COVID-19 Coronavirus: Legal and Benefits Updates for Vermonters

Graphic that says "Coronavirus Legal and Benefits Updates"

Updated 1/6/2023 2 p.m.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus has created changes in the way Vermont courts are operating, changes to public benefits, new financial help, and more. Here we will keep a list of important changes to help Vermonters and community partners.

Topics on this page include:

Housing & Utilities

Work & Pay

Money & Food

Health Care

Other Topics

    HOUSING & UTILITIES

    Rent help

    Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP) 

    The VERAP program has changed its eligibility and benefits. This program is winding down and it offers limited benefits. Learn about the changes in the Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP).

    Scroll down for FAQs about eviction and the end of VERAP.

    Evictions

    Are you a tenant? Learn what to do if you are facing eviction at this time.

    FAQs about eviction and the end of VERAP

    Q: I am a tenant and I have used VERAP to pay my rent. Can the landlord evict me just because VERAP is ending?

    A: No. If you make sure your rent is paid, you can’t be evicted for non-payment of rent. But remember, if you can’t pay all of your rent on time, your landlord may have grounds to evict you.

    • To evict you for non-payment of rent, your landlord should give you 30 days’ notice. (It could be shorter if the property you live in is not covered by the federal law. 15 U.S.C. 9058.)
    • The notice should give you to the end of your rental period (usually a month) to catch up on rent. If you pay what is due, you can’t be evicted for non-payment of rent. 9 V.S.A. § 4467(a).
    • Learn more about eviction rules and court process at https://vtlawhelp.org/evictions

    Q: I live in a motel/hotel. Are eviction rules different?

    A: Yes, the rules for residents of motels can be different. It depends on how long you have lived there, and whether Department for Children and Families (DCF) pays the owner for you to stay there.

    IF… You have lived in the hotel/motel over 30 days AND if one of the following is true:

    • You self-pay your rent directly to the owner, or
    • VERAP is paying rent assistance, or
    • VERAP is reimbursing you for your short-term motel stay paid by VERAP “Other Expenses Related to Housing” program

    THEN…

    • You have the rights of a “tenant” and the owner must follow the requirements of the Residential Rental Agreements Act (9 V.S.A. § 4451) to evict you. This includes giving you written notice to terminate your tenancy.  The number of days of notice depends on the reason for eviction. You can’t be given a non-payment notice unless you are behind on rent.
    • Learn more about eviction rules and court process for tenants at https://vtlawhelp.org/evictions

    IF… You have lived in the hotel/motel over 30 days and DCF pays through the Transitional Housing Assistance Program

    THEN…

    • The owner must give you notice that your occupancy agreement is ending at least 10 days before the end of the month.

    IF… You have lived in the hotel/motel over 30 days and DCF pays through the Emergency Assistance/General Assistance program

    THEN…

    • The owner can end your residency at any time, even without notice. Depending on the reason, you may or may not be able to have EA/GA pay for a different hotel.

    IF… You have lived in the hotel/motel for LESS THAN 30 DAYS

    THEN…

    • The owner can ask you to leave at any time according to hotel policy.

    Emergency housing

    • The Department for Children and Family's (DCF) Economic Services Division offers housing supports for homeless households. For more information or to apply, contact the Benefits Service Center at 1-800-479-6151. If it is after business hours or on a weekend or holiday, call 2-1-1.
    • When you apply for shelter with DCF, they will let you know if a shelter has opened in your area. You can also call 2-1-1 to find out if there is a warming shelter or other shelter in your area.
    • If you are denied or terminated from a shelter or the state’s motel program, call us for help at 1-800-889-2047.
    • During the winter months of December 15 to March 15, you are eligible for GA emergency housing in a motel if you are homeless and meet other eligibility criteria, even if you have used up all your GA days in the past year. From November 15 to December 15 and from March 15 to April 15, this expanded eligibility will be in place only when the weather is very cold. You can check the DCF website to see when these special rules will be in place in your region over the current three-day period.
    • If you stay in a shelter or motel, you need to participate in “coordinated entry.” Through coordinated entry, you will be assigned a housing case manager who will help you access subsidies and programs to help you get permanent housing. To learn more about coordinated entry, call 2-1-1. If you worked with your case manager to apply for a subsidy or other program and your application was denied, call us for help at 1-800-889-2047.
    • Veterans can get housing help from the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program at 1-844-820-3232 (toll-free); the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-424-3838 (toll-free); or Vermont Office of Veterans Affairs at 1-888-666-9844 (toll-free). Vermont Veterans facing eviction or foreclosure should contact the Safely Home project for advice and help.

    Transitional Housing Program Update

    • The Transitional Housing Program is no longer taking applications. But if you currently have a motel room through the Transitional Housing Program, you may keep getting assistance through March 2023. Contact us if you have a problem with your current transitional housing.
    • If you are experiencing homelessness, you may qualify for a motel voucher for a limited period of time through the General Assistance (GA) Emergency Housing. (See above.) Visit or call your local Economic Services Division district office or call 211 after hours to apply.

    Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Update 9/2/2022

    • On October 1, 2022, at 7:45 a.m., Vermont State Housing Authority (VSHA) will open its waiting list and accept applications for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.
    • The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program can help you afford decent, safe housing. If you are eligible, you'll be put on a waiting list. Once housing funds are available, you'll get a voucher and you will have to find your own housing. The voucher will help pay for your rent.
    • You can apply online at https://www.pha-web.com/portals/onlineApplication/1635
    • You can get a paper application by:
    • For more information call 802-828-3295 (voice); 800-798-3118 (TTY); 800-820-5119 (messages).

    Landlords entering your rental unit or showing it to other people

    1. The regular rules of landlord access to your home apply now during the pandemic. But the landlord and anyone the landlord brings into your home have to follow CDC and Vermont Department of Health guidelines.
    2. Learn more about the landlord access law.
    3. If you are worried about your landlord, realtor or repair people coming into your home, talk with your landlord about your concerns. Ask your landlord to keep a log of everyone they allow into your apartment.  
    4. We advise people who have health issues that make them at extra risk of exposure to make a reasonable accommodation request. Send a letter to your landlord to ask them to make adjustments to how they access your home due to your health issues. These are some adjustments you can ask for:
    • do only virtual showings
    • do fewer showings
    • don’t do showings several times a day (too much cleaning)
    • ask that landlords and visitors wear both gloves and masks, and/or
    • ask that landlords and visitors touch as little as possible (leave interior doors open so that those don’t need to be touched).

    Find a sample letter on our Reasonable Accommodation page. If your landlord denies your reasonable accommodation request, contact us right away to ask for help.​​​​​​

    Mortgages and foreclosures

    Learn about mortgage payments, mortgage help, and foreclosures during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

    Vermont Homeowner Assistance Program (VHAP) helps homeowners

    The Vermont Homeowner Assistance Program (VHAP) provides grants of up to $30,000 to eligible homeowners who have financial problems because of COVID and are behind on expenses for the house they own and live in. The grants may help pay:

    • mortgage payments
    • mobile home loans
    • property taxes
    • homeowner’s insurance premiums
    • association fees
    • utilities (sewer, water, electric, propane). 

    Learn more about VHAP.

    Translated information is available. Look for the language choices in the upper-right corner of https://vermonthap.vhfa.org/. They include: Af Soomaali / Somali, العربية / Arabic, မြန်မာစာ / Burmese, Español / Spanish, Français / French, Kiswahili / Swahili, नेपाली / Nepali, Tiếng Việt / Vietnamese, 中文 / Chinese. 

    Heat / Water / Septic / Electricity / Phones / Internet / Utilities

    • If you have no heat, water or electricity, contact us right away to ask for help.
    • Renters and landlords: Habitability and heating in rental housing: Free resources available in Vermont to fix problems.
    • Homeowners: Learn about applying for the Vermont Homeowner Assistance Program (VHAP), a mortgage, property tax and utilities assistance program. *translated information available
    • Homeowners: Learn about a new program from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources that can help low- and moderate-income Vermont homeowners replace their failed or inadequate home water or wastewater systems. The Healthy Homes On-Site Program provides help to eligible property owners, including owner-occupied multi-family properties with up to four units. Apply by January 31, 2023. Visit the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources website for details.
    • Renters and homeowners who applied for help with their utility bills through VERAP (for renters) and VHAP (for homeowners) should contact their utility companies to tell them they applied for help. Some utilities say they will not disconnect Vermonters during the application process. If it is a private electric or natural gas utility, they cannot shut off your service while you have an application pending. To prevent a shutoff, give them your application ID number and the date you applied.
    • See our Heat, Energy and Water Assistance Programs page to learn about other ongoing programs that may help you get power, fuel, water and heat for your home.
    • If you need help dealing with utility payments, apply for financial help — see the programs above. Consider asking your utility company for a long-term payment plan. Your local Vermont Community Action Agency can help you.
    • Internet help from the FCC: The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is an FCC benefit program that helps households afford the broadband internet service they need for work, school, healthcare and more. It gives a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. Learn more about the ACP program.
    • The FCC also announced that the Lifeline program will suspend some rules to help keep low-income Vermonters connected by phone and internet. Lifeline is a federal program that gives a $9.25 monthly discount on phone or internet service to eligible households. Learn how to apply.
    • Also, learn about a low-income internet program called Internet Essentials.
    • The Consumer Affairs & Public Information (CAPI) Division of the Department of Public Service can help Vermonters with regulated utility concerns. This includes electric, telephone, natural gas and private water service. They also try to help with cell phone services and broadband matters. You can contact them:

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    WORK & PAY

    Unemployment

    Unsafe workplace

    If you think your workplace is not safe, contact Vermont’s Occupational and Health Administration (VOSHA) to discuss your concerns. You may be asked to fill out a complaint form about the hazards.

    Complaints are retyped and your name and personal information are removed. Employees are protected from discrimination for filing a complaint with VOSHA. If you are a victim of discrimination because you filed a complaint, contact VOSHA within 30 days. If you are discriminated against, you may also file a private action (law suit) against your employer.

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    MONEY & FOOD

    COVID-19 economic impact payments / stimulus checks

    Learn more about the economic impact payments / stimulus checks from the federal government

    Food

    Hunger Free Vermont posts information about how to access food, including meals for school children and seniors, WIC, foodbanks and 3SquaresVT. You can also call 2-1-1 to ask about ways to get help with food.

    3SquaresVT

    3SquaresVT (known under federal law as the SNAP program and known commonly as “food stamps”) can help you meet your family’s food needs. Even if you have never received 3SquaresVT before, you should apply if your income has changed and your family is experiencing food insecurity. Learn more about food help.

    During the pandemic, if you got 3SquaresVT benefits, you got extra “emergency allotment” payments. The last of these payments will be issued in mid-March 2023 to boost February’s benefit. In April 2023, you will get only one payment – just like before the pandemic. Learn more on the Vermont Food Help website.

    Debt problems

    Student loans

    Learn about the help you can get with your federal or private student loans during this crisis.

    Credit reports

    Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone in the U.S. can get a free credit report each week from all three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) at AnnualCreditReport.com. This is available through December 31, 2023.

    TaxesImage of a family that says: Learn about the Child Tax Credit

    Property taxes

     

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    HEALTH CARE

    Health insurance & Medicaid

    Have you lost your health insurance?

    If you have lost your job or health insurance, you may qualify for a special enrollment period which gives you 60 days to apply for a Vermont Health Connect plan. You don't have to wait until November. Learn more on our Vermont Health Connect pages.

    You can apply for Medicaid at any time. If you are making less money or no money, it makes sense to see if you are now eligible for Medicaid. Learn more on our Medicaid pages.

    To talk about health insurance options or problems, contact the Office of the Health Care Advocate (HCA). Call 1-800-917-7787 to speak with a health care advocate, or fill out our Help Request Form. The HCA is a free service for Vermonters.

    Graphic that says COVID vaccinations and health info

    COVID-19 vaccine and boosters

    • You can be vaccinated in Vermont even if you are not a Vermont resident.
    • Booster shots are available in Vermont. Learn more on the Vermont Department of Health website.
    • English language learners and people in immigrant/refugee communities can sign up a couple of ways. This includes calling the Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV) at 802-985-3106 or USCRI VT at 802-655-1963.
    • Homebound Vermonters can call their home health agency, or call 802-863-7240 (toll-free 1-833-722-0860).
    • Veterans of all ages who use VA Healthcare can call 802-296-5151. Veterans not enrolled in VA Healthcare can call 802-295-9363 extension 4004 or 5118.

    The shots are free. You don’t need to have health insurance. See the Vermont Department of Health (DOH) website to find a vaccination site or call 1-800-464-4343 toll-free. Translated information is also found on the DOH website or call that number and press 1. Translations in नेपाली (Nepali), Soomaali (Somali), Español (Spanish), Swahili, Kirundi, မြန်မာစာ (Burmese), العربية (Arabic), Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese) and Français (French).

    Free rides for vaccination: Vermonters who don't have access to their own transportation can get a free ride to their vaccination. Find your local provider on the VPTA website and make a reservation in advance.

    Advance directives

    Signing an advance directive during COVID-19

    Vermont law gives instructions on how to create an advance directive. Normally the law says you should be with your witnesses when you sign. Because this has been a problem for many during the coronavirus emergency, Vermont passed a new law. It temporarily lets people sign advance directives even when their witnesses are only available by phone or video.

    I want to create an advance directive:

    If you want to create an advance directive between June 15, 2020, and March 31, 2023, but you cannot physically be with witnesses:

    1. Create or fill out an advance directive document with your health care wishes.

    2. Identify two adults willing to be your witnesses. You must know each other, but witnesses cannot be your agent or your immediate family members (spouse, parent, sibling, child, or grandchild). Have witnesses be on the phone or a video chat while you sign and date your document.

    3. Tell your witnesses: “By being my remote witness, you are attesting to the fact that I, the principal, seem to understand the nature and effect of this advance directive and seem to be free from duress or undue influence.” Ask your witnesses if they agree. If they do, then follow step 4.

    4. Write each witness’s name, contact information, and relationship to you on the document. In the witness signature line, write “witnessed by phone/video because of COVID-19 restrictions.”

    If you follow these steps between June 15, 2020, and March 31, 2023, your advance directive will stay valid unless you change or revoke it.

    I created an advance directive with remote witnesses before June 15, 2020:

    Some people created advance directives during the emergency before the new law passed. If you created an advance directive with remote witnesses between February 15, 2020, and June 15, 2020, your document may be temporarily valid as long as you followed certain steps:

    1. If you and your witnesses knew each other. Your witnesses must also be adults and cannot be your agent or your immediate family member,
    2. If your witnesses were informed about the role of being a witness to an advance directive, and
    3. If you included your witnesses' names and contact information on the document.

    If you followed these steps and created an advance directive between February 15 and June 15, 2020, your document is valid until June 30, 2022. You should sign a replacement advance directive as soon as you are able. Learn more about advance directives.

    Immigrants, health care and the “public charge”

    United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that immigrants can use health care to get treatment or preventative services for the COVID-19 coronavirus without having it held against them for public charge purposes. Learn more about Public benefits and the Public Charge Rule for Immigration.

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    OTHER TOPICS

    Free legal clinics for Vermont seniors 60+

    Vermont Legal Aid is hosting virtual legal advice clinics by phone. Vermont seniors — age 60 or more — can ask legal questions about COVID-19 related assistance, federal and state benefits, housing, unemployment, consumer debt or certain other civil legal topics. Learn how to schedule a 20-minute appointment.

    Vermont court hearings and trials

    If you have a court hearing, read your hearing notice carefully to see if it will be held in person or by phone or video. Call the court that is listed on your hearing notice if you have questions.

    Check the Vermont Judicary website for updates on court operations and instructions. The website also includes where to find forms, how to file documents, and how to request records.

    The courts recommend that you wear a mask in a courthouse. They recommend wearing a N95, KN95 or KF94 mask. Inside a courtroom, the judge can require masks if needed due to health considerations.

    Tips for “Remote Hearings” — Court Hearings by Video or Phone

    Do you have a remote hearing in Vermont? “Remote” hearings are hearings where some or all of the people participate by video or by phone. Read our tip sheet to know how to prepare for a remote court hearing.

    Check the Vermont Judicary website for updates on court operations and instructions. The website also includes where to find forms, how to file documents, and how to request records.

    Education

    Special education

    Learn about special education and the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

    Rights of homeless students

    The Vermont Agency of Education issued a guidance document on the rights of homeless students during the COVID-19 emergency. In short:

    • School districts still need to find and enroll students experiencing homelessness.
    • If a student becomes homeless during the COVID-19 emergency for any reason, all McKinney-Vento Act protections are still in effect.
    • School districts still need to provide what homeless students need for full participation. This can include purchase of technology and connectivity in some cases.

    Legal help for farmworkers

    Videos by Legal Services Vermont and Pine Tree Legal Assistance give a quick overview of free, confidential legal help for farmworkers in Vermont and other New England States. In one video, two legal aid lawyers talk about workplace safety and legal protections during the COVID-19 pandemic. See our H2-A farmworkers page.

    Translated COVID-19 coronavirus information 

    Virtual Town Halls

    We were hosting virtual town halls on issues during the coronavirus crisis. Follow this link to watch all of our town halls on these topics: special education, taxes, health care, long-term care, debt, unemployment, stimulus checks, rent help, mortgage help and more.

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    Recent updates to this information

    1/6/2023

    • During the pandemic, if you got 3SquaresVT benefits, you got extra “emergency allotment” payments. The last of these payments will be issued in mid-March 2023 to boost February’s benefit. In April 2023, you will get only one payment – just like before the pandemic. More information about 3SquaresVT.

    1/4/2023

    • This program has been extended: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone in the U.S. can get a free credit report each week from all three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) at AnnualCreditReport.com. This is available through December 31, 2023.

    12/22/2022

    12/1/2022

    10/1/2022

     

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    Updated: Feb 02, 2023