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News Roundup: 4,000 Vermont Kids Could Be Lifted Above Poverty Line With Expanded Child Tax Credit

Elodie Reed

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about new federal tax credits for families with children and more for Friday, July 16.

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1. Families of over 100,000 children in Vermont eligible for new tax credit

Nearly every Vermont family with kids is eligible to receive a boost in their monthly income.

Payments of up to $300 per child each month start going out this week through the end of the year. That’s from the expanded child tax credit program, part of the federal relief package passed in March.

“This is one of the first times in our country where we decided to actually give direct financial aid to low income families because they have children,” said Zachary Lees, an attorney at Vermont Legal Aid.

That means families of over 100,000 children in Vermont qualify for the credit, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, though families with kids who are not U.S. citizens aren’t eligible.

The funding will be distributed through the I.R.S. using 2020 tax returns, but even families who didn’t file income taxes qualify.

“So even if your earnings are zero, even if you have no earnings from employment, you can still receive this,” says Sarah Teel, research director with Voices for Vermont's Children.

That means families might need to update their information with the IRS if they didn’t fill out a 2020 tax return. Later in the summer, families should be able to update other changes like a new address, having a baby or no longer filing a joint return.

Lexi Krupp

2. Vermont's eviction moratorium expired Thursday, even as many Vermonters need rental assistance

Time is running out on eviction bans at the state and federal level. Vermont's eviction moratorium ended Thursday, but the federal one lasts until the end of the month.

There are millions of dollars available to help tenants whose finances were hurt by the pandemic. The Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program, known as VERAP, has distributed $6.7 million to more than 1,900 households.

But Grace Pazden, an attorney at Vermont Legal Aid, says she's concerned people could get evicted while they're waiting for their application to process.

“There isn't currently any protection for VERAP applicants in the law, so that's going to be, you know, entirely up to the judge to decide how they want to proceed in a case even where, you know, the main issue may just be non-payment of grant and the tenant has already applied for VERAP and is just kind of stuck,” Pazden said.

Tenants can still apply for rental assistance – the funds can cover back rent or future payments.

Vermont State Housing Authority administers the program. Tyler Maas at VSHA says the program now distributions a million dollars each week – and has more money ready to go out.

“We are setting up for the future for August, September and October now. And at this time, we have a couple million dollars already set up for future payments for August,” he said.

— Liam Elder-Connors

3. Vt. transportation secretary says Amtrak service to Burlington could be completed by March

Vermont's transportation secretary says he expects a decades-long project to extend Amtrak service to Burlington will be completed by next March.

Secretary Joe Flynn says the Ethan Allen Express project has faced some recent delays due to supply chain issues.

"There are some pieces of rail infrastructure — switches in particular — that are currently on order, that may take upwards of 4 to 5 months to arrive, which would put us in early 2022," he said. "So I think the message to Vermonters and everyone who is waiting for the Ethan Allen to arrive in Burlington is that it is around the corner."

When it's completed, the line will connect passenger trains from Burlington through Vergennes, Middlebury and Rutland — continuing south into New York City's Penn Station.

Listen to the full story.

Henry Epp

4. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray says expanded broadband is key to criminal justice reform

Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray visited Grand Isle County Thursday, to discuss access to justice during the pandemic.

While many of the state’s courthouses have reopened for in-person services, Grand Isle County’s has not.

Gray says she hopes some federal COVID-19 relief money can be used to continue virtual criminal justice services.

”Access to justice is gonna look different coming out of the pandemic," Gray said. "For a lot of defendants and a lot of Vermonters that might mean accessing the courthouse from home. But that only works if defendants have good broadband, they had access to video, they have access to audio. So if we're going to think about criminal justice reform, due process and access to justice in the future, those are the investments that we have to make.”

Lt. Gov. talks with island businesses about recovery, tourism

Gray also visited local businesses in Grand Isle County Thursday, to talk about how the pandemic has affected the hospitality industry.

Vermont is set to receive $2.7 billion in relief through the American Rescue Plan Act, and to invest that money, Gray says she wants to hear directly from Vermonters about their experience during the pandemic.

Walter Blasberg is the owner of The North Hero House Inn and Restaurant. He found a creative solution to handle staffing shortages.

“I brought people in from everywhere else: Florida, North Carolina, New York City, Chicago, to work here ... I have a big house with six bedrooms and seven bathrooms and I've got five people living there. So I'm housing people,” Blasberg said.

He said this is the first time he's taken this approach to staffing his business.

Gray plans to continue meeting with Vermonters throughout the summer.

Marlon Hyde

5. New study finds Vermont's glottal stop is alive and well in young residents

There’s been some concern in recent years that the “Vermont accent” is fading away.But a new study finds that one aspect of rural speech is alive and well in Vermont’s young people.

If you say the word “mitten” like “mi’en,” you’re making use of what linguists call a glottal stop. It’s a hallmark of what’s considered a traditional Vermont accent.

Regional dialects have been on the decline for years, but a recent analysis by a linguist at Georgetown University finds that this specific pronunciation is robust in the speech of rural children and young adults.

The studynotes that the prevalence of the glottal stop varies across age groups, and is likely tied to an individual’s identity and their relationship to Vermont as a place.

Anna Van Dine

Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.

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