$50M in COVID cash available for Vt. utility and rental assistance
RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermonters who may have fallen behind their rent or utility bills may be eligible for help thanks to additional money from the federal government. Vermont just received another $15 million in federal funding to provide relief and protect people from evictions and utility shut-offs.
Two programs are designed to help Vermonters with various utilities and rent. Utility officials say the qualifications are very easy and help is available for those who want to apply. “There are programs for just about anyone who is behind at this point,” said Steve Costello with Green Mountain Power.
The $15 million Vermont COVID-19 Arrearage Assistance Program (VCAAP) is for renters, homeowners, businesses, and farms. Businesses can receive up to $50,000 and residential customers can get $10,000 dollars to pay back rent and utility bills.
“People are definitely applying. We’ve already seen some applications approved by the state,” Costello said.
VCAAP comes on the heels of the separate Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP) that is delivering another $40 million in relief to renters who are still struggling to make ends meet. It covers overdue payments for rent, electricity, landline phone, gas, water, sewer, trash removal, and fuel. It can also be used for up to $10,000 in future payments.
“That payment will pay up to 12 months. You might be five months behind on your bills, so it can pay those five past months, and then it could potentially pay for seven months going forward if you continue to need that assistance from the state,” Costello said.
When approved, the money is given directly to the overdue account, making utilities and landlords whole.
Green Mountain Power says that when people don’t pay their bills, that cost is actually spread out among all other customers, but if customers are caught up, that will reduce future costs.
“Really looking at stabilizing rent for Vermonters who have been impacted by COVID,” said Tom Donahue, the CEO of BROC Community Action in Rutland. He says it’s easy to qualify for the funds. The office has four employees dedicated to helping people apply. “They can be a little intimidating sometimes if people aren’t savvy online. And other people have different challenges -- we want to make sure we don’t leave those folks out -- that would include people without a computer or without internet access.”
And Donahue said the calls continue to come in. “We’re keeping up with it as fast as we can,” he said.
The VCAAP II assistance money disappears at the end of October and is being distributed on a first-come-first-served basis.
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