The heat has broken, kids are back in school, and I for one am happy for both. Rep. Dolan and I will resume our weekly updates (we may miss some here and there) and, as always, welcome hearing from residents. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. Representative Lori Houghton (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Representative Dolan (email@example.com).
This posting has repeats from previous updates – but all important even to post again. I’ve included information on a new homeowner assistance program and a new Essex Junction independence Q&A.
HEALTH INSURANCE ACTION THROUGH OCTOBER 1
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.
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. 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.
VERMONT EMERGENCY RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (VERAP)
What is VERAP? This program was created to help renters dealing with financial challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For eligible households, the program offers rental and utility assistance to help Vermonters avoid eviction or loss of utility service. ERAP was established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021.
What does VERAP include? VERAP helps tenant households with paying rent, past-due rent balances (also known as arrears), utility and home energy costs, utility and home energy cost arrears, and other expenses related to housing. Rent expenses include rent, rent arrears. Utilities include separately stated electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash removal and energy costs, such as fuel oil.
VERAP will be accepting applications for rental assistance through 12/31/2021 or until the funds are depleted. Find out eligibility requirements, benefits and how to apply at: HTTPS://ERAP.VSHA.ORG
VERMONT HOMEOWNER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The federal American Rescue Plan Act provides up to $50 million for Vermont to provide relief for homeowners experiencing financial hardship after January 21, 2020. Using these funds, VHFA will launch the Vermont Homeowner Assistance Program this fall to prevent mortgage delinquencies and defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services and displacement. Although this program is not yet available, you can read more and subscribe to receive email notifications when the program opens at HTTPS://WWW.VHFA.ORG/NEWS/HAP
MEDICAL DEBT PROJECT NEEDS YOUR STORIES
The Office of Health Care Advocate (HCA), a project of Vermont Legal Aid, assists thousands of Vermonters each year with questions and problems related to health insurance and access to care. Through this work, they have identified medical debt as a major challenge facing many Vermonters. They have launched a story collection project to deepen their understanding of medical debt and how it impacts Vermont families’ health care decisions. Please complete their online survey to share how the cost of health care impacts your life. Participants will be entered into a raffle for $25 VISA gift cards to thank them for their time. The survey will take about 10 minutes to complete. If you prefer to verbally share your story or if you would like a printed copy of the survey, please call: 1-800-917-7787 ext. 297.
The survey can be found at: HTTPS://VTLEGALAID.ORG/HCA-SURVEY
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 independence 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: When do we vote on separation? Is it in person at the polls or will we vote by mail?
Answer: The vote will be Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021, at Essex High School. Along with in person voting, the Trustees voted unanimously at their August 24th meeting to mail ballots to all active registered voters. We will be voting to adopt a new charter for the City of Essex Junction which will make our municipality independent from the Town of Essex.