New DCF report chronicles emergency hotel-motel program challenges

Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 5:13 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - A new state report highlights some of the persistent troubles with Vermont’s hotel-motel program, detailing what happened over the last year and how the state ended up with more than 900 people still in the program.

The Vermont Department for Children and Families’ annual report on the General Assistance Housing Program was the longest and most detailed report yet.

“We were really trying to outline really all that has happened over the last year -- which is a significant amount,” said DCF’s Miranda Gray. It also details how the state ended up using the program three years ago in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

This past July, the state’s General Assistance Housing Program went back to pre-pandemic rules that help people affected by natural disasters, fleeing domestic disturbances, and other emergencies. The 927 people who are currently in the program were a part of the extended housing benefits and were in the program on June 30th. They can remain there until April 1.

Those enrolled are required to contribute 30% of their gross income toward the room and attempt to locate their own alternative housing.

The report also outlines the program’s challenges, listing key factors including substandard conditions in hotels, something residents at the Cortina Inn in Rutland on Tuesday said remains an issue. “I have black mold. I have had black mold the whole time I have been here,” said Brett Dezaine, a voucher recipient at the inn.

The report also mentions barriers to permanent housing and the lack of affordable housing. “We find ourselves in between a rock and a hard place with these households not having anywhere else to go. We don’t have additional shelter capacity,” Gray said.

State officials say the average daily room rate around the state is $145. But the Cortina Inn this week told us they charge the state $169 per room. The hotel says they charge other guests less.

The report has been handed off to lawmakers for them to review.

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