Last week the Human Services committee continued testimony from the Agency of Human Services and the divisions thereof regarding their FY 21 budget requests. Overall it appears that the agency and its departments worked hard to present a budget that respects the reality that Vermonters’ wallets are already strained. We spent the majority of our time discussing programs for younger and older Vermonters as well as programs relating to health and healthcare. We will be hearing a lot more testimony from the Agency staff and holding small group meetings with them as well as we move through the budget process.

 

We have taken testimony on a bill to increase the availability of contraception for teens. The goal is to reduce unwanted pregnancies. While there are positives in the bill, there are a lot of issues that need answers. For example- the STD rate among teens is spiking due in part to teens using contraceptives such as IUDs which are highly effective at reducing pregnancy but offer zero protection from disease transmittal. How do we correct course in this area? The bill also places a larger mandate on insurance companies to cover all methods and forms of contraceptions without cost sharing.  Currently they are required to cover one generic per category with no cost sharing. More mandates mean higher costs for all policy holders. Another significant issue is allowing schools to provide contraception to kids who are under the age of consent. The more we hear, the more questions and concerns I have. We have much more testimony to hear on this topic.

 

The biggest issue throughout the week was the governor’s veto of the Paid Family Leave bill. In one on one conversations, messages from constituents, observation of social media and other mediums it is clear that a large number of Vermonters are concerned about the cost of this program as well as its impact on struggling working Vermonters and small businesses. The entire cost of this program would be absorbed by workers via an additional payroll tax. As noted in a previous update, approximately 60,000 working Vermonters would have to pay in but wouldn’t be eligible to receive the benefit. This doesn’t even consider the large number of Vermonters who would be eligible but who’d never take the benefit. As noted previously, it has not been analyzed by actuaries so we really do not know the true cost. I am positive there is a better way to provide this benefit without hurting so many low income Vermonters in the process. I think how we do things matters. The veto override vote is scheduled for Wednesday February 5th. 

 

It is an honor to represent the people of Fairfield, Bakersfield and Fletcher in the House of Representatives. As always please contact me at jgregoire@leg.state.vt.us with any concerns or comments. 

 

 

James Gregoire

State Representative

Fairfield, Bakersfield and Fletcher

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