News

Good News! Grant Awards for Energy Efficiency, Health Navigation, Housing

SEVCA Granted Major Award for Health Care Navigator Program

SEVCA was just awarded a 3-year grant for $97,704 from the Fannie Holt Ames & Edna Louise Holt Fund (BACCGF), Bank of America, N.A., Trustee to support health care access for low-income and vulnerable households in Windham and Windsor Counties.

The award will enable SEVCA to continue our existing successful Health Care Navigator program in the face of extremely limited government funding for this vital service, which currently helps over 400 area low-income households per year to access coverage. It also includes expansion of services to elderly and disabled households that require assistance with Medicaid Supplemental, Medicare Savings, VPharm, and disability insurance (SSDI) programs.

“This grant comes at exactly the right moment, as state funding has all but dried up for the Navigator program at the same time that efforts to eliminate or significantly reduce coverage for millions of households nationwide are moving forward in Congress,” said Steve Geller, SEVCA’s Executive Director. “Without advocates to assist them, the negative impacts of an increasingly challenging health insurance environment on lower-income households will be even worse, and hundreds of local families, seniors, and individuals could be left to fend for themselves as they try to maintain their coverage and obtain appropriate care and treatment. This grant means that, at least in Southeastern Vermont, vulnerable families will have someone on their side.”

SEVCA’s experienced Navigator, who has been helping residents with low incomes access health insurance for the past four years, will work diligently to help them obtain and maintain coverage wherever possible. And, if legislative changes begin to limit access to coverage, she will also collect and share information about what happens to some of these households in terms of cost increases, losing access to coverage, and the resulting impacts of no longer receiving adequate health care, in order to raise awareness about the need for affordable universal health insurance.

SEVCA also received a small grant of $8,300 from Vermont Health Connect (representing a steep cut from the $45,000 grant awarded last year), which will also support the Navigator program.

 

New Grant from Efficiency Vermont Helps Achieve Energy Savings

Efficiency Vermont awarded SEVCA an 8-month grant of $ 27,090 to introduce energy-efficient technology and practices to area households with low incomes.

SEVCA’s Emergency Home Repair (EHR) Coordinator will conduct free home visits and provide education on how to maximize cost savings through additional energy-efficient practices, products, and resources; install/provide various energy-efficient devices; and recommend further energy-efficiency improvements (such as Weatherization). On-site interventions during the home visit include direct installation of efficient products such as LED bulbs, advanced power strips, low-flow showerheads, pipe wrap, and caulking, all at no cost to the resident.

The program runs through December 2017, at which time further funding may be made available to extend the program. Windham and Windsor County households interested in a home visit should contact John Nielson at 802-722-4575, ext. 138 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Two Grant Awards to Help Homeless and At-risk Households Renewed

The Housing Opportunity Program (HOP), administered by the Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity, recently awarded $225,800 to fund SEVCA’s homelessness prevention and re-housing efforts. The award provides $152,683 for services in the Brattleboro-area Agency of Human Services (AHS) District, $45,667 in the Hartford (Upper Valley) AHS District, and $27,453 in the Springfield AHS District. The award is renewable for one year, subject to funding availability, for a total possible award of $451,600 over two years. It will enable SEVCA’ Family Services program to continue to provide housing assistance and case management services to at-risk and homeless families throughout our Windham and Windsor County service area.

The HOP application included a request for continuation of the General Assistance (GA) Alternatives Pilot Program, which, in the past year, funded a part-time case manager to work directly with homeless families and individuals sheltered in motels in the Brattleboro area. The goal was to shorten their motel stay by supporting them to locate a more permanent housing solution as soon as possible. SEVCA had also requested to take over a project that had been initially funded through Groundworks Collaborative, in which apartments were master-leased to provide temporary emergency housing. Funding for the GA Alternatives grant came from GA program funds and was evaluated through a separate process; unfortunately, due to anticipated program cuts, only 3 months of funding was provided to continue the part-time case manager, and no funding was provided to lease the emergency apartments. The state is currently in the process of assessing whether it will be able to extend the funding beyond that initial period.

Granite United Way also recently announced their grant awards, which included an $18,000 grant to SEVCA’s Family Services department to provide fuel and housing assistance to Windsor County households in crisis. The award was slightly less than the $20,000 awarded last year. GUW funding enables SEVCA to help households that might not meet the strict state program eligibility criteria for the HOP or Crisis Fuel programs, and is essential to meeting the needs of vulnerable Windsor County households.

Federal Cut to IDA Program Leaves Future of Program Uncertain

Over the past two decades, the Individual Development Account (IDA) program has emerged as a proven strategy for helping families with low incomes build savings and assets. However, the program just suffered a setback when it was de-funded by Congress in the latest budget approved for the current fiscal year. Although the state of Vermont did include IDA matching and operating funds in its budget for FY18, it is unclear at this time if the state is still committed to releasing those funds, given the cut in the federal funds they were intended to match. If the state chose not to release this funding, it would have major implications for the future of the program, and even for the ability of current participants to continue saving and purchasing assets with their matched savings.

The federal government incentivized savings through the IDA by providing matching funds to households who saved money to acquire an asset-- buying a home, getting further education, or starting/expanding a business. Many states, such as Vermont, provided matching funds, resulting in a $2 match for every $1 saved, a great incentive to get households moving in the direction of greater financial stability. SEVCA, like the other Community Action Agencies (CAAs) in the state, still has several cohorts of IDA participants in the saving phase, and staff are needed to support them as they complete their savings and access their matching funds. Since the CAAs have to a great extent relied upon state funding for program operations as well as the match, and it is uncertain whether those funds will be forthcoming, the program is in jeopardy. Currently, the CAAs are advocating for the state to release the funds they appropriated for the program and working to locate alternative sources of funding.

SEVCA will continue to update its stakeholders on this developing story. Any ideas to raise funds for the IDA program are very welcome and can be shared with Steve Geller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Supporters are also urged to let their state legislators know how valuable the IDA program is in helping people lift themselves out of poverty and transform their lives, and how essential it is to release the state funding. State legislators are listed HERE.

#HandsOff Health Care And Other Stories….

A broad coalition of national organizations, including the Center for American Progress, Indivisible, the Coalition on Human Needs, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and over a dozen more, is spearheading a campaign to oppose cuts to federal programs that fund human needs, health care, education, and other essential domestic programs. HandsOff.org is collecting stories from those who benefit from the programs the President and the Republican-led Congress aim to cut, in order to raise awareness about the devastating impact on real people that would occur. Anyone can share their story on the website or participate in their social media campaign. SEVCA took the opportunity to get involved in the social media campaign at the recent Community in Action event.

Trump’s budget proposal for FY18 would make severe cuts to SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, housing, and education (including Pell grants for low-income students), eliminate LIHEAP (fuel assistance), and the list goes on and on. The proposal disproportionately attacks programs that help individuals and families with low incomes, which account for only 29% of non-defense spending but would bear 60% of the proposed non-defense cuts (according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

In other news, after an initial set-back in the House’s attempt to repeal Obamacare, the House succeeded in passing a bill that was in many respects worse than their first attempt, and would cause an estimated 23 million people to lose their health coverage. The Senate could take up the health care bill as early as this month. An excellent summary of these and other stories, as well as recommendations for taking action, can be found on the Voices for Human Needs blog.      

Free Financial Help--Every 2nd Thursday!

SEVCA’s Economic Development Department is offering free “Mind Your Money” workshops on the second Thursday of every month at its Westminster office. The next workshop is Thursday, June 8 from 10 AM to noon.

 The workshops are open to the public and are designed to introduce participants to basic money management techniques and to help them work through their budgeting challenges. SEVCA’s instructors will utilize tools from the acclaimed Your Money Your Goals curriculum developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help participants set and meet their financial goals. Instructors have over 20 years of leadership experience in the financial and small business development sectors.

“It’s really about financial empowerment,” said Denise Mason, Economic Development Director at SEVCA. “Once you take a detailed look at your spending patterns, almost everyone can find some areas where they can be smarter with their money. These workshops are designed to be very user-friendly, introductory workshops that don’t require any further commitment. But people can come as often as they’d like to continue to get support to make the changes they decide are in their best interests.”

Workshops will be held at 91 Buck Drive in Westminster. SEVCA asks that participants register for these free workshops in advance by calling 802-722-4575 ext.150. Walk-ins may also be accommodated.

Participants, Organizations Connect at "Community in Action"

 

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Above: Steve Geller (right) poses with Kate Ash from Senator Leahy's office at SEVCA's "Community in Action" event.

In her inspiring address at SEVCA’s Community in Action event on May 25, Vermont Senate Majority Leader Becca Balint urged her listeners not to succumb to despair in the face of recent attacks by the Trump administration to de-fund or drastically cut human needs programs.

         “Tonight I want to ask you this: What brought you to this work? What fired you up? What gives you hope? Because we need it…I need you to dig deep and find what brings you to this work.”

For Balint, it is her connections to others in her daily life that she said inspires her and fuels her determination…and that is exactly why SEVCA chose to organize Community in Action. As Steve Geller (quoted in The Commons last week) said about fighting to protect the safety net, “We can’t do this alone.” SEVCA felt that we needed to reach out to other community organizations to make connections and work together to oppose the massive assault by the President and the Republican-led Congress on programs like health care, housing, fuel assistance, education, job training, treatment for addictions, assistance to people with disabilities, etc. In fact, Trump’s recently released budget would cut $2.5 trillion over 10 years to programs that help struggling low-income families and individuals, which includes decimating the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid and causing 23 million people to lose health coverage.

MaryLou Beaver from Every Child Matters spoke about what the impact of these cuts would be on Vermonters, where a full 1/3 of the state budget comes from federal funds. She said that over 28,000 people would lose fuel assistance and 18,000 would lose food assistance (3SquaresVT), including close to 10,000 households with a disabled member. She lauded the recent successful campaign to save LIHEAP (fuel assistance) from funding cuts in the current year’s federal budget, and urged everyone to keep fighting. Other speakers also emphasized the importance of continuing to communicate with their legislators, including staffers from Vermont’s Congressional delegation: Kate Ash, from Senator Leahy’s office, Katarina Sisaius from Senator Sanders’ office, and Kevin Veller from Representative Welch’s office.

Here are links to two articles about the event:

The Brattleboro Reformer:

http://www.reformer.com/stories/community-groups-fret-over-looming-federal-cuts,508951

The Commons: http://www.commonsnews.org/site/site05/story.php?articleno=17285&page=1#.WTWu0uvytph

Participants at Community in Action had an opportunity to connect with 20 organizations that oppose these cuts or are advocating for innovative solutions to strengthen programs and protections for vulnerable community members—such as Vermont’s Raise the Wage Campaign and Physicians for a National Health Program. Here is a list of these organizations with contact information:

Organizations

Contact info

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

James Lyall, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: 802-223-6304

Brattleboro Area Affordable Housing (BAAH)

Emily Clever
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Community of VT Elders (COVE)

Virginia Milkey, Executive Director
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: 802-229-4731

Every Child Matters

MaryLou Beaver, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
202-527-2692

Health Care & Rehabilitation Services (HCRS)

Will Shakespeare; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
802-254-7501

Hunger Free Vermont

Marissa Parisi, Executive Director This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: 802-865-0255 Ext. 108

Indivisible—Brattleboro

Matt Wright and Eileen Parks
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Let’s Grow Kids

Vicky Senni; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
802-793-2744

Physicians for a National Health Program

Beth Kindle, Karen Kraham
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Planned Parenthood

Paige Feeser, Vermont Public Affairs Organizer
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.802-448-9754 (Office)

Raise the Wage/ Interfaith Coalition

Melissa Battah, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
802-595-9912

Rights & Democracy (RAD)

Anne Zimmerman
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Southern VT Sister District

Peg Alden
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council (VLIAC)

Karen Lafayette
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

VT Affordable Housing Coalition

Erhard Mahnke
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

VT Legal Aid

Christine Speidel; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

VT Partnership for Fairness & Diversity

Curtiss Reed
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

VT Workers’ Center/ Healthcare is a Human Right

Ellen Schwartz: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Windham Community Action Network (WeCAN)

Emily Kornheiser
Ann Braden; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Women’s Freedom Center

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.PO Box 933, Brattleboro, VT 05301

Youth Services

Russell Bradbury-Carlin, Executive Director
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.Phone: (802) 257-0361

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1937