Reach Up

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Judge upholds cut to Reach Up program

MONTPELIER — A federal judge has upheld cuts to the State’s Reach Up assistance program, squashing a class action lawsuit filed by Vermont Legal Aid in July. Vermont Legal Aid filed the class-action lawsuit against the Agency of Human Services, asserting the plan to reduce benefits for households who include a disabled adult that also receives Supplemental Security Income was unconstitutional. Christopher Curtis, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Burlington, saying the cut amounted to discrimination and a “poor tax.”

The Reach Up program, offered through the Department for Children and Families, provides cash assistance to families with children for basic needs and services. Eligibility depends on income, resources, living expenses, family members in the household and the length of time a household has already received benefits. Judge Willliam K. Sessions III dismissed the suit Monday, allowing the cut passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin earlier this year. Continue Reading →

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Court halts cuts to benefits for needy families

MONTPELIER — Needy families with disabled adults will not see a reduction in the financial assistance they receive, at least for the next two months. Vermont Legal Aid and the state have reached a temporary agreement that forestalls a reduction in Reach Up benefits for households that include a disabled adult who receives benefits through Social Security. The proposed cut — which was set to go into effect Saturday — would have affected approximately 860 households in the state by reducing their monthly Reach Up payment by $125. The cuts are the result of a $1.6 million cut made to the Reach Up program during the most recent legislative session. Reach Up is a program offered through the Department for Children and Families that helps families with children by providing cash assistance for basic needs and services. Continue Reading →

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Reach Up cuts challenged in federal court

MONTPELIER — Vermont Legal Aid has filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against the state hoping to block a new statute that calls for a reduction in Reach Up benefits for some Vermonters. Legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin reduces the temporary cash assistance by $125 per month for as many as 860 households in Vermont. That’s because of a provision in the approved 2016 fiscal year budget that counts $125 per month of federal Supplemental Security Income assistance, or SSI, against a family’s income when determining benefits under the state’s Reach Up program. Under current law, an individual’s SSI disability benefits are not counted when determining a family’s Reach Up assistance. The change is part of a $1.6 million cut to the 2016 state budget. Continue Reading →

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