News

Get Help from SEVCA’s Health Navigator to Get or Keep Health Coverage

Need help to get public health insurance or Medicaid? Having difficulty with the process of renewing your benefits or adjusting your coverage? SEVCA’s Health Navigator is available to help families and individuals in Windham or Windsor Counties get or keep the coverage they need to stay healthy and/or obtain treatment.

SEVCA is able to continue its successful Health Navigator program in the face of extremely limited public funding for this vital service due to a multi-year grant from the Fannie Holt Ames & Edna Louise Holt Fund. Although the Trump administration has cut funding for promotion of ‘Obamacare’ and assistance to obtain or change it, there are still options for coverage through the Health Exchange in Vermont, as well as Medicaid for those households that qualify, and SEVCA’s Navigator is there to help make sure the public can access them.

“SEVCA is committed to supporting health care access for low-income and other vulnerable households in our service area,” said Steve Geller, SEVCA’s Executive Director. “Without advocates to assist them, the negative impacts of the increasingly confusing health insurance maze on lower-income households will be even worse, and hundreds of local families, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and others could be left to fend for themselves as they try to maintain coverage and obtain appropriate care and treatment. This program means that in Southeastern Vermont vulnerable families have someone on their side.”

SEVCA recently welcomed Paul Reyns as its new Health Navigator, and anyone in Windham and Windsor Counties in need of assistance with coverage is urged to call him at 1-800-464-9951.

 

Updated June 2018

Strong Performance at SEVCA's "Chipping Away at Poverty" Benefit Golf Tournament

$11,000 RAISED FOR AREA RESIDENTS IN NEED

Players at Southeastern Vermont Community Action’s (SEVCA’s) 17th Annual “Chipping Away at Poverty” Benefit Golf Tournament on Friday, June 8 were greeted with comfortable temperatures and plenty of sunshine--perfect weather for golf. The Tournament Sponsor—Springfield Housing Authority: (Mountain View and Westview Terrace Apartments) and two Co-Sponsors--Mutual of America and Sunset Tool, Inc.—along with 15 other major sponsors, 15 other donors, and 17 teams of golfers--raised nearly $11,000 to support SEVCA’s essential anti-poverty programs serving low-income individuals and families in Windham and Windsor counties. SEVCA dedicated the tournament to the memory of Harald Schmidtke, its Weatherization Director, who passed away on April 2. Harald demonstrated an unwavering commitment to SEVCA’s mission during his 25 years with the agency, and he played in the golf tournament every year to help raise money to further that mission.

2018 Tournament 034

                Longstanding supporters and new friends from local, regional, and national businesses, SEVCA’s Weatherization and Crisis Fuel program vendors, local service providers, staff members, and the community sponsored and/or engaged in friendly competition to raise funds for the agency’s services. A Hole-In-One Contest sponsored by Fenton Family Dealerships/Subaru of Keene gave participants the chance to win a new Subaru Impreza and other valuable prizes, while Leone, McDonnell & Roberts sponsored the Putting Contest with its $5,000 grand prize. No players won the grand prizes this year, but Becky Day came closest to the pin in the Putting Contest final to win a $100 prize. The popular Air Cannon Contest made a return visit, sponsored by Lamb and McNaughton, Attorneys-at-Law, giving participants the chance to shoot their golf balls out of the air cannon from the tee at Hole #6 in hopes of getting closest to the pin. Jake Obar of Kinney Pike Insurance landed his ball 4 feet from the pin and won his choice of a 7-night stay at one of over 3,000 vacation resorts or a season of golf at over 65 courses in New England.

                Tournament winners were:

                         1st Place Team – Mutual of America (pictured above)

                         2nd Place – People’s United Bank

                         3rd Place – Kinney Pike Insurance

                         Women’s Closest to the PinTina Guerin

                         Men’s Closest to the Pin – Josh Davis

                         Women’s Longest Drive – P’Tricia Wyse

                         Men’s Longest Drive – Scott Walters

In addition to the sponsors listed above, SEVCA wishes to thank the following businesses, organizations and individuals for their sponsorships and other support:

                ‘Double Eagle’ Level Sponsors: Kinney-Pike Insurance

                Golfer Bag and Gift Sponsor: Mutual of America

                Golf Ball Sponsor: Streeter, LLC, Licensed Electrician and Building Contractor

                Breakfast and Luncheon Sponsor: IPG Employee Benefits Specialists

                Hole Sponsors– Clark’s Quality Foods, Clay Point Associates, Kinney Pike Insurance, Mountain View Apartments, Northeast Delta Dental, Sandri Energy, Savings Bank of Walpole, Simon Operation Services, Sunset Tool, Inc., Westview Terrace Apartments, the Windham Foundation, and WW Building Supply.

                Team Sponsors: Brattleboro Country Club, Dillon Chevrolet, Farnum Insulators, Kinney Pike Insurance, Mountain View Apartments, Mutual of America, Omega Optical, Paul & Carol McDonnell, People’s United Bank, Sunset Tool, Inc., Westview Terrace Apartments.

                General Supporters – the Abare family, Burtco, Inc., EFI, Magee Office Products, Newcomb’s Masonry, Northern Safety & Industrial, PayData Workforce Solutions, Stewart Property Management, and Westminster Auto Service.

                In-Kind Contributors – Brattleboro Country Club, Crown Point Country Club, Okemo Country Club, Putney Food Co-op, Vermont Country Deli, and Walmart.

Special thanks go to Brattleboro Country Club and their staff for their assistance, generosity and high quality service in hosting our tournament once again.

Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) was established in 1965 as part of the national War on Poverty and has worked to address the needs of low-income residents of Windham & Windsor Counties for over 50 years. In addition to providing the “safety net” for households in financial crisis, its services help them stabilize their lives, make their homes safe and energy-efficient, take strides toward becoming self-reliant, and enable their children to escape the generational poverty cycle. These goals are achieved through such programs as Family Services, Crisis Fuel, Housing Services, 3SquaresVT (Food Stamp) Outreach, Weatherization, Home Repair, Small Business Assistance, Financial Fitness Education, Matched Savings Accounts, Job Readiness, Tax Preparation Assistance, Thrift Stores, Health Navigator, and Head Start.

 

Honoring Harald's Legacy--May 31 Event Details

Page1 Honoring Haralds Legacy 4

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

On April 2, SEVCA's Weatherization Director, Harald Schmidtke, passed away, having stewarded the program for the past 25 years. Harald showed compassion, integrity, and determination as he worked to achieve SEVCA's mission of reducing the causes and moving toward the elimination of poverty. While we are grieving his loss, we also recognize the importance of celebrating his life and legacy.

Join us at SEVCA's Annual Celebration on May 31, at which we'll honor Harald's lasting contribution to improving the lives of thousands of vulnerable Windham and Windsor County residents as well as the sustainability of our communities.  

Thursday, May 31, 5 - 8 PM
American Legion, Post 67
637 Vermont Route 103 S
Chester, VT

Please click on the link below to RSVP for this event, which we hope will serve as a very special tribute to a much-loved community leader, colleague, and friend. 

http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=clspsnlab&oeidk=a07efcpipo198c21a9f

We request that you RSVP by May 23. A buffet dinner will be served and a cash bar will be available. Dinner is provided at no charge, but donations are encouraged to help defray our costs. Please contact Linda Brooks at (802) 722-4575 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. with any questions or help with registration.

We look forward to seeing many of you on May 31.

Sincerely,

Steve Geller, Executive Director

 

 

Community Solar for Community Action

New Solar Array Planned at SEVCA's Westminster Location

SEVCA plans to build, own, and manage the first community solar installation in the nation to use virtual net metering credits to deliver energy assistance directly to low-income households. This project, Community Solar for Community Action, will demonstrate a new, nationally relevant, scalable model of energy assistance, enabling low-income households to meet their energy needs while supporting the development of renewable energy resources. SEVCA was recently awarded a grant of $111,000 from the Windham Regional Commission’s Renewable Energy Grant Program to help make the project a reality.

Community solar is a fiscally responsible and environmentally appropriate alternative to conventional, fossil-fuel-based energy assistance. Vermont has a favorable regulatory environment for community solar projects, a population that is highly supportive of renewable energy, and a significant need for energy assistance among low-income households. The project aims to help chart a new future towards a more sustainable low-income energy assistance program.

This innovative project will consist of a 150 kW ground- and roof-mounted solar array sited on SEVCA’s property in Westminster, VT. Approximately 70 of SEVCA’s low-income clients with high energy burdens will become subscribers to the solar project, and receive virtual net metering credits as a form of energy assistance. The system is projected to produce 196,284 kWh per year and save approximately 161 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. 

Project goals include:

  • Reducing the energy burden of low-income households through applying virtual net metering credits on their electricity bills, based on the energy generated by the solar array.
  • Enabling low-income households to support and benefit from development of renewable sources of energy, thereby participating in the transition to a more sustainable energy economy.
  • Reducing participating low-income households’ dependence on energy assistance by decreasing and stabilizing their energy costs.
  • Contributing to reducing and stabilizing SEVCA’s energy costs for the operation of its main office in Westminster, thereby freeing up scarce resources to use for services.

For more information, contact Becky Himlin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Targeting the Most Vulnerable with Sustainable Solutions

Increasing costs for basic necessities coupled with stagnating or reduced real income over time is a recipe for increasing hardship and inequality. Energy is one area where costs have risen dramatically compared to income over the last several decades. Added to this, the poorer quality housing available to low-income families in Vermont is often uninsulated and inefficient, resulting in higher costs for home heating and cooling. The result is severely disproportionate energy burdens for low-income households. Those earning 50% - 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) in Vermont are estimated to have home energy bills amounting to 25% of their income, and those who earn less than 50% of the FPL pay almost half of their income (Fisher, Sheehan & Colton, 2016).  

But there is at least one aspect of this bleak picture that offers some hope, one in which Vermont is one of the leaders in the nation—the increased focus on sustainability of our energy resources, particularly the commitment to increasing home energy-efficiency. And far from “freezing out” households with low incomes, Vermont has invested in programs that specifically target these households. The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), offered mainly through the state’s Community Action Agencies, including SEVCA, is at the cutting edge in terms of offering sustainable, energy-saving solutions for some of our most vulnerable households at no cost to them. This program receives some funding from federal appropriations, but the majority of its funding comes from a consumption-based state tax on heating oil, propane, and kerosene. While funding has not nearly reached the level that will enable the state to achieve its goal of 80,000 homes weatherized between 2008 and 2020 (the goal set when the Vermont Energy Efficiency and Affordability Act was passed), it is having a significant impact.

Benefits for the residents of homes and apartments that are weatherized through WAP are dramatic and immediate—they save an average of 24.5% on their energy costs every year (Office of Economic Opportunity report to the Vermont State Legislature, January 30, 2018). Households with heating oil as their source of heat in state fiscal year 2016-17 (FY17) were estimated to have saved $442/year (at $2.27/gallon for fuel oil, a price which has increased significantly this year). Plus, there are huge benefits for our environment. According to a report by the Thermal Efficiency Task Force, fossil fuels used in buildings are the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont, and weatherization is recommended as the most important, cost effective intervention to address that. The estimated reduction in carbon released into the atmosphere of for the 893 homes weatherized by WAP in FY17 alone was 1,592 tons/year —add to that the carbon savings from all of the units weatherized in previous years (the program has been active since 1973), and it’s clear that WAP makes a considerable contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet these impressive benefits are only the beginning. By partnering with Efficiency Vermont, WAP is working to simultaneously improve thermal and electrical efficiency. Each household scheduled for weatherization services is visited by an Efficiency Coach, who explains the entire weatherization process and also does an assessment of various efficiency improvements the household is eligible for, from simple things like LED light bulbs to appliances like heat pumps, energy-efficient refrigerators, and "mini-splits" for heating and cooling. The Efficiency Coach can install some items at this visit, like bulbs and low-flow shower heads, but a crucial aspect of the service is talking to clients about behavioral change. “The most important part of what I do is talk to them about the impact of lifestyle changes on their energy costs,” says Victor Baisley, SEVCA’s Efficiency Coach. “For example, hot water can be one of the major factors in high electricity bills, and I tell them how much they can save if they do their laundry in cold water or take shorter showers.”

The Efficiency Coach is also the point person for another important state intervention—the One Touch program, which generates referrals to numerous health and basic needs programs based on an intake survey of weatherization clients. The survey identifies people who don’t have health insurance, might have a high risk of falls, suffer from asthma, want to stop smoking, etc., and connects them to relevant programs that can help them. “We’re in the home, and that gives us the opportunity to develop a relationship with the client; one of the first things I do during my visit is to make the client feel at ease,” says Baisley, so much so that most agree to participate in One Touch and are glad to find out about these resources. Last year, Vermont’s program won a HUD Healthy Homes Award for their efforts to deliver health and home improvement interventions in an integrated way.  

Weatherization itself generates longer-term direct and indirect health benefits to residents as well as extending the life of the home. The whole-home approach WAP utilizes helps keep homes at a comfortable temperature while minimizing hazards like mold or other air pollutants in the home (triggers for asthma or exacerbating factors for emphysema, for example), or ice dams on the roof (leading to damaged and/or leaky roofs). This helps protect low-income households from having to cope with unexpected health care or home repair expenses that perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty.

Despite all of the persuasive arguments in support of increased funding for Weatherization, the program continues to be vulnerable to budget cuts. The recent Trump Budget for 2017-18 zeroed out the Weatherization program, and while Congress is unlikely to take this recommendation seriously, the program could still be targeted for large cuts. Nor is the State of Vermont committed to appropriating the funding needed to meet its own goal for Weatherization…yet; though there is a strong coalition of organizations pushing for just that.

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 this season, 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.”

We couldn’t agree more! Vermont has invested much, but could still do more to bring the financial and environmental benefits of weatherization to all residents. In the longer term, as the impact of climate change promises to be ever more devastating, home weatherization and efficiency measures need to increasingly become one of our national priorities.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead