MONTPELIER - Vermont lawmakers are considering a budget that would largely end the practice of buying motel rooms for homeless Vermonters on cold winter nights.
The proposed budget, which is up for debate Thursday in the House of Representatives, would eliminate Vermont's "cold-weather exception" that relaxes housing rules in harsh weather. This year's version of the policy allows people to stay at a motel if the temperature or wind chill is less than 20 degrees, or if the temperature is below 32 degrees with expected precipitation.
The proposal would allow the state to spend up to $200,000 to pay for motel vouchers, which budget-writers say would prevent people from freezing to death on cold nights — but the program would be significantly scaled back and would no longer be an entitlement.
Vermont spent $1.8 million on the cold-weather policy in state fiscal year 2015, according to the Department for Children and Families. Last winter brought fewer chilly nights, and spending dropped to about $344,000.