Vermont's emergency motel housing program extended until Dec. 31
The Scott administration on Monday unveiled its long-term plan for people in emergency motel housing.
The new proposal could extend motel housing stays for low-income Vermonters for up to 18 months. The emergency housing program had been set to expire Thursday, but the administration now says it’ll extend it until Dec. 31.
After that deadline arrives, the administration says people in motel housing will be able to use federal rental assistance funds to keep their rooms. The plan also calls for the construction of more emergency shelters before winter in empty dormitories or other vacant spaces.
The administration is also asking lawmakers to allocate an additional $100 million for affordable housing.
“So we kind of move out of the crisis management piece for these households and give them a little bit more stability longer term, and relieve some of that stress,” Sean Brown, commissioner for the Department of Children and Families, told lawmakers on Monday.
But housing advocates want Gov. Phil Scott to reinstate motel shelter eligibility for the about 1,000 Vermonters who lost their rooms in July when the program’s eligibility requirements changed.
Speaking Tuesday, at the governor’s weekly press conference, Brown said there aren’t enough available motel rooms in Vermont to provide emergency housing.
“We had some of the highest motel capacity of travelers with one of the recent weekends in October, and that’s really reduced the number of available hotel rooms that we have available,” he said.
Advocates are also worried additional shelter capacity may not be ready before frigid weather sets in, and they say existing shelters don’t have the capacity to provide housing for everyone who needs it.
In a statement released Tuesday, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brenda Siegel, who is sleeping on the Statehouse steps in protest, said she is disappointed with the governor's plan.
"Folks that have nowhere to go, in an unforgiving and absent housing market, are not even being afforded the basic safety of shelter and warmth that should be offered to every human being," she said.
Earlier this year, the Legislature earmarked $140 million toward housing from Vermont’s share of the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
The administration says the additional funds could provide permanent housing options for people in emergency motel housing.