Vermont’s pandemic rental aid program being phased out
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A federally funded emergency rental assistance program created to help Vermonters during the pandemic is being phased out as funding is exhausted.
On Oct. 1, the program will stop taking new applications for rent and other housing related expenses and rental assistance for existing beneficiaries will be reduced based on their incomes, state officials announced Wednesday.
“We’re now at a different phase of managing the COVID-19 pandemic as Vermonters are back at work — businesses are open at this time. The funds used to manage the emergency are beginning to run out,” said Vermont Agency of Human Services Secretary Jenney Samuelson.
The U.S. Treasury said last month that more than $40 billion of the $46.5 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance used to keep people housed around the country had been spent or allocated. At the same time, eviction filings nationwide have steadily risen in recent months and are approaching or exceeding pre-pandemic levels in many cities and states.
Vermont has been providing an average rental payment of $960 a month to about 12,600 households for a total of $160 million in federal funding. Federal emergency rental assistance that helped keep millions housed during the pandemic has dried up in some jurisdictions or been increasingly rejected by some landlords.
On Oct. 1, assistance for those beneficiaries with incomes between 31% and 80% of area median income will be reduced to 70%, then 50% on Nov. 1 and will end on Nov. 30. Assistance for lower income beneficiaries will be reduced to 70% on Oct. 1 and last until the funding runs out.
“With the funding we have available, we believe that gets us through March 31,” Department for Children and Families Commissioner Sean Brown said. “We will still be running the emergency housing program and the adverse weather policy in place.”
Utility assistance will be reduced to 70% on Oct. 1 and utility payments will end on Dec. 31.
Brenda Siegel, a Democratic candidate for governor and a housing advocate, called the changes “atrocious.”
“The administration announced these changes without working with partners, without planning, and without regard for the impact on those they serve,” she said in a statement. “Because of this announcement, many Vermonters will lose access to housing.”