republican, progressive and independent legislators on both sides of each of these votes. The two bills are now in the Senate where the analysis and testimony will continue and some different decisions may be made. This is important and essential because Vermonters deserve a robust debate about what investments and cuts to make because doing nothing differently or just saying no is irresponsible.
The days are getting longer, warmer and sunnier and we are moving out of winter hibernation. I hope you can get out and enjoy all the beauty this state has to offer. If you would like a copy of the mid-session legislative update that the four of us wrote please contact me by email, phone or snail mail and I’ll get you one. I hope to see you at our next monthly legislative forum on Monday April 27 at 7pm in the SB Community Library and if you can’t get there please continue to reach out. Thanks!
At the VEOC we promote and foster employee ownership in Vermont because with employee ownership everyone benefits. Employee-owned companies keep jobs local, employee-owners earn higher wages, have much larger retirement savings, and are less likely to be laid-off in a downturn. Chris Moran
Operations Support Executive / Employee Owner
PC Construction Company
193 Tilley Drive, South Burlington, VT 05403
Full Steam Ahead
Reflecting on the first two weeks of this year’s legislative session, it seems as if we just returned after a long weekend rather than close to an eight month recess. These first weeks have included the Governor’s State of the State along with the introduction of over 300 new bills for committees to consider. Here is just a snapshot.
House Human Services has received more than 30 of these. We have already begun work on several: (H. 424),An act relating to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children; (H. 663), An act relating to expanding access to contraceptives; and (H. 572) An act relating to the Maternal Mortality Review Panel. We held a public hearing on Homelessness Awareness Day, heard a report on one Pre- Kindergarten Education Study, had an update on the lead testing in drinking water at schools and childcare centers; and heard an overview of the current state and proposed redesign of developmental services in Vermont.
The VT Commission on Women and Change the Story VT presented highlights from their recent research. While Vermont women work at a rate that is higher than the national average, they are a disproportionate share of Vermonters who live in poverty. The cumulative impact of women’s lower earnings over a lifetime of work is signiﬁcant—for women and for Vermont. For example, women over 65 have a median annual income of $19,566, about $11,000 less than men. As a result, 44% of Vermont’s senior women do not have enough income to meet basic expenses. Researchers estimate that if women earned wages equal to that of men who are comparable (in terms of age education, and number of work hours), women’s higher earnings would add an additional $1.2 billion to the state economy. Taking steps to address this is a priority of mine.
As I reported last month, South Burlington residents, along with Vermonters across the state, have identified climate change as a priority issue for the legislature. In response, I’ve co-sponsored, along with 86 other legislators, the Global Warming Solutions Act.(H 688) which is about bringing accountability and strategic planning to how Vermont responds to the climate crisis we face. H.688 updates our greenhouse gas emissions goals aligning them with the Paris climate treaty and VT’s Comprehensive Energy Plan and making those “goals” statutory obligations of the state. H.688 draws together a half-dozen state agencies and over a dozen subject matter experts to form the Climate Action Council which will develop a Climate Action Plan. Within the confines of this Plan, the Agency of Natural Resources will adopt rules, programs, and strategies to meet emissions reduction requirements of the Plan. Importantly, the Council and Plan will address not only issues around GHG reduction, but also how VT addresses the vulnerabilities we face from increasingly severe weather events and the unique challenges faced by rural and lower income communities. Adaptation, resilience and hazard mitigation are all key aspects of a comprehensive response to the challenges in front of us. The Energy and Technology Committee in the House will take the lead in examining and refining it before it ever comes to the floor for a vote and possible amendments.
This week I along with the vast majority of House members voted to support Prop 2. Chapter I, Article 1 of the Vermont Constitution is historically significant as it is the source of the anti-slavery provision that made the Vermont Constitution of 1777 the first state constitution to outlaw slavery. However, the existing language has been interpreted to only prohibit adult slavery and permit slavery for the payment of debts, fines and costs. Proposal 2 would clarify that slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.
Your feedback is critical to helping me bring your voice and ideas to the State House. It’s an honor to serve South Burlington in the People’s House. Please stay in touch and I hope to see you at our Legislative Forum this Monday January 27 at 6:30pm in the SB library in the UMALL.