Christopher Curtis

Recent Posts

State officials warn of potential scammers

BARRE — Attorney General T.J. Donovan and other state officials are urging Vermonters to be vigilant against scammers as the state and federal tax filing deadline nears. Donovan joined Vermont Tax Commissioner Kaj Samsom and others at a news conference at Capstone Community Action in Barre Monday to raise awareness of tax scams. The most common, Donovan said, is callers pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service seeking back taxes owed to the federal government. Such scams increase as the annual tax filing deadline approaches, he said. “March Madness is over. The April reality check is upon us. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin looks to curb driver’s license suspensions

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin is calling on lawmakers to eliminate the more than 70 non-driving-related reasons a person can have his driver’s license suspended in Vermont. During his State of the State Address, Shumlin called on lawmakers to make it easier for Vermonters to get a suspended license reinstated, and to cut the number of reasons a license can be suspended in the first place. “Why are we creating a permanent economic disability and making it so difficult for people who want to improve their lives?” Shumlin asked the General Assembly. “I ask you to make driver restoration days unnecessary by passing legislation that ensures non-traffic-related offenses don’t lead to Vermonters losing their ability to get to work or drop their kids off at school.” (more…) Continue Reading →

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Gov council recommends steps to end poverty and homelessness

MONTPELIER — A governor-appointed council is issuing recommendations to end homelessness and poverty in Vermont. Members of the Governor’s Council on Pathways From Poverty discussed a recent report that seeks to end the cycle of poverty in the state and match people at risk of homelessness with permanent homes. “We have got to end the ceaseless cutting of the safety net in Vermont,” said Christopher Curtis, co-chairman of the Governor’s Council on Pathways From Poverty, and an attorney for Vermont Legal Aid. “We have seen, year after year, the drip-drip cuts to essential programs and services, and those are simply poor taxes,” Curtis continued. “In a state where we routinely hear Vermonters cannot afford anymore taxes, policymakers are levying taxes on those who can least afford to pay.”

Co-chairwoman Linda Ryan discussed the proposal to levy a tax of $2 per night on hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts, which the council anticipates would raise $12 million annually. Continue Reading →

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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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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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Deadline for AHS reorganization extended

MONTPELIER — Governor Peter Shumlin’s own Pathways from Poverty Council is asking him to allow for public participation before the Agency of Human Services issues its recommendations on how to address systems, policies and procedures within the agency. As a result, Shumlin’s office says it is planning to extend an Aug. 1 deadline for AHS Secretary Doug Racine to submit a plan to the governor’s office to reorganize the agency. That deadline will now be Oct. 1. Continue Reading →

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