Final reading: Supporters push for changes to 3SquaresVT

A woman shows something in front of a group of people.
Rep. Jubilee McGill, D-Bridport, points to an available seat in the House Human Services Committee room at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Rep. Jubilee McGill, D-Bridport, recalled a time in her life 15 years ago when, as a single mother going to school, she relied on 3SquaresVT – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program of the state – to put enough food on the table for her and her young daughter to survive.

“You’ll notice I said survive rather than thrive,” McGill said during a press event at the Statehouse Tuesday morning. “Because even with the (maximum) benefit for our household, I still had to regularly visit the local food aisle to get through the month. »

McGill is sponsoring H.703, a bill that, along with its Senate counterpart, S.215, would charge the Department of Children and Families with estimating the process and resources needed to change the way the Vermont calculates the minimum monthly benefit that 3SquaresVT beneficiaries can receive.

Advocates said Tuesday they hope the change will significantly increase the minimum benefit for many of the state’s most economically vulnerable residents. In total, about 68,000 people are enrolled in the 3SquaresVT program, its advocates said Tuesday.

Currently, Vermont uses the least expensive of four categories of food plans created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to calculate the benefits people can receive. Today, it’s a minimum of $23 per month in Vermont for one- or two-person households.

By switching to a more expensive plan, advocates said, 3SquaresVT benefits would be better aligned with the cost of living outlined in Vermont’s basic needs budget by the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office.

The bills propose calculating minimum 3SquaresVT benefits based on 30 percent of food costs identified in the second highest federal plan, known as the “moderate” plan. The result, advocates say, would be a minimum budget for all households of about $117 per month.

The legislation would also require the administration to enroll Vermont in a USDA program active in a handful of other states that would allow certain recipients to use their benefits at restaurants — provided the restaurants also meet certain criteria .

To qualify for restaurant benefits, recipients must be age 60 or older, receive federal disability benefits, or be homeless — or be the spouse of someone who meets one of these criteria.

Advocates said using restaurant benefits could be especially helpful to people who don’t have constant access to a kitchen or food storage, such as those displaced by extreme weather such as the floods of last summer.

“What we are all saying here is that it is possible to completely eradicate hunger. It is possible for government to ensure food security for all,” said Anore Horton, executive director of Hunger Free Vermont. “We have the political tools – and we can make the political choices – to achieve this. »

—Shaun Robinson


Aware

New estimate places projected average Property tax bill will increase by more than 20% next year. In response, the council tax committee is considering its options, including changing the controversial cap on local property tax rates.

Two women sitting in a room talking to each other.
Rep. Emilie Kornheiser, D-Brattleboro, chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Thursday. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Summarizing lawmakers’ views, Rep. Emilie Kornheiser, D-Brattleboro, chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said during a hearing Tuesday that immediate priorities would be finding new sources of revenue for the education fund, to adjust the property tax based on income. credit and – perhaps most controversially – changing Act 127’s 5% cap on property tax rate increases on real estate properties.

Learn more here.

-Ethan Weinstein

At a caucus meeting Tuesday, two key state officials admitted they see no path forward in efforts to impeach Franklin County Sheriff John Grismorebarring significant new revelations in their ongoing investigation.

This is despite a series of allegations against Grismore, the severity of which was only frankly presented to the public at Tuesday’s caucus meeting.

Learn more here.

—Sarah Mearhoff and Shaun Robinson

Last year, the Green Mountain Care Board flexed a new muscle.

Now a bill in the Vermont Senate fundamentally overhaul the health care regulatorlimiting its supervisory powers and transferring part of its mandate to the National Social Services Agency.

Learn more here.

—Peter D’Auria

Vermont Community Broadband Board sounds alarm about potential end of federal program offering broadband discounts to low-income householdswarning that tens of thousands of Vermonters may soon no longer be able to afford high-speed internet.

Council Executive Director Christine Hallquist wrote to members of the Vermont House and Senate last week, suggesting that if the federal government does not restore funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program by April, the state should consider taking action.

Learn more here.

—Shaun Robinson


Spam

Welcome to Junk Mail, where we at Final Reading name the most absurd PR pitches we’ve received recently.

Did you know that Vermonters are ready to sacrifice an average of four years of their life in exchange for living like a millionaire? Well, neither did we – and we didn’t ask – until a handy press release courtesy of WealthofGeeks.com arrived in our inboxes Monday afternoon.

The Good Geeks claim to have commissioned a survey of 3,000 people to ask them what they would sacrifice – sleep, friendships and even years on God’s green Earth – if it meant being able to “indefinitely enjoy the splendors of the existence of a millionaire. Such splendors, the authors note, include “sipping cocktails on a private beach or jet-setting to exotic destinations.”

Speaking of exotic destinations, the survey found that New Hampshire residents were willing to sacrifice the most years of any state in the Union — nearly eight — in exchange for a chance to truly s ‘get out. Live free or die much sooner, I guess.

“Our survey results reveal a striking paradox in the American psyche,” commented Michael Dinich, described as the founder of WealthofGeeks, in the press release. Say what you want, but this analysis is quite difficult.

—Shaun Robinson


What we read

Veteran Vermont journalist Stewart Ledbetter to retire after four decades on air, VTDigger

Global Music Rights Sues Vermont-Based Radio Stations for Allegedly Playing Unlicensed Songs, VTDigger

Rural ski slope caught in international scam, The New Yorker

An earlier version of this story misidentified the city where Rep. Jubilee McGill resides.

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