New England briefs

Vermont housing assistance agency wants to extend program

A Vermont agency that helps people purchasing homes with their down payment is seeking to extend its program.

Vermont Housing Finance Agency Executive Director Sarah Carpenter said the agency has closed about 60 loans and will likely exceed 110 by the end of June.

People buying homes for the first time can get up to $5,000 in down payment assistance. The zero-interest loan is paid back when the home is sold or the mortgage is refinanced.

The program has been funded by the Legislature for three years. Carpenter says she'd like additional funding to continue the program for five years so it can become a revolving loan fund.

She says the agency is trying to be in sync with the average five-to-seven-year life of a loan.

Vermont House to take up school spending restrictions

The Vermont House is expected this week to take up school spending restrictions that were part of a bill passed last year to encourage school districts to look at merging with their neighbors.

The Senate this past week passed a measure to repeal the part of the bill that contained penalties for schools that saw high year-over-year spending growth.

The House Education Committee has given a cool reception to repealing those spending restrictions, and instead has proposed loosening them somewhat.

The uncertainty about the outcome comes as local districts are trying to finalize budgets to put before local voters in a matter of weeks.

Annual Vermont Farm Show runs Tuesday through Friday

The annual Vermont Farm Show is kicking off this week in Essex Junction with tractors, agricultural products and animals on display.

The four-day event opens on Tuesday at the Champlain Valley Exposition.

Wednesday night is Consumer Night, with an indoor farmers' market featuring Vermont food and beverages. The Capital Cook-Off is a timed competition in which state legislators and Vermont Agency of Agriculture staff create a dish using local ingredients from the market.

The venue also hosts a number of agricultural association meetings during the show, including the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association meeting and banquet on Tuesday.

Gas prices still dropping in northern New England

Gas prices are plummeting across northern New England.

Among the three states, the price-tracking website says gasoline prices are lowest in New Hampshire, where the average price fell 5 cents per gallon last week to $1.86. In Maine, which saw the biggest drop at nearly 5.4 cents per gallon, the average price is $1.92. In Vermont, the average price was $2, down 4.2 cents from the week before.

The national average is $1.82, dropping 6.5 cents in the last week. The national average has dropped 17.5 cents per gallon in the last month and is 20 cents per gallon lower than the price a year ago.

New online hunter education course puts people in the field

Hunters ages 15 and older can register for an online course through the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department that offers interactive animations and live videos to put participants right in the field. is illustrated and narrated. After completing it and passing a final exam, students receive a Field Day Voucher, which provides access to a live Field Day course. Passing that course is the last step in certification.

Students can register and study the material without charge. A $29 fee is required after passing the online course in order to print out the required Field Day Voucher.

The department has offered online hunter education courses since 2010, but the new program offers a virtual field day that mimics a live field day. The department says that gives students the chance to test decision-making skills and knowledge from the course so they are better prepared for their live field day.

"We are proud to be working with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to provide this groundbreaking course for hunters in the state," said Kerry Moher, vice president at Fresh Air Educators, the makers of "We know that hunters are going to love this course and how the virtual field day prepares them for an amazing experience in the field."

In 2015, about 49 percent of the 3,267 students certified by the Hunter Education program in New Hampshire studied course materials online.

– The Associated Press


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