Share your financial talents!

Volunteer tax preparers needed

Each year, SEVCA’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program helps hundreds of lower-income individuals and families file their taxes and claim their credits…for free. 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 refunds. Our program makes sure that qualified families DO claim the credits that they are entitled to, such as the Earned Income Credit, Child Tax Credit, and more, therefore maximizing their refunds. This helps their families and increases local buying power, so it helps the local economy, too. 

 VITA is staffed entirely by volunteer tax preparers, and we need to fill several volunteer positions this year. The next Volunteer Orientation meeting is November 12, 4-5 p.m. at SEVCA’s office at 91 Buck Drive, Westminster. Learn how you can make a difference in your community by becoming a VITA volunteer!

Don’t know that much about taxes? Don’t worry — you’ll receive specialized training from a certified VITA instructor and from IRS online courses. We are looking for individuals who are willing and able to commit 3 to 4 hours per week from February through early April 2016.  Continuing on-site training and supervision is provided during the actual tax preparation days.

For more information, please contact Susan Brace at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or (802) 722-4575, ext. 199.

Have you ever missed the bus? If so, don’t “miss the boat”--

Let your voice be heard on how inadequate public transportation in Vermont affects you!

SEVCA’s recent Community Assessment found that that lower-income residents face enormous hurdles in getting to where they need to go in Southeastern Vermont, and this has a big impact on their ability to get and keep a job. Findings from our recent survey of over 350 lower-income households found that:

  • 71% say that public transportation does not go where they need to go at the times they need it.
  • The costs of car ownership are considerable, and unaffordable to many; 25% of those surveyed say they need a car but can’t afford one.
  • For those low income households that do own a car, car payments, insurance, maintenance, fuel costs, etc., put a large dent in their budgets, making it more difficult for them to meet their other basic needs. A high proportion of those who have cars--almost 70%--say they have a hard time maintaining their cars, making car maintenance the most common concern cited. 23% say they don’t have car insurance because they can’t afford it.
  • 43% cited problems with transportation as a reason they had trouble getting or keeping a job.

The state Transportation Board is holding public hearings to hear from residents about transportation needs, and we need to be sure they take the concerns of households with lower incomes into account. The only opportunity to participate in all of Southern Vermont will be in Bellows Falls on Wednesday, October 14 at 6 p.m. at the Rockingham Town Hall, Lower Theatre. So this is our one chance this year  to have our voices heard and make an impact on the thorny issue of transportation, which everyone agrees is critically important but which has proven difficult to effectively address.   

Topics the Board plans to discuss include:

  • Both nationally and in Vermont, people are driving less and seeking to use alternative modes of transportation. What does this mean for the State’s future?
  • What transportation options do people consider when choosing a place to live and work?
  • How important are motor-vehicle alternatives such as rideshare, bicycle infrastructure, public transit, commuter rail, and vehicle-sharing such as Carshare Vermont and Zipcar?
  • What urban transportation solutions can be adapted to rural areas?
  • What should Vermont’s future passenger train service look like?
  • What can Vermont do to make both walking and riding a bicycle safer?
  • If the State legalizes the use of marijuana, what should be done to help keep roadways safe?

But they also want to hear about any other transportation-related needs, concerns, and ideas that local residents may have. People who cannot attend the hearing can submit written comments by visiting the Board’s website at  For more information, contact the Board’s Executive Secretary John Zicconi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 802-828-2942; or Steve Geller at SEVCA (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (802) 722-4575). View the Transportation Board's press release here.

If you need help to get to the meeting or to submit a written comment, please call Becky at SEVCA at 802-722-4575 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In Wake of New Poverty Data, SEVCA Releases Results of Community Assessment

SEVCA's Survey of Local Households with Lower Incomes Reveals Hardships of Poverty

On September 17, the Census Bureau released its annual American Community Survey, which includes state and local data on a host of indicators, including poverty rates, income, wages, unemployment, housing cost burdens, etc. While data for the U.S. as a whole shows a slight improvement in the poverty rate and income levels, in Vermont household incomes have remained stagnant and the poverty rate stands at 12.2%, no significant improvement from the previous year. Click here to find out more.

SEVCA also conducted a recent survey on the needs of lower income residents in its service area, which portrays a troubling picture of the difficulties so many of our neighbors face as they struggle to make ends meet. SEVCA distributed surveys to many of the people who use its services, and also asked various other community organizations to complete the survey and help distribute it to their clients to complete, as part of its Community Assessment. Community Action Agencies like SEVCA conduct such an assessment at least every three years to inform its strategies to address the needs and service gaps in the community. Over 350 lower-income residents responded. While the survey is not necessarily representative of the low-income population as a whole, it does offer some insights into their experiences. Highlights of the results include the following:

  • Households with lower incomes struggle just to meet their basic needs.  64% of those surveyed said their household income is not enough to meet their family’s basic needs (i.e. food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc.). 69% said they have had to borrow money or use their credit cards just to pay for their basic needs.
  • Chronic lack of adequate income or even a period of financial stress can lead to a debt trap for many lower-income households. 60% of survey respondents said they can’t afford the monthly payments on their debt, and 68% said they can’t get credit or have bad credit. Only 17% of those surveyed said they are able to save money regularly.
  • Few opportunities other than low-wage work are available to this population. Among lower-income workers surveyed, 85% said that most of the jobs they can get don’t pay well, and 85% said they and/or their partner had to work more than 40 hours/week just to pay the bills.
  • More education and/or training is needed to help households move out of poverty. 66% of respondents said they need more education or training to get a better job, and 79% of this group said they are not able to afford the education or training program they need. 50% said they would like to start a business but need more support and training.
  • Lack of transportation and lack of affordable child care are common employment barriers.  43% of respondents said they had trouble getting or keeping a job due to problems with transportation, and 34% had trouble getting or keeping a job because they could not find affordable child care. In general, 71% of respondents said that public transportation does not go where they need to go at the times they need it, and 69% of those with a car said they had a hard time maintaining it.
  • Many people in lower-income households are no longer able to work. A large proportion of those we surveyed were disabled and unable to work (28%) and/or retired (20%) and on fixed incomes.
  • Housing costs represent one of the most persistent barriers to sustainability for low-income households. 86% of respondents agreed that it is hard to find affordable, safe housing in their area, and 68% said that they have a hard time paying their rent and/or mortgage. 40% said they are behind in their rent or mortgage payments, and are therefore at risk of homelessness.  Housing subsidies are scarce: only 12% of those surveyed had rental assistance or lived in affordable housing.
  • Housing quality is also a concern, with 80% of lower-income homeowners surveyed saying that their home needs major repairs but they can’t afford them. 68% of all respondents said that their home or apartment was cold in the winter and/or not insulated well.
  • Most lower income households have trouble making ends meet despite receiving at least some public benefits. For example, 80% of survey respondents received 3SquaresVT (Food Stamps ), yet 60% of those surveyed said they sometimes skip meals to save money on food, one of the indicators of food insecurity. 28% said they don’t have enough nutritious food to feed themselves and their families.
  • Lack of access to dental care emerged as a major issue among the households surveyed, with 66% saying that they have a hard time finding dentists that take their insurance. In comparison, only 19% said they had a hard time finding doctors that take their insurance. 63% of the respondents indicated they had Medicaid/Dr. Dinosaur, 36% had Medicare, and 18% had a VT Health Connect medical plan.
  • Mental health is also a significant concern for many lower-income households. Sometimes poor mental health is a contributing factor to a household being in poverty, and other times the stresses of living in poverty are at the root of the mental health problems experienced. 58% of survey respondents say they or someone in their family needs help with a problem like depression, anxiety/stress, or other mental health issue.

SEVCA’s Community Assessment also included surveys of organizations throughout Windham and Windsor counties (91 responded) and SEVCA staff to get their perspectives on community needs. A more complete description of survey results and key findings will be available to the public on SEVCA’s website when the analysis is complete.

“Good Buy” Thrift Store Receives Boost from Town

A Bigger and Better WRJ Recycling Center Thrift Store Now Offering Furniture!

The Town of Hartford has graciously agreed to expand the space available to SEVCA’s “Good Buy” Thrift Store at the town’s Transfer Station and Recycling Center on a six-month trial basis. This will enable the store to offer a much bigger and better selection of furniture, clothing, and household goods; keep usable items out of the landfill and get them into the hands of residents who need them; and enhance its ability to continue to operate at that site.

Declining revenues in some locations had led SEVCA to consider various options to ensure the sustainability of its Thrift Store operations, including the possible closing of the Recycling Center site altogether. But when Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg learned the store might close, he acted quickly to get approval from the Select Board for the store to use the additional 1,000 square foot space, formerly serving as the recycling education center, on a six-month trial basis.

“This is a really exciting development,” said Tonia White, Director of SEVCA’s Thrift Stores and Textile Recycling program. “This could be just what we need to boost revenue and keep our store open at the Recycling Center location. With the additional space, we can offer a lot more variety and a higher volume of high quality used furniture and clothing, and that will attract a lot more shoppers. We also look forward to being able to take a lot more donations than we currently have the capacity to accept.” 

The expanded space, which SEVCA has named the “Furniture Annex,” opened for business on August 20. SEVCA will assess the impact of the expanded space over the next six months and will work with the Town Manager to determine what the future will hold for the Recycling Center store.

The “Good Buy” Thrift Stores are part of SEVCA’s multi-pronged strategy to combat poverty in Southeastern Vermont. Last year, SEVCA served over 13,000 people in Windham and Windsor counties through a range of programs such as crisis fuel assistance, homelessness prevention, Weatherization, home repair, business start-up and support, job readiness and skills training, Financial Fitness, asset building, Head Start, Food Stamp outreach, access to affordable health care, budgeting/savings, and information & referral, as well as the thrift stores. Not only do the stores offer products that meet people’s basic needs at very low prices on a daily basis, they often provide those items free of charge to households experiencing especially difficult crises. In addition to assisting its own clients, SEVCA has a strong partnership with The Upper Valley Haven, providing free clothing and household goods to help the homeless families they serve to get back on their feet.

SEVCA Announces Free Fall “Financial Fitness” Classes

SEVCA invites Windham County residents to register for its upcoming “Financial Fitness” class, to be held at Marlboro College in Brattleboro starting September 16. This seven-part workshop series will help participants improve their relationship with money, develop strong financial habits, and take steps towards prosperity. Topics covered include; saving, spending, credit, paying for college, purchasing a home, purchasing a car, insurance, and retirement. The instructor will review credit reports and provide recommendations to take steps to build healthy credit or resolve credit issues.

The class is free and open to the public.  It will begin on Wednesday, September 16 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, and continue each Wednesday through October 28. The workshops will be held at Marlboro College Graduate School, 28 Vernon Street, Brattleboro, VT.  Pre-registration is required.  Please call to register at 802-722-4575, ext. 151, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


“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)