It turns out that the savings and other beneficial outcomes promised by the administration if they are allowed to cap and time-limit Reach-Up benefits might not be all they first appear.
Who says so? Would you believe a report put out by the administration a year ago?
Here's a press release from my colleagues Chris Curtis; Sheila Reed from Voices for Vermont's Children; and Karen Lafayette from the Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council addressing the proposals for Reach-Up. It's kind of long, but it's worth reading the whole thing.
ADMINISTRATION REPORT CONTRADICTS PROPOSED CAP ON REACH UP BENEFITS
(Montpelier) – A Shumlin Administration report released last year on Vermonters
receiving temporary assistance undermines the Administration’s new proposal to cap Reach Up
benefits at 36-months. The report, issued in January of 2012, says that for families on Reach Up
– even the small number of participants that may access the program for 60 months – the
negative impacts on families and costs to other programs associated with arbitrary terminations
outweigh any savings:
“Achieving savings by eliminating financial assistance to Reach Up families with more
than 60 months of assistance could leave families destitute and at risk and will create a
large hole in the fabric of Vermont's safety net for those most in need. The families
who would be affected by this cut have three times as many barriers to gaining selfsufficiency
as the general Reach Up caseload population; they are families with limited
abilities and resources to recover from such a loss. The elimination of their financial
assistance may put their children at risk and force a cost shift to other programs.”
– Annual Report on Families’ receipt of Reach Up Assistance in Excess of 60
Months, at p. 8.
“This report confirms what we already knew: dismantling programs that work for lowincome
Vermonters is catastrophic for affected families and budgetarily myopic,” said
Christopher Curtis, staff attorney at Vermont Legal Aid. “The Administration says its proposed
cuts are motivated by ‘compassion,’” said Curtis. “But, between proposed cuts to Reach Up, and
other successful programs like the earned income tax credit I’m not sure how much more
‘compassion’ low-income Vermonters can take,” he said. “These proposed cuts will only result
in increased costs associated with homelessness, requests for general assistance, and greater
strain on state and local agencies,” said Curtis.
Reach Up Release, P. 2
“There is no credible evidence to support the Administration’s contention that arbitrary
time limits result in greater work ethic,” said Sheila Reed, Associate Director of Voices for
Vermont’s Children. “In fact, most of the data available from other states suggests the contrary;
arbitrary time limits result in economic dislocation, increased incidence of homelessness,
financial stress, and poor outcomes for children,” she said. “The human consequences of these
cuts, along with the Administration’s report anticipating budget pressure in other areas of state
government, raises serious questions about the rationale for pursuing its plan,” said Reed.
The Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council (VLIAC) also opposes the Administration
proposal to cut Vermont Reach Up benefits. “Until we address the barriers to employment,
benefit cliffs, adequate staffing, and figuring out what the impact on low-income families any
discussion of fundamental changes to Reach Up is premature,” said VLIAC advocate Karen
Lafayette.“The Administration’s own reports are saying the program basically works and the
costs of administering the program for the toughest cases is minimal, so adopting arbitrary time
limits that hurt the very families the program is designed to help is problematic,” she said.
The report concludes that “in light of this decreasing cost (associated with families
reaching 60 months or more on the Reach Up program) and the expenditure’s purpose of
supporting Vermont’s most vulnerable families, the administration is recommending that the
state continue to provide these families with financial assistance and to focus on policy
changes that protect the children in these families while supporting their parents to achieve
More than half of all Reach Up participants access the program for a year or less; the
median time of participation is 18 months. On average, about 5% of Reach Up households
participate in the program beyond 60 months.
The administration’s report is available at: