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Cuts Mean Less Assistance For Vulnerable Vermonters

Less assistance for some of Vermont’s most vulnerable people. That’s the reality approaching at the end of the month when cuts to stimulus funding will take a chunk of funding out of the program 3SquaresVT, known formerly known as food stamps.

Dave Yacovone, Commissioner for the Department for Children and Families, spoke with VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb about the cuts, which are due to the end of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or stimulus funding, passed in 2009.

“We will experience an annual reduction of $10.5 million in 3Squares benefits for Vermonters,” Yacovone explained.

That means a reduction of $29 per month for a family of three. The average household 3SquaresVT benefit is $232 per month.

“That’s a significant reduction. And these are for families that are below 185 percent of the poverty level. So this is going to create significant hardship for many.”  A family of three making just over $36,000 per year is at 185 percent of the poverty level.

And Yacovone said there has been a significant increase in the number of families receiving benefits since 2009, from around 60,000 Vermonters to just over 100,000 Vermonters.

“That 100,000 number appears to have settled and stabilized, but there’s surely more people eligible who we’d like to get into the program,” Yacovone said.

Some of that increase is due to the economic downturn. The benefit eligibility threshold was also increased from 150 percent of the poverty level to 185 percent of the poverty level.

The cuts to 3SquaresVT are not the only cuts facing low-income families. There will soon be 774 fewer housing subsidy voucher available for low-income Vermonters, a 13 percent reduction. The Women, Infants & Children supplemental food program is also facing a 6-8 percent reduction.  LIHEAP, which helps low-income families pay for heat, will have $1 million fewer dollars this year. And reductions are coming to the child care block grant.

“Many Vermonters receive benefits from multiple programs, for those folks this is a very hard time,” Yacovone said.

The Vermont Foodbank has also said their seeing a drop in donations this fall.

“I’m especially concerned about those who don’t have or who are not part of a social convoy, for those who are isolated who don’t have friends or neighbors that they can call out to, as hard as that is sometimes, who they can reach out to for help. It’s almost sustained and chronic stress that these families are under, and it’s very troubling,” Yacovone said.

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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