By Guy Page
Through Feb. 19, Vermont lawmakers have claimed $218,144 in the $75 per diem permitted for at-home expenses.
Legislators are entitled to ‘Stay At Home Expense Reimbursement’ of up to $75 dollars per day, according to information provided by the Office of the Speaker of the House (see graph below). The information states that “this reimbursement is available to legislators to cover expenses incurred by working from home doing work with constituents and committee work.”
As the graph shows, legislators also are entitled to travel and meals expenses, in addition to their $742/week in-session pay. However, the need for travel and eating outside of the home has greatly diminished since last spring, when the Legislature opted to hold ‘virtual’ committee and full House and Senate meetings due to pandemic concerns and restrictions. Since then, lawmakers have typically stayed home and connected via the internet.
While in session from January until late spring, the full Legislature typically meets four days a week, Tuesday — Friday. The 2021 Legislature convened Wednesday, January 6 and has met 27 times through today, according to House Journal records. (Occasionally, some committees also meet on Mondays.)
If all 180 lawmakers claimed the full $75 expense for all 27 days, the reimbursement would be $364,500. Officials figures provided to Vermont Daily this morning show that about 60% of that amount has been claimed.
“I ran a query in our accounting system and according to expenses reports posted through this morning (2/19/21) for the 2021 legislature session — $218,144 [for the at-home per diem] is the total spent so far,” said Joe Harris, who handles public information requests for the Vermont Department of Finance and Management.
Vermont Daily also has requested 2020-2021 legislative expense comparisons. We have not (yet) requested information about reimbursements for individual legislators, nor were any contacted for comment before publication of this story. Lawmakers’ comments are welcome and will be published.
The guidelines below do not list permissible expenses. Nationwide, at-home work expenses for state employees resemble permitted IRS expenses for home offices including cellphone usage, internet costs, paper and printer ink, and partial utility costs.
|Vermont Legislative Reimbursement||Amount||Notes|
|Weekly Salary||$742.92 per week||Only available during the legislative session. The typical legislative session runs 16-18 weeks.|
|Mileage Reimbursement||.56 cents per mile||This is the federal rate. Legislators submit a mileage reimbursement expense form and it is only available for traveling to Montpelier during the legislative session or to certain committee meetings.|
|Lodging Allowance||Up to $127 per day||Only available to those renting an apartment or staying at a hotel in Montpelier. Only available during the legislative session.|
|Meals Allowance||Up to $66 per day|
|Stay At Home Expense Reimbursement||Up to $75 dollars per day||This reimbursement is available to legislators to cover expenses incurred by working from home doing work with constituents and committee work.|