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State Reduces Funding For 'Reach Up' Program Counselors

The Vermont Agency of Human Services is cutting about $500,000 that would have gone toward support services for the state's Reach Up program.

The Reach Up program provides job counseling and financial help for low-income Vermonters when they're between jobs and trying to get back on their feet.

Department for Children and Families Deputy Commissioner Sean Brown oversees the Reach Up program, and he says a strong economy means more people are working, which has led to fewer applications for the state assistance.
   
"We're seeing fewer people applying for the program," Brown says. "We're seeing more people leave the program due to earned income."

Brown says that over the past four years, Vermont's caseload has dropped by about one-third.

The state makes adjustments throughout the year, and Brown says the cuts were made to save money in areas of the state where Reach Up applications have dropped.

"We just can't sustain this type of spending," Brown says. "We don't have the cases to send to these providers to do the work."

Brown says the funding reductions will hit case workers in offices around the state and not directly impact Vermonters who receive Reach Up assistance.

The largest cut fell on the Vermont Association of Business, Industry and Rehabilitation, which will lose employment specialists in Hartford, Brattleboro, Middlebury, Bennington, Morrisville, St. Johnsbury and Rutland.

Other groups that will see funding cuts include the Committee on Temporary Shelter in Burlington, Northeast Kingdom Community Action Agency in Newport, Addison County Community Action Group, Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires, Inc., and Springfield Family Center.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state. 
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