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Trump Budget Threatens Critical Safety Net Services Locally

For the second year, the Trump Administration proposes to eliminate all funding for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), threatening the existence of about 1,000 local Community Action Agencies (CAAs) that serve about 16 million low-income people every year. In Windham and Windsor Counties, Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) would be directly and profoundly affected by this cut. The Trump budget would also eliminate federal funding for other programs that assist families with low incomes in our area, including the Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which help ensure that vulnerable families are able to save on home energy costs and keep their homes heated during the harsh Vermont winters.

SEVCA’s Executive Director, Steve Geller, said: This is the bill now being delivered to hardworking Americans struggling to make ends meet so they can pay for the massive tax cuts delivered to millionaires and big corporations by eliminating or making heartless cuts in virtually every program that helps reduce the hardships of poverty and support ordinary Americans — fuel and housing assistance, Medicaid, food and nutrition assistance, TANF, support for people with disabilities, and many more services that make life better for children, families, and the elderly. Geller added, “This cynical shell game will also undermine state and local budgets, leading to cuts in basic services at the community level as well. And now Trump wants the same people who stand to lose the most from this unfair budget to pay for his wall that he swore he was going to make Mexico pay for. Now we see who’s really going to pay and who’s going to benefit.”

Community Action Agencies use their CSBG grants to develop extensive community partnerships, identify pressing local needs, and mobilize public and private resources to meet those needs. CAAs respond to short-term crises that can topple a working family into poverty, and address chronic conditions that can trap multiple generations in dependency. Thanks to CSBG, they are nimble and respond quickly to emergencies, they are creative and fill service gaps, and they ensure cost-effective use of funds on behalf of their communities and individual families. The Administration’s proposed cuts would devastate the capacity of the CAAs to fulfill their anti-poverty mission.

David Bradley, CEO of the National Community Action Foundation, which represents Community Action Agencies, said: "Cutting CSBG, flexible local dollars that create opportunity for 16 million people across the country, a program with bipartisan support in Congress, abandons every community in America and burdens local communities. Congress--Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate--will not accept this cut."

Both WAP and LIHEAP have enjoyed similar bipartisan support in Congress for many decades. WAP was first authorized by Congress in 1976 to address high energy costs. Since then, the program has created a market for building science-based energy efficiency technologies and services. Agencies focus on homes with high energy use or high energy bills relative to income, prioritizing families with elderly or disabled members, or with children. Families whose homes are weatherized typically experience savings of 20-30% on their energy bills, as well as improved health outcomes. The program also reduces carbon-based emissions that contribute to climate change.

Miguel Orantes of Bellows Falls received Weatherization assistance from SEVCA at a low point in his life, when he had been waiting for months to receive disability benefits after a debilitating accident, followed by a serious illness. Prior to Weatherization, he said he needed four cords of wood plus oil heat to stay warm, and it was much more than he could afford. Now that his home is weatherized, even with the cold winter we’re experiencing now, he says he doesn’t expect to use more than half a cord of wood, and his oil bill is “almost nothing.” “It’s ridiculous to live in an uninsulated home in New England,” Miguel says. “The Weatherization program is a necessity, not a luxury. Cutting it is simply not sustainable.”

The Trump Administration proposal to eliminate funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) would put millions of the most vulnerable Americans at risk. In recent years, LIHEAP has helped over six million U.S. families heat or cool their homes, and keep the lights on. In Vermont, about 20,000 families depend on LIHEAP assistance. The elimination of LIHEAP funding would put several thousand local residents at great risk of being without heat during the winter.

SEVCA’s experience in administering Crisis Fuel Assistance over the years has demonstrated that when households run out of fuel, they will go to great lengths to keep warm, including heating their homes with their ovens or dangerous space heaters that increase the risk of fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. Due to our unusually cold winter this season, coupled with rising fuel costs, the number of people seeking Crisis Fuel assistance has increased, and many families have exhausted their LIHEAP (Seasonal Fuel) benefit as well as the maximum available Crisis Fuel assist. The only option for many who can’t afford to heat their homes is the smaller pot of private and community funds SEVCA raises to fill in the gaps—and there’s not nearly enough to help everyone who needs it.

Cutting the only safety net for heating and utilities available to our most vulnerable households, particularly here in Vermont where the weather is so volatile, would be absolutely devastating for our community and the people we serve, said SEVCA’s Family Services Director, Pat Burke. “We need to stand together and advocate to make sure these ill-considered cuts are never enacted.”

Donations Needed for SEVCA’s Care for Kids & Families Collection Drive

SEVCA’s “Good Buy” Thrift Stores are now offering customers the opportunity to give to local kids and families in need and get something back at the same time. From February 1 through March 31, everyone who donates personal care items to SEVCA’s “Care for Kids & Families” Collection Drive will receive 10% off any purchase at our Good Buy Stores. Diapers, baby formula, shampoo, and toothpaste are some of the items urgently needed by local homeless shelters and food shelves to distribute to families in need.

“The Good Buy Stores already provide a service to our communities by offering low-cost clothing, furniture, and household goods (and free clothing and furniture for families in crisis), but we wanted to do more,” said Darline Rhoades, SEVCA’s Thrift Stores Director. “A lot of people think about donating food, but it turns out that one of the biggest unmet needs in our area is actually for baby care and personal care products.”

Items collected will be distributed through the Upper Valley Haven in White River Junction, Our Place Drop-in Center in Bellows Falls, and the Springfield Family Center. These organizations offer groceries, meals, and shelter to hundreds of families in crisis every month, but often come up short when it comes to providing the personal care essentials most people take for granted.

Samantha Lane, Administrative Coordinator for the Springfield Family Center, said that many area organizations are experiencing an uptick in people seeking their help. They operate a day shelter for the homeless (with showers), daily meals, and a food shelf, among other services. Lane said that in December alone, 482 households (624 individuals) utilized the food shelf, 586 people received daily meals, and 68 people used the day shelter showers. Personal hygiene products are in high demand. “If these products are available through the food shelf, they go in a matter of minutes…these are the items we struggle the most to provide,” Lane said. Although many organizations sponsor food drives to benefit the Springfield Family Center, “Most people don’t think about donating personal hygiene products; they don’t realize how badly we need them.” She said that every donation helps, and they are grateful to be one of the beneficiaries for the “Good Buy” Thrift Store’s collection drive.

Jennifer Fontaine, Director of Operations at the Upper Valley Haven, said that personal care items are in high demand among their clients as well. The Haven serves 1,200-1,300 people per month at its food shelf, and up to 38 individuals in its regular and seasonal shelters and 8 families in its family shelter on any given night. “We don’t have the money to spend on these items, but there’s a huge need. People can’t take care of themselves without things like toothpaste or shampoo; plus, a lot of these items, like diapers and tampons, are really expensive,” she said. “These are things that people can’t use their 3SquaresVT benefits to purchase.” 

Items needed for the Care for Kids & Families Collection Drive include disposable diapers (especially sizes 3, 4, & 5), baby wipes, infant formula, baby lotion and powder, shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, feminine products, tissues (Kleenex) and toilet paper. “Good Buy” Store locations in Springfield, White River Junction, and Bellows Falls are all accepting donations. Customers may shop when they drop off their contribution or use their 10% discount during a future visit. The location, hours, and contact information for the stores can be found at http://www.sevca.org/thrift-stores/locations or by calling SEVCA at (800) 464-9951.

 

Free tax preparation from VITA will maximize your refund!

Appointments Available Now !

Westminster, VT— Income-eligible Winsor and Windham County residents can now schedule an appointment for free tax preparation assistance through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, offered by SEVCA in collaboration with Granite United Way. SEVCA has experienced, IRS-certified volunteers trained and ready to prepare tax returns for area taxpayers with household income up to $54,000. Appointments are available in Westminster, White River Junction, and Windsor starting January 29 and continuing through the second week of April. Residents of nearby communities in New Hampshire may also make appointments at these sites.

VITA volunteers can help with special credits, such as the Earned Income Tax  and the Affordable Care Act’s Premium Tax Credits.  They also prepare Vermont income tax returns, property tax adjustments and renter’s rebate claims. In addition to free tax return assistance, VITA sites offer free electronic filing. Individuals taking advantage of the e-file program receive their refunds in half the time compared to returns filed on paper — even faster, when tax refunds are deposited directly into a bank account.

SEVCA will provide free tax assistance by appointment only at the following locations: 

  • SEVCA’s main office in Westminster on Tuesdays (daytime appointments)
  • St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in White River Junction on Mondays
  • Windsor Resource Connection Center on Thursdays

Appointments in Westminster can be made by calling 800-464-9951. For appointments at White River Junction or Windsor locations, call 866-444-4211 (or simply 2-1-1 from a NH phone), or use the online scheduling system at http://nhtaxhelp.org/. Go to “Schedule an appointment now” and navigate to the White River Junction or Windsor site listing.

For More Information, Contact: Leslie Wood;  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;   (802) 722-4575 X199

 

Visit SEVCA's Good Buy Store for Last Minute Holiday Shopping!

Ever have the feeling of being overwhelmed by the craziness of holiday shopping?  How about getting back to basics? You don’t have to spend a lot when you shop at SEVCA’s Good Buy Thrift Stores in Hartford, Springfield, and Bellows Falls, but you’re sure to find something wonderful for everyone on your list. And you’ll be doing your part for the environment by reusing items that still have a lot of life left in them.

You’ll also feel great knowing that your purchases are helping SEVCA do great things in your community—like providing volunteer opportunities for people who need work experience to get that first job, or people with disabilities who want to show they have a lot to contribute, too. SEVCA’s Thrift Stores also give thousands of dollars’ worth of free furniture and clothing to local families in crisis every year—donations are often used to help a formerly homeless family furnish their new apartment, or to provide clothing for someone who just lost everything in a fire. Supporting the Thrift Stores with your donations and your purchases is a great way to contribute to your local economy and the well-being of your neighbors at the same time.

What will you find at the Good Buy Store? Almost everything you need: clothing for the whole family, small appliances, glassware, fine china, furniture, paintings, books, cds, toys, and loads of holiday decorations. Telos Whitfield, Store Manager at the Springfield and Bellows Falls locations, said that someone recently came into the store and bought a fully decorated artificial Christmas tree for $15! She says the Thrift Stores honor many holiday traditions, and often have Hanukkah and solstice decorations on offer as well.

“The stores offer a real treasure hunt for our shoppers!” Telos exclaimed. “It’s really enjoyable for people to discover something really wonderful that they never expected to find.” The stores have an Antiques and Collectibles section that is packed with such treasures. A few examples at the Springfield store:  a vintage print of George Washington, an Elvis collector’s plate, an art deco bureau, an old steamer trunk, and an edition of the First Ladies Cookbook: Favorite Recipes of all the Presidents of the United States (1982). There is also original artwork, fine china, and jewelry.

Many new or almost-new items are available in all the stores, according to Director of Good Buy Thrift Stores, Darline Rhoades--and some of the best quality clothing is put out just for the holiday season, including a substantial selection of brand name clothing donated by faculty, staff, and students at Dartmouth College. “This means that our customers can purchase high-end, quality clothing that they couldn’t otherwise afford,” she says, “and that makes them feel good!” The stores have so many loyal, frequent customers, that Darline says they function like community centers or even an extended family….one where everyone seems to find just what they’re looking for to enrich their lives, whether it’s a kind word, a friendly face, or something more grand: “Recently we had a piano in the Hartford store,” she recalls, “And one of the customers stopped in that day and decided it was just what she was looking for so that her grandsons could take lessons!”

Stop by and check out what’s for sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. You can find our store locations and contact information here: http://www.sevca.org/thrift-stores/locations. SEVCA also gladly accepts donations of items in good condition (except for beds and mattresses), and can even arrange to pick up a furniture donation at no cost to you.  Anyone with questions about what to donate should call ahead and ask a staff member. 

TS customer Nancy 2017 vertical

 

Thank You For Caring!

Contributions from Local Partners Make Our World Go 'Round

Thank you Springfield Food Cooperative! The Co-op is raising funds for SEVCA throughout the month of December through its “Change for Change” program. The program collects donations from its customers by asking them to “round up” the amount they pay for their purchases to the next whole dollar amount. Remember to shop at the Co-op this month and contribute to a great cause. Those pennies really add up to “change” in your community!

Thank you Marlboro College staff!  During a Day of Service at Marlboro College, a crew of volunteers cut, split, and delivered a truckload of wood for SEVCA. The wood will be distributed to households who are financially struggling and facing imminent loss of their heat this winter. It will help keep many families warm while awaiting a fuel or wood delivery provided through SEVCA’s Crisis Fuel program. We very much appreciate this continued support from the College to alleviate hardship for our neighbors in need!

Thank you to Brenda Eno and her students from Bellows Falls Union High School, who come by every year to help SEVCA stuff envelopes for our Annual Appeal, which helps us raise many thousands of dollars annually. We love hosting this enthusiastic group of young people—thank you for your helping hands! 

SpringfldCo op

Hannah at the checkout at Springfield Food Cooperative, where customers are being asked to “round up” their
purchases this month to benefit SEVCA. 

“Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world. ”

Jane Addams (U.S. social worker, 1860-1935)