News

Get "Ready for Work" This Spring

Training Programs for Job Seekers in Brattleboro and Springfield

“Ready for Work,” a new program held at Community College of Vermont (CCV) in Brattleboro this past fall, is now being offered in both Brattleboro and Springfield, thus expanding access to training and support for unemployed, disadvantaged workers in Windsor County.

“Ready for Work” consists of a free, 8-week employment readiness course along with intensive, one-on-one support to help participants solidify skills such as resume writing and interviewing, overcome employment barriers, search for and apply to jobs, and transition successfully into the workforce. Classes begin March 18 at CCV’s location in the Howard Dean Center in Springfield, and March 19 at their location in the Brooks House in Brattleboro.

The program was developed through a partnership involving CCV, Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA), and the Windham Workforce Investment Board (WWIB) with funding from a Regional Workforce Partnership Grant from the Vermont Department of Labor. A grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to CCV also supports the program. “Ready for Work” was successfully piloted with 16 participants this past fall.

The course focuses on the core skills most requested by Vermont businesses, and upon completion, participants will be eligible to receive the Governor’s Career Ready Certificate and the National Career Readiness Certificate – both of which are recognized by many Vermont employers as indicators of proficiency and workforce readiness.

“The combination of classroom learning and individual support the program offers enables participants to obtain the core workplace skills and self-assurance they need to get and keep good jobs,” SEVCA’s Executive Director Steve Geller said. “The partnership between CCV, SEVCA and the WWIB is just what’s needed to support not only workers, but employers as well, who are always looking for reliable, job-ready employees.”

Enrollment for the program is now open, and space is limited. Interested applicants can CLICK HERE to fill out an online application. For more information about the Brattleboro program contact Karen Clark, 802-254-6389, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For information about the Springfield program, contact Debra Grant, 802-885-8360, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Or contact Denise Mason at SEVCA, 800-464-9951, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Rent-to-Own Centers Face Legislative Regulation to Protect Consumers

In the News….

Imagine paying an interest rate of 300% or higher on your bed, kitchen table, or TV. Sounds far-fetched, but that is exactly the kind of deal on offer at Rent-to-Own businesses. Due to a loophole in current law, their customers pay a huge premium on large ticket items that might not even be new, as many of the items rented have been repossessed from previous customers. Consumers aren’t shown the actual ultimate cost of the rent-to-own deal they are agreeing to, and fall prey to deceptive marketing practices. Most rent-to-own clientele are people with lower incomes—an estimated 72% of them earn less than $36,000/year. These consumers often don’t have the money to purchase products outright, and may not have good credit, so they have little option but to turn to rent-to-own dealers. And because of the high installment payments and quick repossessions if they fall behind, only about 25% of these customers ever end up actually owning the items they paid such an outrageously high price for.

SEVCA’s staff have seen the impact of rent-to-own deals on countless clients over the years. High installment payments are often a factor in creating a financial crisis for the household that impacts their ability to meet their basic food, housing, and fuel expenses. So SEVCA has joined with other advocates in support of bi-partisan legislation recently introduced in the state Senate to crack down on the industry’s deceptive and exploitative practices. The legislation would limit the effective interest rate charged on these installment purchases and require certain disclosures and consumer protections that it is hoped would make the industry operate on a much fairer, above-board basis. Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, of which SEVCA is a member, is just one of the many organizations that have endorsed the legislation. (Click HERE to read their statement.)

See the following news article for more information, or call Family Services Director Pat Burke at (802) 722-4575 with questions.

http://vtdigger.org/2015/02/19/shumlin-joins-lawmakers-advocates-push-rent-regulations/

Posted March, 2015

State Moves to Make Substantial Cuts to Fuel Assistance

Call to Action…

Facing a looming budget deficit of up to $130 million in FY2016, Governor Shumlin has proposed some major cuts to key human services programs. Sadly, one of the programs facing these cuts is one of those most essential to the safety and well-being of tens of thousands of Vermont residents with lower incomes—Fuel Assistance. Current proposals will slice $6 million off of LIHEAP assistance in 2016, but further cuts are slated to start even sooner, affecting fuel assistance recipients almost immediately.  A 4.7% cut to Seasonal and Crisis Fuel Assistance is expected for this year, and another 28.5% cut would go through next year.

SEVCA and other advocates estimate that cuts of this magnitude could mean a reduction in the amount of Seasonal Fuel Assistance provided—from an average household benefit of $783 to only $545; and about 350 fewer eligible Windham and Windsor county residents might go without critically-needed Crisis Fuel Assistance and thus without heat.

A recent report by Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment documents the huge energy burdens that lower income households endure. One in every five Vermont households is considered “fuel poor,” meaning they pay over 10% of their income on energy. The lowest income households (who make $14,000/year and under) pay an average of 27.7% of their income on fuel. Between 2000 and 2012, lower income households saw a 37.4% increase in fuel costs, as well as an increase in their overall energy burden. The result? Between 1999 and 2011, Vermont averaged 172 excess winter mortalities per year. In the words of the report authors, “…excess winter deaths, caused largely by fuel poverty, kill more Vermonters each year than car crashes.”

SEVCA urges anyone concerned about the proposed reduction in fuel assistance to call their state legislator and tell them to restore the Fuel Assistance budget to current levels because:

  • It is unacceptable to put lower income households at risk of going without heat. The fuel cost burden for many low income households is unmanageable, even with fuel assistance. The danger of people suffering health complications from the cold is a real one, and cuts to Fuel Assistance will make this increasingly likely.
  • Energy prices cannot be counted on to remain as low as they are currently and, as we’ve seen this year, winter temperatures are also unpredictable, which means that the proposed cuts could severely affect many more people than expected next winter.

You can find your state legislators at the following website:  http://legislature.vermont.gov/people/.

Or, call the Vermont State House at (802) 828-2229.

Posted: March 2015

"Ski for Heat" on January 25!

Ski for Heat and Keep Low-Income Vermonters Warm this Winter

 Calling all skiers, cross-country skiers, and snow shoe enthusiasts! Have fun and contribute to a great cause at area Ski for Heat events on January 25. Ski for Heat is an annual statewide fundraiser that raises money for fuel and utility assistance programs at Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) and other Vermont Community Action Agencies. Anyone can participate by skiing, riding, or snowshoeing at participating Vermont Alpine or Nordic centers, many of which offer special deals to those who contribute to or raise funds for Ski for Heat. Participating locations in Windham and Windsor counties include the following Vermont ski centers:

  • Viking Nordic Center, Londonderry
  • Magic Mountain, Londonderry
  • Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center, Grafton
  • Stratton Nordic Center, Stratton Mountain.
  • Brattleboro Outing Club, Brattleboro

“Being warm is such a basic need, but many in our area can’t afford to heat their homes adequately and still have enough for food, housing, medical care, and other necessities,” said Martha Robertson, founder of Ski for Heat. “Our goal is to help as many Vermonters as we can this winter. We provide a fun opportunity for people to make a difference in their communities in a simple, accessible way. We hope to see you on the slopes and trails on January 25!”

The public is invited to participate in any of the following ways:

  1. Simply show up and ski, ride, cross-country ski, or snowshoe at participating Ski for Heat sites on January 25. Many ski areas offer a reduced entry fee or free entrance for those who donate to Ski for Heat, or they will contribute a portion of the day’s proceeds. Some areas require pre-registration to get the special deal offered. Please see the Events tab on the Ski for Heat website (www.skiforheat.org) for a full list of participating ski centers and details about how to participate.
  2. Raise funds from family and friends or request contributions through the Ski for Heat website prior to your participation on January 25.
  3. Make a donation to someone else who will be participating in Ski for Heat or donate directly on the website.

100% of funds raised will be used for heat or utility assistance for people with lower incomes in our communities. Those who raise $100 or more by January 25 will receive a free Ski for Heat long-sleeved shirt and be entered to win a “Ski and Stay” package at a Vermont resort. Other great prizes will be available.

Ski for Heat is a volunteer-run nonprofit started by Martha Robertson 15 years ago to raise funds to keep low-income Vermonters warm. Ski for Heat is presented by the Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU) with support from Ski Vermont and local sponsors including Merchants Bank, Manchester Lion’s Club, Finn & Stone, Clark’s Quality Foods, and the Vermont Country Store. For more information, visit www.skiforheat.org, contact Martha Robertson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call Becky Himlin at SEVCA, 802-722-4575, ext. 163. Follow #skiforheat on Facebook for the most current updates.

It’s Tax Season! SEVCA Can Help

File Your Taxes for FREE through SEVCA’s VITA Program

The IRS has estimated that 4 million U.S. residents each year fail to claim tax credits they qualify for, forfeiting nearly $3 billion in tax credits and refunds. Tax benefits like the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) help eligible working families afford better housing, dependable transportation,and quality child care, and pursue further education and training, thus contributing to their long-term financial stability. In addition, they benefit the local economy.

Help SEVCA spread the word about the free tax preparation services we will provide to qualified low- and moderate-income households through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program between February 3 and April 8. Call SEVCA if you or someone you know:

  •  Is unsure of the tax implications of the Affordable Care Act and needs a little extra help to make sure their return is accurate this year
  • Wants to make sure to claim all tax credits they are eligible for, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit
  • Wants to save the $100-$300 they would usually pay a tax preparer to file their taxes

In 2014, SEVCA’s VITA program assisted 491 tax filers, of whom 377 received federal and state refunds amounting to over $600,000, including 293 who qualified for tax credits valued at over $380,000. This year, we’ve recruited 22 volunteer tax preparers, who have undergone extensive training in current tax regulations, including those related to the Affordable Care Act. Each return will be reviewed for accuracy by a certified volunteer. Free tax assistance is available 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 (day and early evening appointments available)
  • Windsor Resource Connection Center (Windsor) on alternate Wednesdays

SEVCA is proud to partner again this year with Granite United Way to offer the VITA program to residents in the Upper Valley (White River Junction and Windsor sites). For tax assistance at the Westminster location, interested persons should call 800-464-9951, beginning immediately. To schedule appointments at our Windsor or White River Junction locations, please call 866-444-4211 after January 15.

"If I could give you one thought, it would be to lift someone up. Lift a stranger up--lift her up. I would ask you, mother and father, brother and sister, lovers, mother and daughter, father and son, lift someone. The very idea of lifting someone up will lift you, as well."

Maya Angelou