The Shame of Racism, COVID-19 & Murder

Our world, and most of all, our nation, has been shaken to its core by a Global Pandemic on a scale that we’ve only ever seen once before, and that over a century ago.  Already, COVID-19 has infected over 1.8 million Americans and taken more than 105,000 American lives.  We deeply mourn for all those who have died and feel the pain and hardship of so many more whose lives have been forever impacted by this crisis; in many cases unnecessarily, due to the unpardonable failure to take the required action to slow the spread of this deadly disease.  In an incredibly short time, the pandemic has altered everyone’s reality and none of us will ever be the same. But while it has upended almost everyone’s life in every corner of our country, the level of impact it’s had on different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups and communities has been profoundly unequal.

While the coronavirus has unleashed its hazard on the health and economy of our nation, it has also revealed a pre-existing condition that places all of us at greater risk: The disparity of human value – more specifically racism – has served as a catalyst that disproportionately heightened the infection, the disease, and the death of certain segments of the population; namely, people of color, who are also disproportionately people with low incomes living in places that were already in distress and suffering great physical, economic, and social harm.  This most notably includes Hispanics, numerous Native American tribes, and more than anyone, African Americans. In 32 states plus Wash. D.C., blacks are dying at rates higher than their proportion of the population. In 21 states, it's substantially higher, more than 50% above what would be expected. In four states, the rate is three or more times greater.  Nationally, the latest overall COVID-19 mortality rate for black Americans is 2.4 times the rate for whites; or looked at another way, if they had died of COVID-19 at the same rate as whites, about 13,000 blacks would still be alive.

And if that weren’t bad enough, African Americans are also being murdered at substantially higher rates than any other group, most shockingly by the people who are supposed to be protecting them from harm – the police themselves. Nationally, blacks comprise 13.4% of the population but 23.4% of the victims of reported fatal police shootings. Blacks are 2.5 times as likely as whites to be shot and killed by police. In twenty states it’s more than 3 times as likely, and in two states as high as 9 times as likely. So how can anyone be shocked at or fault the bitter outrage pouring from communities all around the country over the most recent notorious death of a defenseless black man – George Floyd in Minneapolis. This senseless murder just broke the dam holding back the ever-rising level of fear and anger and uprisings in African American communities over the last 70 years.  And that doesn’t even take into consideration the countless number of black men and women who have been murdered in the streets by self-appointed vigilantes. Anyone not moved to take to the streets is just not paying attention.

            This must end, and it must end now!

During this trying time, especially given the racially charged events that have played out in recent weeks and months, it’s crucial to draw a line.  Murders of African Americans, attacks on Asian American-owned businesses, increasing numbers of murdered and missing Native American women and girls, and the marginalization, displacement, separation and incarceration of Hispanic and other immigrants seeking refuge weigh on our already-weakened hearts.  Many Americans distressed by these developments want to reach out and take action in ways that help them feel like they’re making a difference.  While many, with good intent, have engaged in social media activism in response to these atrocities, we are calling on everyone to move beyond the keystrokes of media devices and to do more. It’s not enough to voice safe support from a distance for undefined abstractions like equality, “color blindness” and “all lives matter.”  We must venture out further, into constructive anti-racist action that might even require us to sacrifice the advantages and privilege that many of us enjoy. Racism Must End! And it will only end if a critical mass of white Americans decides it’s important enough to discomfort ourselves to call it out, stand up to it, and join the fight to end it.

Currently there is no immediate treatment to cure and no vaccine to prevent the health pandemic or the social pandemic. While we are one human family, if ignored or inflamed, both conditions will separate, weaken and dehumanize us.  During this time of overlapping crises, Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) – and the national Community Action network we’re part of – affirms that our healing as a nation is tied to strengthening our connections as family members, neighbors, co-workers, communities, and to our common humanity. 

SEVCA’s values “recognize that inequitable systems and policies perpetuate and concentrate poverty in a discriminatory manner based on race, gender, disability, and other targets of prejudice;” and commit us to “promoting greater equity through changes in institutions, policies, and practices at all levels of society” and to “treat each person we serve with respect and compassion and to build relationships of trust with them.” These are foundational values that all of us should, and must, live by if we’re going have any chance of turning around the inequities and malice far too many of us have experienced for far too long.

With those values as our guide, we are dedicated to achieving a vision centered on respect and on the dignity, security, freedom from hardship, safety, health and well-being of everyone, and to creating solutions to end disparities and negative social determinants.  More than 55 years ago SEVCA and the 1,000+ Community Action Agencies nationally were born in the context of the civil rights movement, and in that spirit we will continue to denounce and fight against all acts of racism, brutality, oppression and dehumanization.

We invite, encourage, and urge everyone to join us in that commitment and that fight.  Really, what choice do we have if we want to continue to be the United States of America?

Steve Geller, Executive Director

Southeastern Vermont Community Action

June 2, 2020

3SquaresVT Goes Online as part of Nationwide Pilot!

Waterbury, VT—On May 19, 2020, Vermont will become the latest state to pilot the use of SNAP food benefits to purchase food online. In Vermont, the SNAP program is called 3SquaresVT.

Starting today, Vermonters can use their 3SquaresVT benefits to buy eligible food items online with two authorized retailers:

  • Delivery available throughout Vermont. Pay with EBT food benefits. 
  • Pick up currently available only at the Bennington store. Other stores may be added later. Pay with EBT food or cash benefits.

“This pilot gives people who get 3SquaresVT more options to put food on their tables, safely,” said DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz. “This is important during the current health crisis, especially for vulnerable Vermonters.  Some may be at higher risk for COVID-19; some may not have access to private transportation.”

For information about how it works, go to


Contact your local SEVCA office for help signing up for 3Squares VT. Getting the help you need, now and always. Call us at 800-464-9951 and make an appointment today.

SEVCA Receives Funding to Help Windham & Windsor County Residents with COVID-Related Impacts

SEVCA Receives Funding to Help Windham & Windsor County Residents with COVID-Related Impacts:

Resources available for those needing information, referrals and assistance

April 28, 2020

(Westminster, Vermont) Generous local, regional and statewide partners have given Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) funding to provide critical services to local residents who need help to alleviate the negative effects of COVID-19 and achieve or re-establish financial security, whether or not they were previously eligible for SEVCA’s services. Grants from the Vermont Community Foundation, Couch Foundation, Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, and Danforth Charitable Fund will enable SEVCA to provide needed services to an expanded number of households seeking emergency relief and recovery. SEVCA also anticipates receiving additional funding to help people experiencing COVID-19’s impacts navigate the resources available to them that can resolve their crisis and provide greater stability at this time and into the future.


Although SEVCA’s offices are currently closed to the public and many staff are working from home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, most services are still being provided but in different ways: remotely, by phone, email, or internet, by appointment, and/or by mailing or drop-off of documents. Steve Geller, SEVCA’s Executive Director, wants everyone living in southeastern Vermont to know that “SEVCA is still here to help, and we’re helping scores of people every day, even when we can’t meet with them in person. We’ve become very creative at devising ways of meeting people’s needs without having to sit face-to-face with them.”

“In fact,” he went on to say, “due to the additional COVID-19 relief funding and relaxed eligibility thresholds in some programs, many more households are now eligible to receive existing services and expanded and new programs developed specifically to remediate the devastating effects of COVID-19 for even more people.  So even if you thought you weren’t eligible for any of these services, this is the time to set aside those assumptions and contact us to find out for sure.”

SEVCA will now be able to serve a wider range of local residents with a diverse array of services, such as: Navigating relief & recovery resources; 3SquaresVT (Food Stamps) application assistance; unemployment & health insurance access; fuel and utility assistance; eviction & foreclosure prevention, housing case management, and landlord mediation; financial management counseling & support; job readiness training & assistance; small business support; SEVCA Windsor County Head Start registration; weatherization and heating repair & replacement; and many other available services, connections, and referrals to other area and state-wide providers. At times such as these, it’s crucial to access all available resources to alleviate the short-term crisis and build future financial security. In order to do this, additional resources have been made available for SEVCA to support households who previously were not eligible to receive services. Those interested in getting help or finding out more should contact SEVCA at 800-464-9951 for information or an appointment.

In addition to offering expanded services to Vermonters who require emergency assistance due to COVID19, SEVCA continues to provide all services in a different format in accordance with the Governor’s Executive Orders. Currently no weatherization or home repair work can be done, yet the agency is arranging for emergency heating system repairs & replacements to take place and continues to accept applications for the other services. At this time, the Springfield, Hartford, and Bellows Falls Good Buy Thrift Stores are closed to the public, yet people can request and obtain vouchers for one of the stores from SEVCA’s Family Services staff. Vouchers can be used for specific items and are available at no cost for emergency situations. SEVCA’s Economic Development program now has available enrollment for ongoing Financial Fitness and Ready for Work online training; small business counseling is offered via phone; and trained staff are available to work with anyone interested in planning their financial security.

As the region’s designated Community Action Agency (CAA), SEVCA works with local and state partners, and in coordination with CAAs nationwide, to help resolve crises, create opportunities for all people to thrive, build strong, resilient communities, and work toward a more equitable society. SEVCA was founded on May 12, 1965 and has been meeting needs and changing lives in southeastern Vermont for 55 years. It is still here – and will continue to be here – regardless of the crisis, as they were during the Great Recession in 2009, Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and now the Coronavirus Pandemic in 2020. More information can be found at or (, or by calling 800-464-9951.

SEVCA Remains Open and Announces Changes to Service Delivery in Response to COVID-19

Services remain available for Windham and Windsor County Residents 

Effective 3/18/2020

SEVCA is committed to serving Windham and Windsor County residents to the best of our ability under all circumstances. But, effective Wednesday March 18th, we will be changing the way we provide services, at least through April 3rd, and possibly longer, to be determined at a later date.

As a response to growing concerns about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and in order to keep community members and staff safe, SEVCA will revise program delivery for all programs, as follows:  All requests for services and appointments will be handled strictly by telephone or other methods not requiring in-person contact, and all SEVCA offices and program sites will be closed to the public. Family Services staff will continue to offer fuel & housing assistance and other crisis intervention services, and Economic Development staff will provide Micro Business, Financial Fitness, Matched Savings, and Ready for Work services, all by phone.  The VITA program will continue to provide Income Tax Preparation Assistance at our Westminster, Windsor, and White River Junction sites, but it will now be done by having clients drop off their tax documents at their assigned site, and then clients will be contacted by phone for further service instead of sitting with the preparer as it has been done in the past.

In-home Weatherization program services are temporarily suspended, except for requests for Emergency Heating System Repair and Replacement, which will be handled by phone. Home Repair will also be suspending its in-home services, except for completion of jobs already started. Head Start classes and facilities are closed in compliance with the statewide school closing mandate but will continue to offer services directly to enrolled families via phone, internet, and social media. SEVCA’s Good Buy Thrift stores will be closed starting Friday March 20th, except by appointment for fulfilling emergency vouchers prepared by Family Service staff.  Inquiries for services and appointment requests may continue to be made by calling (802) 722-4575 or (800) 464-9951, or by calling any of our satellite locations in Brattleboro, Springfield, White River Junction, and Windsor.  For information about our program phone numbers, visit Stay connected to for updates about services and timelines.

SEVCA works to find solutions to the deep-seated problems of poverty, largely by empowering and collaborating with those whose lives are affected by it daily. The agency can assist in addressing people's immediate needs for fuel, housing, food, and other essentials to help stabilize their lives in the short term, and provide further tools and support to help them achieve greater financial independence in the longer term. SEVCA recognizes that this is a time of great need and challenge for our communities. Every member of this area is impacted by the actions that we take today. SEVCA will remain diligent and proactive in serving our communities and meeting the growing and changing needs, while keeping both our customers and our staff safe.


Contact: Carolyn Sweet

Telephone: 802-722-4575

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


SEVCA offers appointments by telephone

Effective Tuesday March 17th, SEVCA will continue to serve Windham and Windsor County residents but will be changing the way it provides services. All services provided by our Family Services staff (e.g., fuel & housing assistance and other crisis intervention services) and by our Economic Development staff (Micro Business, Financial Fitness, Matched Savings, and Ready for Work) will be provided by phone.  Head Start classrooms will close starting Wednesday March 18th in compliance with the statewide school closing mandate.  Weatherization is suspending work in people’s homes for at least until March 20th and possibly longer.  Emergency Heating System Repair / Replacement will continue, following the most recent state guidelines.  We will update you on our Thrift Stores and VITA Tax Preparation programs as soon as those decisions are made.

Appointments can be scheduled by calling our Westminster office – (802) 722-4575 or (800) 464-9951 – or any of our satellite locations in Brattleboro, Springfield, White River Junction and Windsor.  For information about our program phone numbers, visit Stay connected to for updates about services.

“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