Each week I hear from residents who have ideas or questions on how to fix a problem, who want to know how to lend a hand to others, and who are just curious about the happenings in Montpelier. I had one of these conversations just this morning. It's these people and conversations that inspire me to dig into our policies and systems to ensure they are really helping Vermonters and that they embrace the values of our community. I welcome hearing from residents on how we can move forward as a community and state. Please feel free to reach out to me (email@example.com) or Representative Dolan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
HEALTH INSURANCE ACTION
Vermonters can now pay less for health insurance purchased through Vermont's health insurance marketplace thanks to the federal American Rescue Plan Act. Whether you are enrolled in insurance through Vermont's health insurance marketplace, Vermont Health Connect, are enrolled directly with an insurance company, or don't currently have insurance, you can learn more at https://info.healthconnect.vermont.gov/ARPA or call 1-855-899-9600. You can also join the July 28th Town Hall at noon to learn more. The link to join is on the website provided above.
Don't assume your income is too high to get help. Income eligibility thresholds are much higher now. People in single plans with incomes up to $94,500 and those in family plans with incomes up to $265,000 may qualify for financial help. Did you or someone in your household get unemployment in 2021? You may get the most help, no matter how much you make.
There's a lot more financial help now. Don't assume health insurance is too expensive just because you looked in the past. Individuals with income up to $38,000 per year and couples with income up to nearly $60,000 may qualify for plans with $0 monthly premiums. Is your income higher? Want to see your costs? Visit the Plan Comparison Tool.
The law gives extra benefits to people who were eligible for unemployment compensation in 2021. Was someone in your household eligible for regular Unemployment Compensation or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation? Extended Unemployment Compensation or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance? You may qualify for an Enhanced Silver 94 plan. These plans have the lowest out-of-pocket costs. See the Unemployment Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for more information.
ESSEX COMMUNITY RESOURCE BROCHURE
Thanks to Essex Chips, the community resource brochure originally created years ago by Bridget Meyer, Liz Subin and myself is still going strong with more resources added this year. The brochure can be found here: http://www.essexchips.org/community-brochure.
If your organization would like printed copies of the brochure to distribute, please send an email to email@example.com with how many you'd like. If you know other organizations that could benefit from receiving the brochure, please let me know.
Let's get this resource guide out into the Essex community! Please share!
ESSEX JUNCTION INDEPENDENCE
Our Village, Our Voices is a citizen-led initiative to create a vision for the future of Essex Junction. This group's purpose is to educate and inform residents about the upcoming separation vote, listen to residents for input into the vision and values Essex Junction should hold, and to get out the vote for the upcoming November vote. In our weekly legislative updates, Representative Dolan and I will be posting one of the facts from their website https://www.ourvillageourvoices.org. Have a question about the why, the process or the history? The website has a contact section for asking your questions.
QUESTION: Does the Village of Essex Junction government have the expertise and resources to become a city?
Short answer: Yes. The Village has been operating as a full service, self-governing, and self-sustaining municipality since 1893. The only hurdles for becoming a city are (1) voter approval and (2) legislative approval at the state level and its related political challenges (see the question about what happens after we vote on the charter). There are no financial, operational, or technical barriers preventing Essex Junction's transition from village to city.
For a longer answer please visit www.ourvillageourvoices.org. There are also two great events coming up to learn more. Again, check out their website under events for more information.
Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. In our house we celebrated high school graduations and our country’s independence with family and friends. We also talked about our country's continued quest to firmly instill in our culture and our systems that all people are created equal. We have much work to be done and I’m honored that residents in Essex Junction have put their faith in me to help craft and implement policies that embrace this fundamental value in all Vermont’s systems. I welcome hearing from residents on how we can move forward as a community and state.
Please feel free to reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Representative Dolan (email@example.com).
ESSEX JUNCTION INDEPENDENCE
Our Village, Our Voices is a citizen-led initiative to create a vision for the future of Essex Junction. This group’s purpose is to educate and inform residents about the upcoming separation vote, listen to residents for input into the vision and values Essex Junction should hold, and to get out the vote for the upcoming November vote. In our weekly legislative updates, Representative Dolan and I will be posting one of the facts from their website www.ourvillageourvoices.org. Have a question about the why, the process or the history? The website has a contact section for asking your questions.
Question: Other than possible tax savings, what might be some of the other benefits of becoming a city?
Answer: The people of Essex Junction will be served by a government focused solely on their needs. All the municipal tax revenues collected from Essex Junction taxpayers will go directly to helping provide and improve most of the services they use and depend on, such as parks and recreation, water and sewer services, public works and street maintenance, community planning, library services, and fire safety.
I want to also draw your attention to the blog section on their website. The first article is a timeline of all the various merger and separation votes in our community dating back to 1958. You can also follow the Trustees work at www.essexjunction.org/independence.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: TELEHEALTH FOCUS - ACT 21
With the session now firmly behind us I will use my bi-weekly update to highlight some of the lesser known actions taken this past year. This featured piece of legislation requires a bit of context. In January 2020 I introduced a bill to expand Vermont’s telehealth policies. As we took testimony that year it was evident that opening up the medical professions that could operate via telehealth and by ensuring that doctor’s receive equal reimbursement for a telehealth visit as an inpatient visit, with the appropriate patient protections, that we could increase accessibility. Days before the Statehouse shutdown due to COVID-19 the House passed this legislation with a 5 year sunset of the equal reimbursement. We felt it would take that long for doctor’s offices to build the technology and for both doctors and patients to feel comfortable with telehealth visits.
This telehealth legislation (House bill 723) became a key component in our COVID emergency legislation (House bill 742) signed by the Governor on March 30, 2020. As people reached out during the pandemic to share their stories, it became evident that telehealth allowed some people to receive health treatment for the first time, opened more opportunities for youth and adults to receive mental health care and as we moved out of the pandemic ensured transportation and day-care issues were not an impediment to receiving care. Since some of the provisions of the expanded telehealth policies would end with the pandemic, this session I co-sponsored H104 to facilitate the interstate practice of health care professionals using telehealth.
The legislation that passed and became Act 21 formed a Telehealth Working Group to compile and evaluate methods for facilitating the interstate practice of health care professionals using telehealth modalities, including through the creation of telehealth licenses, waiver of licensure, national licensure compacts, and regional reciprocity agreements. The working group also must consider the impacts and ethical considerations related to patient care, whether to limit the practice to preexisting patient relationships, the effects of prescribing medications and other issues relevant to the interstate practice of health care professionals. The working group will provide their findings and recommendations by December 15th, 2021.
During testimony this session we heard from many Vermonters, particularly related to mental health treatment, how the opening of opportunities for care provided by telehealth during the pandemic needed to be continued. Accessibility is key in our quest to build a better healthcare system. I look forward to following the working group this summer and digging into the recommendations next session.
Happy end of school to all our kids, parents, teachers, and school staff! I know the school year was exhausting for many people for a variety of reasons. Hoping everyone can find some time to breath and relax as nicer weather blankets Vermont.
The legislature is gearing up for a veto session next week. We will be voting to overturn the Governor’s veto on the Winooski and Montpelier charter changes and S.107. The House passed S.79 on the last day of session but rules were not suspended to advance the bill at that time. The Senate will vote on S.79 this week as well. We are continuing in our zoom community, and you can stream the proceedings at this link: Vermont House of Representatives - YouTube. If you want to review the bills you can do so at this link: Bill, Act & Resolution Search (vermont.gov)
Rep. Dolan and I will continue to be available throughout the summer and fall for questions and to gather your input on important issues for next session. Please do not hesitate to reach out. Our contact information is: firstname.lastname@example.org or KNDolan@leg.state.vt.us.
CHILD TAX CREDIT AVAILABLE TO FAMILIES WHO DO NOT FILE TAX RETURNS – ACTION NEEDED
Starting July 15th the IRS will begin sending monthly checks to those eligible under the expanded child tax credit passed in the American Recue Plan. The credit is increasing to $3,600 for children under the age of 6, $3,000 for children aged 6 to 17, and $500 for youth age 18-24 who are full-time students.
This credit is available to anyone who meets the guidelines including families who do not file tax returns. Use the link below to find more information and to notify the IRS of eligibility or changed circumstances such as permanent residence or child custody changes.
If you are not required to file tax returns, this link allows you to provide necessary information to the IRS to receive the Advanced Child Tax Credit.
Advance Child Tax Credit Payments in 2021 | Internal Revenue Service (irs.gov)
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR JOB CENTERS OPENING:
The Vermont Department of Labor is re-opening local Job Centers across Vermont for in-person services and will be offering both walk-in and by-appointment-only hours. The Burlington Job Centers will open immediately for in-person services. Staff at Job Centers across the state support jobseekers and employers with all aspects of employment, training and hiring, and include job training and upskilling opportunities, resume writing, mock interviews, hiring events and recruitment support. A variety of virtual services will continue to be offered for job seekers and employers. Job Center staff are not able to assist individuals with unemployment insurance related inquiries. Individuals with questions regarding their unemployment claims should contact the UI Claimant Assistance Center at 877-214-3332.
More information on resources available to Vermont job seekers and employers may be found at labor.vermont.gov/workforce-development.
Although the Governor has lifted all COVID-19 restrictions, vaccination clinics will still be widely available across the state. All Vermonters age 12 and older can find the schedule for daily walk-in clinics, or can register for an appointment at Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | Vermont Department of Health (healthvermont.gov)
More information on the Vermont Forward Plan can be found here: Vermont Forward Plan | Vermont.gov
VERMONT HEALTH INSURANCE SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD OPEN UNTIL OCTOBER 1ST AND EXPANDED FINANCIAL HELP
Vermont is extending the Special Enrollment Period for Vermont’s health insurance marketplace to October 1, 2021. The extension will allow Vermonters who do not currently have health insurance to enroll through the marketplace and take advantage of new financial help available under the American Rescue Plan Act. The additional financial help, through expanded premium tax credits, is only available through Vermont’s health insurance marketplace.
“The recent federal changes mean that a family of 3 with an annual income of $100,000 may now qualify for nearly $1,200 in tax credits for every month they are enrolled in health insurance through the State’s marketplace - that’s more than $14,000 per year in additional financial help,” said Michael K. Smith, Secretary of the Agency of Human Services.
To learn more about ﬁnancial help under the new changes, visit Vermont’s health insurance marketplace at American Rescue Plan Act FAQ | Vermont Health Connect and click on the updated Plan Comparison Tool. Vermonters may also call the Customer Support Center at 1-855-899-9600 if they have questions or contact a trained Assister for support.
It’s such an honor and pleasure serving Essex Junction. Thank you.
Be kind to each other and yourself.
Rep. Lori Houghton
As representatives of the Essex/Westford House delegation, we stand together in unified, wholehearted support of the Essex Westford School District administration, staff and school board for their ongoing commitment and work towards creating more equitable, inclusive, welcoming learning environments for all Essex students.
Specifically, we support the EWSD community in its work related to the Equity and Continuous Improvement Plans that were designed with robust student, staff and community input. Unfortunately, these plans are receiving targeted pushback from some residents who are perpetuating misinformation and inaccurate facts.
The sad reality is that not all of our children grow and thrive in our present public school system. When the data is examined, it's clear that there are barriers for some students in reaching their goals based on certain characteristics. For example, it's apparent that many students who are eligible for special education, live with financial hardship, are LGBTQ+, are Black and Brown, or do not speak English are repeatedly navigating difficult, sometimes traumatic experiences and therefore, not achieving their academic and personal potential.
As a school district funded with significant public dollars, we have a collective responsibility and a civil rights mandate to ensure that we take a hard look at our systems, programs, curriculums and anything else that stands in the way of ensuring equitable experiences and outcomes for all students.
We see the presence of discrimination, bias and structural racism in the foundations of many of our institutions, organizations and programs. It is healthy and courageous to take a hard look at the ways in which "we have done business" that have limited the opportunity of our neighbors who have told us they experience marginalization on a recurring basis.
As we reside in the second whitest state in the country, we cannot not have blindspots and implicit biases that guide our actions. It is the fair and responsible thing to examine these biases carefully and become humble students again in our learning about how to fashion communities that are more racially and socially equitable for everyone.
In the legislature this session, we began similar work in this regard. J.R.H.6. declared racism a public health emergency with the strong support of our Vermont Commissioner of Health.
In J.R.H.2, we as a body formally apologized for the sanctioning and supporting of eugenics policies and practices that impacted so many Vermonters over generations (with more actionable follow-up to come).
In H.210, we have begun to address health inequities related to illness, access to health care, mental health and more, as the data indicates that significant disparities exist across the Green Mountain State based on race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability status.
In H.159, we allocated funds for the creation of a minority business development center.
In the state budget, we granted the Office of Racial Equity two more positions as their workload has become untenable. And we have so so so much more work to do as a state.
Please join us in using your voices towards the creation of a more racially and socially just Essex community. Trust that our educators are taking extraordinary care of our children and have their best interests at heart - and use your voices to say so.
To learn more, attend EWSD's Equity Education Session on Tuesday, June 8, 6-7:30 pm; you can register here: https://bit.ly/2TrHtSR. Or join our next Community Conversation, Sunday, June 13, 2-3:30 pm.
Rep. Marybeth Redmond, email@example.com, Chittenden 8-1
Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky, firstname.lastname@example.org, Chittenden 8-1
Rep. Karen Dolan, email@example.com, Chittenden 8-2
Rep. Lori Houghton, firstname.lastname@example.org, Chittenden 8-2
Rep. Alyssa Black, a email@example.com, Chittenden 8-3