An Estimated $20M More Available For Rental Assistance

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — After announcing earlier this month that a pandemic-related emergency rental assistance program is being phased out as federal funding is exhausted, Vermont state officials now say they believe an estimated $20 million more is available to extend the benefits for some of the lowest income Vermonters.

Deputy Administration Secretary Douglas Farnham said Friday that he told a joint legislative committee this week that the state believes it can use an additional estimated $20 million of federal funding for the program. VTDigger first reported the story. The state won't know the exact amount until the middle of October, he said.

The state has been hearing from advocates since it announced on Sept. 1 that the program will stop taking new applications for rent and other housing related expenses at the end of the month and rental assistance for existing beneficiaries will be reduced based on their incomes. The state estimates that the funding would be exhausted by March 31. Housing advocate and Democratic candidate for governor Brenda Siegel called the changes “atrocious.”

Farnham said Friday that while the additional funding won't last long, the state's highest priority is extending the assistance through April for the population at 30% of area median income, he said.

“We intend to use that money primarily to ease the ramp down through the winter for as many of lowest income households as possible, keeping those same priorities of protecting as many households as possible, but focusing it on the most vulnerable within that population," he said.