Why is there a worker shortage?

Posted by Jack Hoffman on September 22, 2021 at 10:25 am | * Comments (1)

The Washington Post recently tackled the question a lot of people have been talking about. The headline read: “Why America has 8.4 million unemployed when there are 10 million job openings.”

What was refreshing about the Post story was that it didn’t offer the usual explanation about the mismatch between jobs and job skills, which seems to lay the blame for worker shortages on the workers. Instead, according to the Post, the mismatch is between the jobs on offer and jobs workers want.

Maybe the tide is turning. Maybe the demand for employees is reaching the point where they not only can ask for better pay, but also for meaningful work.

Clemmons Family Farm ED Lydia Clemmons to Receive the 2021 Con Hogan Award

Posted by Paul Cillo on September 16, 2021 at 11:49 am | Comments Off on Clemmons Family Farm ED Lydia Clemmons to Receive the 2021 Con Hogan Award

The Vermont Community Foundation and the organizing committee for the Con Hogan Award for Creative, Entrepreneurial Community Leadership are pleased to announce that Lydia Clemmons, PhD, MPH will be honored with this year’s award. Dr. Clemmons is President and Executive Director of the Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte. Read more

Testimony to Pension Benefits, Design, and Funding Task Force, September 9, 2021

Posted by Paul Cillo on September 10, 2021 at 8:38 am | * Comments (1)

Testimony of Paul A. Cillo, President, Public Assets Institute
Pension Benefits, Design, and Funding Task Force
September 9, 2021

Good afternoon, Co-Chairs Rep. Copeland Hanzas and Sen. White, and members of the task force.  My name is Paul Cillo. I’m the president of Public Assets Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, public policy think tank here in Montpelier.  For those of you who may not be familiar with Public Assets, we research and analyze Vermont tax, budget, and economic policy from the perspective of everyday residents. We publish all of our work on our website at publicassets.org.

By way of background, I’m a lifelong Vermonter originally from Castleton, graduated from UVM, and have lived in Hardwick for the past 40 years. I’ve had a long history of public service in Hardwick as a Selectboard member, chair the Planning Commission and the Special Committee that led to the successful merger of the village and town in 1988, as well as a member of a number of nonprofit boards. I also served in the Vermont House for 10 years, four on the Ways and Means Committee...

Over $10 billion in federal COVID relief

Posted by Julie Lowell on August 16, 2021 at 3:33 pm | Comments Off on Over $10 billion in federal COVID relief

The federal government has allocated over $10 billion to Vermont to minimize the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. This unprecedented amount of aid—an amount equal to 30 percent of Vermont’s 2019 total personal income—has helped Vermonters get through the pandemic.

A third of the support has gone directly to individuals, in the form of unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, tax credits, and other supports; a quarter has gone to businesses, through the Paycheck Protection Program and other grant programs; and the rest has gone to public services helping Vermonters maintain housing, and access healthcare, education, and other social services. Most of the individual and business support is already out the door, with expanded unemployment benefits ending in early September. The public services dollars are a mix of emergency aid and support for longer-term projects to be spent by 2026.

Affordable higher education

Posted by Stephanie Yu on August 6, 2021 at 10:22 am | * Comments (1)

If there was ever any doubt that unaffordability prevented Vermonters from pursuing higher education, the news last week should have laid it to rest.

Reports that there was more demand than supply for a state program offering free tuition to Vermont colleges were probably not surprising to many in the higher education field. While Vermont’s high school graduation rates consistently have been among the highest in the country, college attendance rates have been low. And attempts over the years to understand and solve this conundrum haven’t provided much new clarity.

At the risk of stating the obvious, it seems that cost is a barrier for many.

Where is the federal relief for Vermont municipalities?

Posted by Julie Lowell on July 21, 2021 at 3:47 pm | Comments Off on Where is the federal relief for Vermont municipalities?

In March, the American Rescue Plan Act allotted nearly $200 million of relief to Vermont’s local governments—$76.6 million to cities and towns, and another $121 million to Vermont counties—to respond to the COVID health emergency, boost essential worker pay, provide needed government services, and invest in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure. This money will have significant impact, as it is nearly 40 percent of what Vermont local governments collected in municipal taxes in 2020.

But where is that federal relief money?

State’s commitment to people doesn’t end with COVID

Posted by Julie Lowell on July 2, 2021 at 2:16 pm | Comments Off on State’s commitment to people doesn’t end with COVID

Vermont leaders demonstrated their commitment to Vermonters during the pandemic.

They told the truth, faced reality, and committed to the public good to weather the emergency. The post-COVID recovery requires this same level of commitment to address the ongoing challenges that the pandemic highlighted—deteriorating infrastructure, income insecurity, and systemic inequities. Aided by federal relief funds this year, the $7.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2022, which started on July 1, provides a good start.

Averages can be deceiving

Posted by Jack Hoffman on June 30, 2021 at 2:45 pm | * Comments (2)

Vermont’s average annual wage rose to just over $54,000 last year. The increase, nearly 10 percent, was the largest since at least 1988.

It’s nothing to celebrate, though. We aren’t really better off.

The average went up last year because the COVID-19 pandemic took its biggest toll on low-wage jobs.

Student weighting is more complicated than it seems

Posted by Jack Hoffman on June 10, 2021 at 3:08 pm | * Comments (1)

Many legislators and school officials are eager to adjust Vermont’s education finance system to provide more money for school districts with kids from low-income families and those for whom English is not their first language. We agree these resources are necessary and should be provided as soon as possible. But the Legislature was right to set up a special legislative task force this session to research and discuss with Vermont parents and voters the options for providing additional funding to these school districts. Here’s why:

The proposed changes are an extreme use of weights, and made more so by Vermont’s funding system. Student weighting is just what the term suggests: Certain students who cost more to educate are counted as more than one person—given more weight—as a means to provide the additional funding to their school district.

The people vs. the computer

Posted by Julie Lowell on June 4, 2021 at 12:35 pm | Comments Off on The people vs. the computer

Good government serves its people and puts their needs first. But unemployment insurance policy changes this year that would have helped unemployed Vermonters were stymied by a 40-year-old computer system.

In non-pandemic times, workers who qualify for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits receive up to 57 percent of their wages. A federal benefit boost is helping them make ends meet during the pandemic but is set to end in early September. So legislators brainstormed several UI benefit changes that would start in September.