Montpelier, VT, February 25 – Vermont recently released their 2021 recovery plan, and it contains good news for Vermonters with disabilities.
As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress last year, states are rolling out extensive plans about how they will spend federal funds. The Green Mountain State has $478.6 million dollars allocated to drive economic recovery efforts under Gov. Phil Scott. Some of the announced priorities are making homeless shelters ADA compliant, creating a mobile mental health crisis intervention program, providing broadband internet access to people with disabilities, and preventing COVID infections at Adult Day Services.
Overall, Vermont is spending $161.4 million, or 33.6 percent of the state’s CARES Act allocation, on programs that will improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.
There are more than 45,000 working age (18-64) Vermonters living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 41.5 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. At the same time, there are over 13,000 students with disabilities enrolled in Vermont’s K-12 school system and fully 71 percent of high school students with disabilities graduated high school in 2019.
Vermont is planning to directly spend $11.4 million on new programs to meet the needs of people with disabilities. This includes:
- $5 million to directly support the state’s Adult Day Service program to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- $4 million to expand and improve accessibility at homeless shelters.
- $600,000 to create a new Mobile Crisis Intervention program.
- $1.8 million to improve broadband access.
Vermont is also planning to spend $150 million on other programs that may benefit people with disabilities. The plan includes $10.2 million for jobs training, $4.5 million for benefits expansion, and $69 million for increasing homeless shelters throughout the state. $76.5 million will go towards clean drinking water. In total, this makes up another 31.2 percent of the state’s CARES Act allocation.
“Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, Chairman of the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility. “Vermonters with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve financial independence, just like anyone else. Vermont’s state recovery plan prioritizes key needs among the disability community and will get more people jobs.”
The success or failure of getting more people with disabilities integrated into the workforce impacts thousands of communities and millions of families nationwide. According to the Census Bureau, there are more than fifty-six million Americans living with a disability. Disabilities include visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, visual impairments or hearing loss and nonvisible disabilities such as learning disabilities, mental health, or Autism.
For more information on how states are spending recovery plan funds, check out the critical work being done by Council of State Governments (CSG).
The public is encouraged to reach out to their governors on these issues. Contact information for Governors can be found at USA.gov. To learn more about RespectAbility’s advocacy work, please visit our Policy website.