By Brigid Skidd
Burlington, VT– The Scott administration announced on August 31st a roll back of Vermont’s Covid era Federal Renter’s Assistance Program. The Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP) was set up through the Vermont Housing Authority to keep people housed during the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crisis it caused. This program has served over 15000 Vermont households since April 2021. It was part of a larger 320 million dollar federal rent assistance fund which was originally projected by officials to last through at least 2023.
However, the program went through its 138 million dollars in federal funding more quickly than expected. Doug Farnam of the Vermont Agency of Administration explains, “The reason that everyone that is finding out about this now (August 31st) is that we didn’t have the actual spending recorded and the data to know we were going to run out of money before the end of the winter.”
The Vermont Housing Authority offered VERAP assistance to any household that had an Area Median Income (AMI) below 80%. According to VERAP’s updated website, as of October 1st the program is closed to new applicants and has reduced its funding by 30% to all households. By November 1st households over 30% AMI will have they’re support cut to 50% of the original and be cut completely by the end of the month.
This decision has caused outrage among tenant’s advocates and sparked criticism of the government’s response to the crisis, specifically the way this will exacerbate the effects of the current housing crisis . Brenda Seigel, Democratic nominee for governor and longtime tenants advocate, stated,“Our vacancy rate is just over 2%. There is no housing,” she said. “There will be more people without housing, and there will be immense harm to low- and moderate-income people across this entire state.”
As high school students, renter’s issues are not generally on our mind, but housing insecurity is not alien to CVU and will be exacerbated by the ending of VERAP.