Settlement in lawsuit over emergency housing eligibility

August 20, 2021 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The state and Vermont Legal Aid have reached a settlement over the end of a hotel voucher program for some of the homeless population during the pandemic, the Vermont Agency of Human Services and the legal services group announced Friday.

Under the settlement, eligibility for the general assistance emergency housing program will be expanded for people with disabilities and a formal process will be created for applicants whose health or welfare would be at risk due to their disability if they were unsheltered, they said.

Last year Vermont expanded eligibility for the program during the pandemic to allow more people to stay temporarily in hotels and motels. It ended the program for some in July, and gave $2,500 checks to those who were no longer eligible. Vermont Legal Aid sued and a judge signed an agreement, extending the emergency housing for some people to show they had a disability and could remain eligible.

“People with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness will now be able to access GA benefits even if they are able to work,” Vermont Legal Aid staff attorney Jessica Radbord said of the settlement in a written statement. “We believe this will protect some truly vulnerable members of our community from suffering negative health consequences as a result of being unsheltered.”

Department for Children and Families Commissioner Sean Brown said he believes the agreement will serve Vermonters well.

“This means we can move forward with development of a plan — in collaboration with communities and stakeholders across the state — to transition to a system that provides more stable shelter and support services like food assistance, rental assistance, and mental health care,” he said in a written statement.

In other pandemic-related news:




Montpelier city employees and visitors are again required to wear masks in municipal buildings.

The City Council on Wednesday night unanimously approved the mask mandate regardless of a person’s vaccine status, citing a spike in COVID-19 cases from the delta variant, the Times Argus reported.

“If tomorrow we’re in a better place, it goes away,” Mayor Anne Watson said of the revived mask mandate.

Officials in the town of Brattleboro this week also voted in favor of a mask mandate in the town’s public indoor spaces.



Next week’s parade in Rutland to celebrate frontline workers during the pandemic has been canceled because of rising cases of the coronavirus.

“Right now, the people we want to celebrate are becoming increasingly busy,” said organizer Lyle Jepson, executive director of Chamber and Economic Development of the Rutland Region. “We need to give them space.”

Rising case counts also make it difficult to celebrate the “end” of the pandemic, Jepson told the Rutland Herald.

“We’re not in a place to say it’s over,” Jepson said. “We thought we were going to be in that position. We hoped we were going to be in that position. What has got Vermont to the successful position we have now is careful pivoting when it was time to pivot.”

Organizers hope to hold the Parade of Heroes next year, he said.

Sidewalk sales and and a concert planned for the same day have also been canceled.



Vermont reported 112 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, for a statewide total since the pandemic began of more than 26,770 cases.

A total of 26 people were hospitalized with 12 in intensive care, the state Health Department reported.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 55.57 on Aug. 4 to 111.43 on Aug. 18.

The Associated Press is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.