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To the editor: I am reaching out today to ask that you share an urgent call to Governor Phil Scott from Hunger Free Vermont and 130 other Vermont businesses and organizations to NOT lift the state emergency order. Loss of funds tied to the declaration of emergency that are helping households afford basic needs in this unprecedented time would be detrimental to Vermont's economy and health.

Best,

Sabina Parker

Dear Governor Scott:

We are reaching out to request that you delay fully lifting the state emergency order to ensure the continued safety of vulnerable Vermonters until more complete plans are in place to expand state support for access to healthy food and safe housing.

We applaud the efforts to ensure that gaps remain filled while work continues on more permanent solutions, and appreciate the leadership you and State agencies have provided in addressing the health, housing, and economic needs of Vermonters throughout the pandemic. Our state vaccination rates are exemplary and will ensure protection from COVID-19 into the future. However, while we share hope that many aspects of life are returning to normal, for many Vermonters, the emergency is far from over. And given Vermont’s dearth of low-income housing and a food insecurity rate of 1 in 10 prior to the pandemic, “normal” was never acceptable. The recovery for Vermonters with low incomes, for those experiencing homelessness, and for those facing hunger, will be slow. Maintaining access to critical FEMA-funded programs supporting Vermonters’ access to basic needs like food, emergency housing, and more depends upon the continuation of a declared state of emergency in some form. That support is essential.

The economic impact of COVID-19 remains widespread and continues to severely impact communities across the state. Hunger remains higher than ever before and levels have not decreased in the past year; an eviction crisis still looms; hunger and housing insecurity also disproportionately affect families with children and BIPOC Vermonters. The increased vaccination rate and continual decrease in COVID cases are certainly cause for celebration, but most people in our state are still living in a state of emergency. Twelve percent of Vermonters report that their children aren't eating enough because families can't afford food, and 23 percent are struggling to cover usual household expenses. Many remain unable to access newly available jobs due to challenges with childcare, transportation, and more. Twelve percent report struggling to keep up with rent, and many others cannot find housing at all. The charitable food and shelter systems simply cannot be a sustained support for all of these needs.

The state of emergency supports our businesses as well as the most vulnerable. Since March of 2020, the Department for Children and Families Economic Services Division has issued over $45 million in emergency allotment benefits to 3SquaresVT households. These funds not only support the food budgets of nearly 70,000 Vermonters, but they stimulate our economy and support our local food retailers and farmers by keeping millions of federal dollars each month in our communities, especially during the summer and fall months when local food is abundant in stores and at farmers markets throughout the state.

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The innovative and highly successful Vermont Everyone Eats program has distributed over one million meals purchased from local restaurants to Vermonters across the state through 134 distribution sites. We join you in celebrating this initiative’s triple-impact approach, as it supports local businesses, farmers and growers, and food access. Restaurant owners across the state have shared that this program is the primary reason why they have remained in business and not had to lay off their staff members. Hundreds of people, in particular older, disabled, and homeless Vermonters unable to otherwise access food, are depending on this innovative program right now. Continued funding for Vermont Everyone Eats is also tied to the continued state of emergency declaration.

Loss of funds tied to the declaration of emergency that are helping households afford basic needs in this unprecedented time would be detrimental to Vermont's economy and health.

We request that when reducing COVID restrictions to help open up our economy, you will also recognize the ongoing health and economic distress of many Vermonters and sustain key elements of the emergency order to protect Vermonters who are food insecure and facing homelessness. Specifically, we request ongoing support for prepared meals to eligible recipients of the GA Emergency Housing vouchers residing at hotels, a ramp down of the Vermont Everyone Eats Program that allows hubs and restaurants to continue to fill in the most critical regional gaps in meal provision, and your administration’s continued work to ensure the continuation of 3SquaresVT emergency benefit allotments for as long as possible. We believe that unless a new plan is in place to ensure all in Vermont can meet these two most basic needs, our entire recovery is jeopardized.

Thank you for your consideration of these requests, and for your ongoing work to ensure not only a strong recovery from this pandemic, but a future in which all Vermonters’ most basic needs are secure.

Sincerely,

The 130 undersigned Vermont businesses and organizations:

ACORN Network; Actors Theatre; Another Way; Arlington Food Shelf, Inc.; Aunt Dot's Place; Barre Congregational Church; Bethany Bowl Free Community Meal; Bethany United Church of Christ; BHA/Meals on Wheels of Central VT.; Brandon Area Food Shelf/Brandon Senior Citizens Center; Brattleboro Housing Partnerships; Burke Senior Meal Site; Burlington Children's space; Burlington Housing Authority; Butch + Babe's; Cabot Village Store; Capstone Community Action; Cathedral Square; Centre Congregational Church; Champlain Islands Foodshelf; Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity; Christ Episcopal Church, Montpelier; Colchester Community Food Shelf; Community College of Vermont - Winooski; Community Development; Community of Vermont Elders; Cornerstone Restaurant Group; CVTNOW Central Vermont chapter National Organization for Women; Deacons of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont; Disability Rights Vermont; Downstreet Housing and Community Development; Duxbury Elf Food Shelf; East Calais Community Trust; Edible Brattleboro; Episcopal Deacons of Vermont; Feeding Chittenden; Feeding The Valley Alliance; First Presbyterian Church of Barre; Food Connects; Franklin Grand Isle Community Action/CVOEO; Full Ladle Community Meal, Montpelier; Good Samaritan Haven; Grandmas Spanish kitchen; Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services, Inc. (GBICS); Green Mountain United Way; Groundworks Collaborative; Guilford Cares, Inc.; HANDS (Helping and Nourishing Diverse Seniors); Hinesburg Food Shelf; Holland Food Bank. Abenaki Helping Abenaki Nulhegan Abenaki; The Hunger Councils of Vermont; Hunger Free Vermont; Hunger Mountain Co-op; Jay Foodshelf; John Graham Housing & Services; Lamoille Community Food Share; Lamoille Community House; Lamoille Family Center; Lamoille Health & Human Services Resourse Command Center; Lamoille Health Partners; Laraway Backpack Program; Laraway School; Listen Community Services; Little Rivers Health Care, Inc.; MARK BBQ / Everyone Eats; Milton Family Community Center; Montgomery United Methodist Church Food Pantry; NEKCA; New Community Project; Northeast Kingdom Council on Aging; Northeast Kingdom Human Services Inc.; Ottauquechee Health Foundation; Our Place Drop-In Center; Pine Forest Children's Center; Pingala Café; Putney Foodshelf; Randolph Area Community Development Corporation; Randolph Area Food Shelf; Reading/West Windsor Food Shelf; Red Panda Essex; Richmond Community Kitchen; Richmond Food Shelf; Richmond Food Shelf and Thrift Store; Roxbury Food Shelf; Rutland Free Clinic; Screamin' Ridge Farm, Inc.; ShareMRV; Sheffield Food Pantry; Showing Up for Racial Justice, MIddlebury; SNA-VT; South Royalton Health Center; Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA); Spectrum Youth and Family Services; Springfield Family Center, Inc.; St. Augustine Free Community Lunch; St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Vergennes; Sustainable Woodstock; Sweet Alchemy; The DREAM Program; The Giving Fridge; The Health Center, Plainfield; The Intervale Center/Vermont Everyone Eats; The OVERLOOK CAFE; The Rutland Salvation Army Community Center; The Salvation Army; The Skinny Pancake + ShiftMeals; The Veterans’ Place Inc.; The Woods Lodge; Thetford Food Shelf; Tomorrow's Builders; Townshend Community Food Shelf; UCM Monday Community Lunch; United Way of Northwest Vermont; Vermont 211; Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition; Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance; Vermont Foodbank; Vermont Legal Aid, Inc.; Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council; Vital Communities; Voices for Vermont's Children; VT Episcopal Deacons; VT Works for Women; Waterbury Area Senior Center; Westgate Housing Inc.; Williamstown Food Shelf; Winooski Housing Authority SASH; Wolcott United Methodist Church; Worcester Food Shelf; Zenbarn.