© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vermont Governor focuses on housing voucher program during weekly briefing

 Vermont Governor Phil Scott
Pat Bradley
Vermont Governor Phil Scott

A pandemic program to house homeless individuals in hotels and motels in Vermont is ending. Republican Governor Phil Scott focused his weekly briefing today on the controversy over the dissolution of the Hotel-Motel voucher program.

The voucher program was federally funded during the pandemic to provided housing to low-income and homeless individuals who would otherwise have to gather in housing where physical distancing was not possible. When the federal funding ended, the state maintained it, but it will be phased out in June and July. Governor Scott noted that the voucher program’s structure is not compatible with other state support programs.

“Those in the program don’t have adequate access to and are not required to reach out for services including safety net programs, counseling, mental health and substance use treatment or job training,” Scott said. “When you consider many in the program are no better off than when they were three years ago, this may be one of the many reasons why Congress and the President chose not to once again extend the program so states could return to a system with clear eligibility, reasonable requirements and sustainable funding.”

Agency of Human Services Secretary Jenney Samuelson noted from fiscal year 2020 until May of this year, the state has spent more than $190 million on the hotel-motel voucher program or more than $51,000 annually per household. She added the program was structured to be a limited time pandemic safety net.

“The result of using the emergency housing program, which is an economic benefit only, is that people in the hotel and motel program are not getting the services that they need, which are built into our other programs that are specifically designed to address homelessness,” Samuelson said. “We will be restarting the General Assistance Housing Program on July 1 and expanding eligibility to those families who have children. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment to get these Vermonters to a better place, literally and figuratively. And the need to end this pandemic program has brought into focus the real problem: the affordable housing crisis that has developed around Vermont over the last several decades.”

Vermont’s Republican governor is widely expected to veto the budget. When asked if he would, Scott sidestepped a definitive answer.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to be very surprised if I veto this bill, but there’s always an opportunity to find a different way and we’ve got another 24 hours to think about that,” Scott said. “But I don’t think anyone’s going to be surprised. I’ve talked about this. I think we’re spending too much money in too many different areas and I just don’t think it’s healthy for our economic outlook to move forward. But, you know, I can change my mind in 24 hours.”