By Brent Addleman | The Center Square
Housing transition plans will be required for any Vermont resident to maintain eligibility for a new state-funded housing program, according to state officials.
As the federal Emergency Rental Housing Program ends Friday, House Bill 171 was signed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott early Thursday morning. The bill is designed to assist residents experiencing homelessness to find permanent homes amid the state’s housing crunch.
For individuals and families enrolled in the General Assistance Housing Program, the state will pay $153 per night for hotel rooms, Scott said. For a month, the cost would be $4,743 per month.
Jenney Samuelsson, who serves as secretary of the Agency of Human Services, said that under the program, her department will provide weekly updates on information.
“But now with H171, which the governor has just signed, this is a collaborative effort between the administration and the Legislature to better serve Vermonters in the General Assistance Housing Program by connecting them with services and supports, and not just rooms,” Samuelsson said Thursday during Scott’s weekly press conference. “This latest change provides us with a longer runway to engage those living in the hotels, getting them into services and the programs they need to support them in finding and keeping housing.”
There are 1,214 Vermont residents enrolled in the Hotel Motel program. Requirements moving forward under the state-funded program, Samuelsson said, include clients having 48 hours to respond to alternative housing options and spending 30% of the income toward housing.
Eligibility, Samuelsson said, includes households who lost their home and were enrolled in the pandemic-era housing program, a household who lost their home to a natural disaster, or someone experiencing domestic violence or a dangerous or life-threatening incident in a household with children up to age 18, or has a disability.
According to Samuelsson, in order for residents to maintain eligibility in the program they must “engage with the housing providers” and “case manager to develop a plan” designed to help them secure permanent housing.
“It is important to recognize that each month households have been entering and leaving the program over the past three years, including over this past month,” Samuelsson said. “We have been working to engage these individuals in case management and care coordination and to identify and and connect them with services. H171 actually stops and defines this population and allows us to clearly focus resources to those who are in the program on July 1.”
According to Samuelsson, the newly-signed legislation works to bolster tools the state has and also powers staff on the ground “who are doing this work.” The Department of Children and Families is working to clarify what the program will be for residents and is working to create emergency rules and establish communication with potential clients.
Samuelsson said that for any residents interesting in engaging the program, they should rely on written materials produced by the department, featuring its logo.