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
Vermont weather is always a source of conversation and it has not disappointed so far in April but I am hopeful we have finally turned the corner to spring. We are also turning the corner in the legislative session and are seeing the end draw near. You can follow and watch the work by streaming Vermont House of Representatives - YouTube.
Rep. Dolan and I look forward to hearing from residents so please do not hesitate to reach out with opportunities, concerns, or questions. Our contact information is: firstname.lastname@example.org or KNDolan@leg.state.vt.us.
MAY 4TH LEGISLATIVE PUBLIC HEARING ON UI
On Tuesday, May 4, 2021 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development and the House Committee on Government Operations will hold a joint public hearing to listen to employees and employers in Vermont about the issues faced with unemployment insurance during the COVID pandemic.
The public is invited to register to speak at the hearing or submit written testimony. Registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and testimony time will be limited to two minutes per person. To register as a speaker at the hearing, please sign up here: https://legislature.vermont.gov/links/public-hearing-unemployment
To submit written testimony, please email an MS Word or PDF file to email@example.com
The hearing will be live streamed on the Legislature's Joint Committees YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUSAo8mdI5WQ1DseraqKCWg/featured
RESTAURANT REVITALIZATION FUND & GUIDELINES ANNOUNCED
The Small Business Administration announced key details about application requirements, eligibility and a program guide for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The restaurant industry has been among the hardest-hit sectors during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help bring jobs back and revive the industry, the American Rescue Plan has established the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The SBA will administer the funds to the hardest-hit restaurants.
RRF will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Recipients are not required to repay the funding if funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.
Details about application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide are now available in English at www.sba.gov/restaurants or in Spanish at www.sba.gov/restaurantes.
The Vermont House passed H.265 which creates an independent, impartial office composed of an Advocate and Deputy Advocate whose job it is to provide oversight of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and to promote effective reforms that prioritize the best interests of children.
The Department of Children and Families holds a massive responsibility to provide compassionate care, services and interventions for hundreds of children and youth in their custody, including those participating in therapeutic programs that span eight states. The Child, Youth & Family Advocate will work in collaboration with state agencies and contracted agencies to ensure that evidence-based best practices are employed, that youth transition successfully to adulthood, that racial and social equity are prioritized across systems, and that investigations are conducted with an eye towards systemic reform. Vermont has been the only state in New England without an office of this kind, one of the fastest growing areas of state government. This bill now heads to the Senate.
HOUSE HEALTH CARE COMMITTEE UPDATE
We heard testimony on Vermont children’s mental health, specifically to grapple with documented trends in emergency department mental health service wait-times. Patient boarding is when a person remains in the emergency department after it has been determined they need inpatient care but have not yet been transferred or admitted to a designated inpatient mental health unit. According to testimony from Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems as of Thursday, April 15th, at noon, six people waiting for admission to psychiatric inpatient care were children. Four children had been waiting between 1-6 days and two children had been waiting 7 or more days. A confluence of reduced bed capacity by 30%, dramatic possibly seasonal uptick in emergent cases, and reduction in community-based services, have served to create a distressing scenario – for both children and adults. We are scheduled to hear more next week with the focus on short-, medium- and long-range fixes to address this dire problem.
NEXT COMMUNITY CONVERSATION W/HOUSE DELEGATION
Sat., May 8, 9-10:30 am
We will post a Zoom link a few days before. Please join us for a respectful, civil community conversation about what's happening in the virtual State House!
Be kind to each other and yourself.