News

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

Pilot Project Will Help 3SquaresVT Recipients Find New & Better Paying Jobs

SEVCA Assisting With Outreach

In 2015, Vermont was one of ten states chosen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop and test strategies for reducing dependency on the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Vermont’s SNAP Program, called 3SquaresVT and administered by the Department for Children and Families (DCF), was awarded a three‐year $8.9 million dollar grant to develop a job readiness and training pilot program for people getting benefits.

Vermont’s pilot, called Jobs for Independence (JFI), began accepting applications at the end of February 2016.

“The Jobs for Independence pilot will give participants the opportunity to develop skills, overcome barriers to work, and find and keep good jobs,ʺ said DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz. “Most importantly, it will help them to rely less on government assistance and more on their own capacities for building strong futures for themselves.ʺ

Jobs for Independence (JFI) can help people even if they: don’t have stable housing; have a mental health issue; are struggling with substance abuse or recovery; or have a criminal record. Vermonters who get 3SquaresVT benefits may be eligible to participate. Those selected for the program could get help to:

  • Resolve issues that may be keeping them from work (e.g., criminal record, mental health, substance abuse, or unstable housing)
  • Find new or better jobs
  • Gain work skills and knowledge
  • Pay for things they need to work like car repairs and work clothes
  • Earn the Governor’s Career Ready Certificate at the Community College of Vermont (CCV)
  • Achieve industry‐recognized certification (e.g., CDL or IT Software)

3SquaresVT participants who are interested in JFI should call SEVCA to see if they qualify. In Windham County, contact Elizabeth McEwen at 802 376-0362 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. In Winsor County, contact Elizabeth Meuse 802 376-0361 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“Unless the investment in children is made, all of humanity’s most fundamental long-term problems will remain fundamental long-term problems.”

UNICEF "The State of the Children" (1995)