Wages fall short of workers’ basic needs

Posted by Julie Lowell on February 23, 2021 at 11:44 am | * Comments (3)

How much income does a person need to live? The Joint Fiscal Office’s January release of its biennial Vermont Basic Needs Budgets and Livable Wage report answers this question. Unfortunately, it reminds us that not all Vermonters are able to meet their basic needs.

In 2020 livable income levels for full-time workers ranged from nearly $13 an hour for people without children in rural Vermont to nearly $42 an hour for a single parent with two children in the Burlington area – about $27,000 and $87,000 a year respectively.

Climbing the benefit cliff

Posted by Jack Hoffman on February 10, 2021 at 8:58 am | * Comments (2)

Benefit cliffs are a real problem. The term is used to describe the predicament people get into when earning more income makes them ineligible for certain public benefits. Their income goes up, but then they fall off a benefit cliff.

“Benefit cliffs’ is also one of those technocratic terms that’s hard to get excited about. But that could all change if enough people read just a short section of the Final Report of the Vermont Tax Structure Commission. It cuts through all of the usually confusing information and describes clearly the reality of a problem that needs fixing.

I can’t improve on the report by paraphrasing, so I’m quoting it at length below.

Tax Commission will issue consensus report

Posted by Julie Lowell on January 28, 2021 at 12:06 pm | Comments Off on Tax Commission will issue consensus report

The president is calling for unity, as the transfer of presidential power in Washington has been anything but peaceful over the past few months. Here in Vermont the soon to be released Tax Structure Commission’s report provides a real-world example of what united policy development looks like.

The Vermont Tax Structure Commission, established by the Legislature in 2018, is putting the finishing touches on their draft report recommending changes to the state’s tax system. The Commission has three members, two appointed by the Democratic legislature and one by the Republican governor, each with different tax backgrounds. They have been working together over the last two years analyzing the state’s tax system and developing long-term recommendations to make it “more fair, more sustainable, and simpler.”

Statement on Gov. Phil Scott’s Jan. 26, 2021 Budget Address

Posted by Stephanie Yu on January 26, 2021 at 4:08 pm | Comments Off on Statement on Gov. Phil Scott’s Jan. 26, 2021 Budget Address

Over the past year Gov. Phil Scott has recognized that many Vermonters needed help to meet their basic needs during the pandemic. His administration deserves credit for applying the power of state government, with the help of billions of dollars in federal aid, to meet those needs.

The governor acknowledged in his Budget Address today that many Vermonters were struggling even before the pandemic. Our State of Working Vermont 2020 report notes that many Vermonters—especially Black and brown Vermonters, low-income Vermonters, and Vermonters with disabilities—had not recovered from the Great Recession when the pandemic-driven recession began last year.

Federal aid has helped thousands of Vermonters and Vermont businesses make ends meet over this last year. It also allowed the state to spend money on things that have historically received inadequate investment, such as affordable housing, higher education, and child care. But instead of cautioning that this is one-time money that shouldn’t set the standard for budgets to come, the governor and Legislature should chart a course to continue to meet not only Vermonters’ basic needs, such as food, but also those needs that it took a global pandemic to reveal and address.

Revenues are up, but it’s all relative

Posted by Jack Hoffman on January 22, 2021 at 2:17 pm | Comments Off on Revenues are up, but it’s all relative

Federal stimulus funds clearly have been a godsend for Vermont and other states. Through the first round of relief—direct payments to state government, supplemental unemployment benefits, or aid to businesses—more than $5 billion flowed into Vermont to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic and to offset some of the economic damage it has caused.

And we learned this week, thanks to all of this federal aid, that Vermont will be collecting hundreds of millions more in tax revenue this year and next. But before we assume the crisis has passed, we need to ask: Hundreds of millions more than what?

More federal pandemic relief

Posted by Julie Lowell on January 15, 2021 at 2:38 pm | Comments Off on More federal pandemic relief

As the legislature gets into full swing this month, dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 on Vermonters will be at the top of the list. At the end of 2020, Washington approved another round of pandemic relief, adding more funds and extending the spending deadline for the federal aid sent last spring.

Vermont expects up to $2.5 billion from this new round of aid, with $1.8 billion accounted for so far. The aid includes funds for businesses, broadband investments, food, COVID-19 response, and other priorities. The new money extends a number of programs slated to expire including federal unemployment insurance and food programs, as well as additional health care support to test, trace and vaccinate Vermonters. About $650 million of that will be subject to legislative oversight.

New report: ‘Working with Disability’

Posted by Paul Cillo on November 24, 2020 at 11:10 am | Comments Off on New report: ‘Working with Disability’

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deep-rooted structural inequalities in the U.S. Immense, historic, and racialized inequity in health and health care and the near-invisible “essential workers” who make everyone’s daily lives possible.

Who is “essential?” Who is invisible? What rights do people have to safety and dignity in the workplace? Who is considered expendable?

These issues are not new for people with disabilities, who have fought for access to employment and other civil and human rights for more than half a century.

The Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL) has issued a new report—Working with Disability: Toward a truly inclusive Vermont labor force—with data, history, and personal stories of Vermonters with disabilities.

Late is better than never for more COVID relief

Posted by Jack Hoffman on November 10, 2020 at 9:05 am | Comments Off on Late is better than never for more COVID relief

Now that Election Day is over Congress needs to get back to work and approve another round of COVID relief to support the states. New national daily COVID cases are topping 130,000, and the first round of federal relief is running out.

So far, Vermont hasn’t taken the financial hit that was anticipated last March when COVID-19 became a pandemic. That is due in large part to swift action by Congress. The CARES Act directed more than $4.5 billion in federal aid to Vermont businesses, individuals, and state government. That included $600 a week in federal supplemental unemployment benefits, which was a lifeline to workers who had to stop working but couldn’t support their families on regular state unemployment insurance payments.

According to a new report from the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office, the federal aid pumped into the Vermont economy helped to generate nearly $50 million in extra tax revenue for the first three months of this fiscal year. General Fund tax receipts from July through September were expected to be $523 million. Instead, the state took in almost $573 million.

Will we set a new voting record?

Posted by Julie Lowell on October 27, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Comments Off on Will we set a new voting record?
The presidential election is a week away and Vermonters have already broken one voting record. Forty percent of voting age Vermonters have cast an absentee ballot so far, according to Vermont’s Election Division, breaking the 2008 record of 19 percent. Now let’s break one more – total voter participation rate.

No school tax increase for COVID shortfall

Posted by Paul Cillo on October 23, 2020 at 11:07 am | * Comments (1)

The Legislature did the right thing this year by holding property tax payers harmless after the COVID pandemic took a big bite out of the state’s Education Fund. The state is better situated to deal with a revenue shortfall than individual taxpayers or school districts, who already face monumental trials during this crisis. Read more