Vt. races to beat ed stimulus deadline


Tuesday, June 30
BRATTLEBORO -- Vermont is one of only a handful of states that has not yet sent in its application to the U.S. Department of Education for its share of stimulus money.

States have until July 1 and Vermont expects to receive $77 million from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund which was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Vermont's application was held up due to the budget fight between Gov. James Douglas and the Legislature, and Tom Evslin, the state's chief recovery officer, said his staff is working to get the application in on time.

"We could not finish this until the budget was finalized. We could not have done this any sooner," Evslin said Monday. "We are not going to miss the deadline,"

Evslin expected to fax the application to the education department either late Monday or today, with hours to spare before missing out on the federal dollars.

Evslin, who is heading up the state's efforts to meet federal timelines on receiving stimulus money, said a number of decisions made in the budget had an impact on data he had to include in the application.

Douglas vetoed the Legislature's original budget and lawmakers passed an override to the governor's veto on June 2.

"This is one more reason the Legislature wanted to get the budget done," Evslin said.

The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund program is a new one time appropriation of $53.6 billion approved under President Barack Obama's stimulus plan.

The money goes to pre-K through college programs around the state and was approved to help stabilize state and local government budgets.

As of Friday, 43 other states had completed their applications and 37 had already received their portion of the stimulus money, according to U.S. Department of Education spokeswoman Elaine Quesinberry.

States will also be applying for Title 1 and special education funds later this year and the application Vermont is completing is for the first pot of education money under the stimulus bill.

Schools around the state will not see a jump in their appropriations from this pool of federal money, but the state overall will benefit.

Evslin said many states are using the money to avert teacher layoffs and keep schools open.

Since Vermont is one of the only states to have a statewide education tax, the money will be used here to offset reductions in the general budget and lessen the impact the faltering economy has had on state spending.

"It means that state aid will not fall under what has been a lot of budget pressure," said Evslin. "The general budget is not going to see an increase in a year when it would have been very hard to come with the money."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reform-er.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.


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