2012 NEK Chamber Citizen of the Year – Robert Swartz

first_imgThe Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the selection of Robert Swartz as the 2012 Citizen of the Year. Swartz received the honor for his extensive service to area cultural, health and educational organizations, especially his many years dedicated to Catamount Arts and the Northeastern Vermont Area Health Education Center. The awards banquet being held on Friday, May 4, 2012, at the Academic Student Activities Center, Lyndon State College, Lyndon Center, VT (directions). The ticket price is $34 per person. The social gathering will start at 6 pm with buffet dinner to follow at 7 pm. To attend, complete the attached reservation form and mail to NEK Chamber, 2000 Memorial Drive, Ste. 11, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819 or fax to 802-748-0731. RSVP by April 27 at 802-748-3678 or [email protected](link sends e-mail).last_img read more

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Burlington Free Press publishes ‘compact smart’ tabloid

first_imgFree Press Media,The Burlington Free Press launched its much-anticipated new daily newspaper format Thursday with a cover story concerning the opposition to wind power in Vermont. FreePressMedia, the local subsidiary of Gannett, which publishes the Free Press, spent $2.4 million on a press rebuild in order to print the new format. The tabloid-sized newspaper ran a nearly full-page picture on the front, with a strip ad on the bottom and a weather teaser. The four-section paper included two stapled sections â Innovate,’which is its weekly business section, and â Weekend.’The back page, unlike typical daily tabs like the New York Post which includes news, had a full-page ad. Readers will notice that there is four-color throughout, including the obituaries, that the features include large photos and that in the initial issue the sports section did not contain any box scores or agate (neither local nor national statistics, scores or results). The Thursday edition in recent months has been the second largest paper of the week, next to the Sunday edition. The Friday edition sports section had limited agate.In its 185-year history, the Free Press was always a broadsheet. The new format (11’wide x 15’in length) is taller and a little wider than Seven Days, the Burlington alternative weekly tabloid, which also uses a feature front, color throughout and employs, like the new Free Press, a table of contents to help guide the reader. The headline fonts are also new.â We are excited to announce a new format for our printed edition which puts us on the cutting edge in our industry ‘an innovation in both style and content. This new approach in print is making the newspaper fresh again while complementing the immediacy of our news coverage on our website, on mobile and tablet apps. President and Publisher Jim Fogler said in a statement upon the launch on Thursday. Fogler said the full scope of FreePressMediaâ s new â compact smart edition,’as he called it, enhancements includes:  A shift from broadsheet page size to a new compact smart format that gives the Burlington Free Press printed edition more of a magazine-feel with design upgrades. Color on every single page, which will give us color obits, comics, and TV week in color. This new, easy-to-use format features a modular approach to advertising display which will provide greater impact and ad-size flexibility for advertisers. Our easy-to-use compact smart format incorporates print and online content into a comprehensive subscription model. Fogler said at the heart of the new reader experience for printed edition readers will be the approach pioneered since 2009 in the Free Press’â passion-topics’sections: in-depth reporting, rich photographs and eye-catching design in Green Mountain, Savorvore, ARTSbtv and Innovate. The Free Press will also introduce a new passion section to the line-up called â Round Here on Saturdays that defines life in Vermont and the Vermont way. Editor Michael Townsend said: â The new Free Press will be clean, elegant, simple, compelling, commanding, photo driven, text driven, compact and easy to handle, full color every page, narrative driven, big with impact, provocative, engaging, a definite sense of place, local, well written, what you didn’t read elsewhere, far different than any other, complementary of online with its own unique personality. In addition to this new-look, the Burlington Free Press will deliver the most accountability reporting and narrative writing in all of Vermont.â  FreePressMedia recently changed its subscription model, as part of an historic shift toward digital-first publishing. The new model provides the flexibility of how, when and where its readers want to consume the local news and information in Vermont. Free Press readers will see significant digital enhancements in the next few months, the statement said, including more video and photos, and a renewed focus on the topics that matter most to Vermonters. FreePressMedia also re-did its Web site. It said it has launched new and improved digital platforms for readers to access news and information, including a more robust mobile site and a tablet-friendly reader experience.last_img read more

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Co-author of NRRA affirms Dodd-Frank is not applicable to captive insurance

first_imgUS Congressman Scott Garrett (R-NJ), the co-author and one of the principal sponsors of the Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act (NRRA) of the Dodd-Frank Act addressed the Speaker of the US House of Representatives on February 6 to state unequivocally that the legislation was never intended to apply to captive insurance. Vermont is the largest domicile for captive insurance companies in the nation.If Dodd-Frank were applied to captives, it could have significant tax implications. Last July, in a REPORT called “The Impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on Captive Owners,” Marsh Inc wrote: “There may be significant impact on captive owners that have historically only remitted self-procurement tax based upon the allocated premium in its home state under the captive insurance policy.”The State of Vermont and the Vermont Captive Insurance Association have opposed applying Dodd-Frank to captives. Typically captive insurers were located off-shore in places like Bermuda because of US tax policy. Because of the way states, in particular Vermont, have written its captive laws over the last 30 years, most of the off-shore companies have come back to or originated in the United States.In addressing the Speaker, Congressman Garrett said, ‘ Unfortunately, several states have indicated that they plan to interpret the NRRA to also apply to the captive insurance industry. This was not the intent of Congress.  In drafting this legislation, it was never contemplated to have the captive industry fall under the NRRA.’   He went on to state, ‘ At no time was the legislation’ s application to the captive industry addressed or suggested. Furthermore, in the bill’ s summary, the intent of this legislation was clearly stated to impact only two specific industries ‘ surplus lines and reinsurance.’Congressman Garrett, a Republican representing New Jersey’ s 5th Congressional District has served on the House Financial Services Committee since his election in 2002.  He also currently serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises for the House Financial Services Committee.  NRRA, a sub-section of the Dodd-Frank legislation, has caused confusion over whether it is applicable to captive insurance, due to the misinterpretation of the current language.  A coalition comprised of the captive insurance industry, the Coalition for Captive Insurance Clarity (CCIC) has been formed under the leadership of the Vermont Captive Insurance Association (VCIA) to push for clarity that may include legislative language that would reaffirm that the intent of the new federal NRRA was never intended to apply to captive insurance.‘ This should send a clear message to any domicile that any information to the contrary can only be interpreted as a self-serving tactic that is neither accurate nor in the interest of clients and the industry,’ said Daniel Towle, Vermont’ s Director of Financial Services. ‘ Congressman Garrett’ s statement is further testimony that we have understood the purpose and intent of the passage of this law,’ added Towle.In his statement, New Jersey Representative Garrett stated, ‘ At no point during the bill’ s multi-year consideration was its application to the captive insurance industry ever discussed.’   He went on to add, ‘ Should regulators implement this faulty interpretation, captive insurance companies would be subject to additional taxation and regulation ‘ the exact opposite intent of the underlying legislation.’ Richard Smith, president of the Vermont Captive Insurance Association expressed his thanks for the clarification from Representative Garrett.  ‘ We are grateful for further clarification that captive insurance is not part of the NRRA.  It is our intent to work with Congress to craft a technical amendment to eliminate the inaccurate interpretation and the turmoil it is causing in the captive industry.  We urge continued support for the Coalition and our efforts to enact clarifying language that will solidify Congressional intent once and for all.’Congressman Garrett has pledged to work with his colleagues on the Financial Services Committee to ensure that the bill is implemented as the Congress intended.This statement of record from Congressman Garrett reaffirms a recent letter from former chair of the subcommittee on insurance of the Committee on Financial Services in the House of Representatives who stated that the Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act (NRRA) of the Dodd-Frank Act was never intended to apply to captive insurance.  In a letter to the new Chairman and Ranking Member, former Chair of the Insurance Subcommittee Representative Judy Biggert wrote, ‘ As a supporter of NRRA and an advocate for its inclusion and passage as part of Dodd-Frank, I can tell you unequivocally that the NRRA was never intended to include the captive insurance industry.’The full text of Congressman Garrett’ s statement can be found at www.VermontCaptive.com/DoddFrank(link is external).  Captive insurance is a regulated form of self-insurance that has existed since the 1960s, and has been a part of the Vermont insurance industry since 1981 when Vermont passed the Special Insurer Act. Captive insurance companies are formed by companies or groups of companies as a form of alternative insurance to better manage their own risk. Captives are typically used for corporate lines of insurance such as property, general liability, products liability, or professional liability. Growth sectors of the captive insurance industry include professional medical malpractice coverage for doctors and hospitals, and the continued trend of small and mid-sized companies forming captive insurance companies.  VCIA is the largest trade association in the world for captive insurance.  Established in 1985, the association has grown to provide programs that support the captive insurance industry on both the state and federal levels for its 450-plus member companies.Source: State of Vermont. February 7, 2013  www.Vermontcaptive.com(link is external)last_img read more

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Keiths II opens in Rutland

first_imgPictured front row left to rightTom Donahue, Executive Vice President/CEO, Rutland Region Chamber of CommerceChristopher Robinson, Rutland City Board of AldermanLyndsay Donahue, Bayada Home Health CareMarleen Cenate, President, Rutland Region Chamber of CommerceVermont Governor Peter ShumlinRutland City Mayor Christopher Louras  Cal Lanfear, Keiths IIBrennan Duffy, Executive Director, Rutland Redevelopment AuthoritySteve Senecal, Keiths IIDan Keith, Keiths IIJerry Hansen, Board of Directors, Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce The ribbon is cut at the new retail and manufacturing location for Keiths II, located at 15 West Street, in Rutland. Keiths II has transformed the former Armory building into a state of the art manufacturing and retail space while maintaining the historic aspects of the building. Keiths II is holding an Open House at their new location throughout the month of March. You can stop by and check out the new retail store, free Keith’ s II t-shirt with purchase (while supplies last). The Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting Celebration was attended by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, several members of the Vermont Legislature and local officials including Mayor Christopher Louras.last_img read more

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K&E Plastics expands in Bennington

first_imgK&E Plastics has recently acquired the former Miller Structures Building in the Morse Industrial Park in Bennington, according to the Bennington County Industrial Corp. The new facility is approximately 3 times larger than K&E Plastics current facility in Arlington. The larger facility provides the foundation for K&E Plastics to expand current relationships and develop new relationships in the core markets the company serves.  This reaffirms BCIC’s strategy of retaining and expanding local businesses, according to Peter Odierna Executive Director of BCIC. In addition, K&E Plastics is increasingly serving the emerging composites sector, thus building of the supply chain of this important component of our local economy.‘The decision by K&E Plastics to move its manufacturing operation to Bennington is a byproduct of the hard work done by BCIC. I’m encouraged by this recent news and believe that this addition to our industrial portfolio will help continue our mission to position Bennington as the economic center for the region. Congratulations to Eric and all the employees at K&E; we are thrilled to be able to call Bennington the home of such quality products”, said Michael Harrington of the Town of Bennington.K&E has specialized in plastics machining for over 46 years. In that time we have machined parts for a wide range of customers – from some of the biggest companies in the world to individual inventors and hobbyists. We machine custom plastic parts for aerospace, automotive, communication, elevator, medical, military, power-generation, sporting goods, and the OEM markets; among others. We machine alltypes of thermoplastics and thermosets from sheet, tube , rod, or an existing shape or profile.last_img read more

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State: Entergy must set aside $60 million for Vermont Yankee site restoration

first_imgby Anne Galloway vtdigger.org The Shumlin administration has recommended that a quasi-judicial board grant Entergy a license to continue operating Vermont Yankee through the end of 2014, as long as the company meets three conditions. Among the conditions proposed by the Vermont Department of Public Service is the creation a new fund to pay for site restoration.Chris Recchia, commissioner of the department said restoration of the Vermont Yankee site would cost $120 million. ‘We are recommending that a condition be established to require a separate trust fund for site restoration with an initial deposit of $60 million,’ Recchia said in an interview.Under the proposal, Entergy, the owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, the deposit of $60 million would be made to the fund within 21 days of receiving an operating license, or certificate of public good from the state.The creation of the fund is one of three requirements the department has asked the Vermont Public Service Board to impose on Entergy should it grant a license to the company.The Louisiana-based company originally sought a 20-year license extension from the Vermont for the aging nuclear facility. On Aug. 27, just 11 days after Entergy argued before the board that it needed two decades to operate the plant and generate sufficient monies for the decommissioning fund, the company announced it would shut down the plant next year because it is no longer financially viable.In light of the imminent shutdown, the Shumlin administration has proposed a 14-month license extension with conditions. The Vermont Department of Public Service says Entergy must create a separate fund for site restoration because the company does not have any money earmarked for the restoration in its decommissioning fund. In addition, the department wants Entergy to halt hot water discharges into the Connecticut River and agree to pay an-as-yet-undetermined amount of money for the economic impact of the plant shutdown on Windham County.The state wants Entergy to use the cooling towers at the plant to maintain temperatures in the reactor instead of discharging hot water into the Connecticut River. For years, scientists and advocates have said the discharges have elevated the temperature of the river and harmed the ecosystem.Chris Recchia, the commissioner of the Department of Public Service, said, ‘We believe Entergy failed to demonstrate throughout the proceeding that there is no adverse affect on the environment.’Recchia said his department is also concerned about the economic impact of the shutdown on the state. Entergy generates $18 million to $20 million in financial benefits for the local economy. He wants the board to require that the state and Entergy to create a mechanism for ‘economic transition support’ six months after the license is granted. Entergy is currently required to pay a generating tax on the amount of electricity it generates from Vermont Yankee. Once the plant closes, that source of state revenue will disappear. Recchia says Entergy should be required to continue to make some kind of payment to the state to make up for the economic impact of the sudden, unplanned shutdown.About half of the department’s legal brief fixates on Entergy’s history of misstatements before the board about the plant’s underground piping system. Less than a year after Entergy officials swore under oath in 2009 that no such pipes existed, there was a leak of radioactive water, tritium, from pipes located under the facility.The department attempts to build a case that Entergy has not been a ‘fair partner.’ In the brief, state officials say the ‘evidence shows that Entergy misled the Board,’ and they urge the board to consider Entergy’s misstatements in the proceeding.The crux of the department’s arguments, however, is the idea that Entergy can’t be counted on to make good on its promise to decommission the plant once the nuclear facility is offline. In previous arguments, the company has said it must run the plant for 20 years in order to grow the decommissioning fund sufficiently.The decommissioning fund is worth about $580 million. In 2012, Entergy completed a decommissioning cost analysis for Vermont Yankee that projects SAFSTOR could cost more than $1 billion.The 46-page brief alleges that Entergy’s estimates for the growth of its decommissioning fund for Vermont Yankee are not based on ‘real-world conditions’ and Entergy has ‘underestimated the future minimum amount needed for the decommissioning fund.’ Entergy’s projections assume that it will recover all spent fuel costs from the Department of Energy; courts have denied millions of dollars in recovery costs, according to the brief.The state also alleges that Entergy is using artificially low cost estimates for disposal of low-level radioactive waste from the plant, apparently ignoring the fact that Vermont must send the waste to a designated facility as part of a compact with Texas.The state has no authority to impose conditions for the decommissioning process. Entergy must submit a plan for decommissioning to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that oversees decommissioning, within two years of the plant shutdown.Vermont Yankee is a temporary storage site for 1,507 fuel rod assemblies submerged in a spent fuel pool that was originally designed to hold about 350 assemblies. Vermont Yankee’s spent fuel pool, located in a metal warehouse structure, has more than five full reactor cores worth of radioactive material.This story was corrected to note that while the restoration will require $120 million, the state is asking for a $60 million deposit.last_img read more

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Kilawatt Technologies reduces the VPT on-air studio’s electrical usage by 86 percent

first_imgKilawatt Technologies has announced significant energy savings in Vermont Public Television’s Studio A, one of its on-air TV studios.’ Built in 1967, Studio A was once heated and cooled using three independent, state-of-the-art HVAC systems. Over time, knowledge of how the systems worked and needed to be maintained was lost, and the systems fell into disrepair. As a result, Studio A was uncomfortably warm for those who worked there.’ Although VPT had been given a proposal for over $360,000 to replace the three HVAC systems, Kilawatt Technologies studied them and figured out how they had been intended to function. Turning the three analog air systems into digital ones was no small feat, but Kilawatt ended up not only saving VPT from having to buy a new system but brought the old systems back online and saved VPT a considerable amount of energy and money.’ Joe Tymecki, VPT’s Facilities Manager, said, ‘What Kilawatt does is save you so much energy that the utility may come knocking to see if their meter is broken.’’ Instead of being hot most of the time, Studio A is comfortable. In addition, energy costs for cooling the studio have plunged from 22 kW to 3 kW due to the revitalization of the old system. ‘ This has resulted in an’ 86% reduction in electrical consumption.Steven Antinozzi, Vice President of Kilawatt Technologies, stated,’ ‘We are very pleased to be able to achieve these results for Vermont Public Television. It’s been great to create a comfortable work environment for VPT staff while drastically reducing their energy costs.’ Background’ Kilawatt Technologies, founded in 2008, provides a data-centric, statistically based, energy and environmental management program. The methods involve continuous trending and analysis of energy and interior environmental data for commercial, multi-family, and industrial buildings.’ Vermont Public Television’ (VPT) is Vermont’s statewide public television network, serving the region on the air, online at VPT.org and in the community. ‘ VPT’s signal covers Vermont, as well as bordering regions of New York, New Hampshire and southern Quebec, including Montreal. A member station of PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service, VPT’s mission is to educate, inform, entertain and inspire Vermonters to be lifelong learners and to be engaged in their community.November 20, 2013 Kilawatt Technologies‘last_img read more

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VSECU: 2015 Holiday spending not resulting in significant debt for Vermonters

first_imgVermont Business Magazine VSECU, a statewide credit union based in Montpelier, today released new data detailing 2015 holiday spending trends amongst Vermonters, finding that Vermont consumers were more likely to finance holiday spending with cash than with credit. VSECU’s analysis showed that 2015 holiday spending via cash and debit increased compared to 2014, while credit card spending decreased by 8.8 percent. Analyzing more than 5.6 million anonymized account transactions in 2015, VSECU also found that both number of purchases and average monthly spending increased in the months of November and December, compared to all other months. However, the majority of those spending increases were financed with consumers’ cash on hand, rather than amassing greater debt on credit cards. Average monthly debit spending increased nearly 10 percent in November and December, while average credit card spending rose only 5.9 percent for those same months.“At VSECU we’re always working to help members and Vermont communities improve financial literacy, from debt management to proper budgeting, so we’re glad to see a decline in holiday debt this year,” said Yvonne Garand, Senior Vice President Marketing & Business Development for VSECU. “But with holiday gifting, charitable giving, college tuition, and property taxes, the end of the year continues to pose a significant budgeting challenge for most consumers.”Though credit card spending was down this year, paying off any end-of-the-year debt is a critical step for financial health, and VSECU is offering the following tips to help Vermonters manage debt in the new year.Assess the damage – Determine your collective debt across credit cards and what you can afford to pay on a monthly basis. Personal finance calculators are available online, including one from VSECU(link is external), and can help you determine how long it will take to pay off your balance.  Develop a plan – It’s always easier to accomplish goals when you have a plan in place, and written plans are even more effective. Write down a list of actions you can take to pay down your debt, from payment schedules to enlisting a professional financial planner, and reference the plan frequently.Set milestones – Set milestones to help you achieve your goals, and think positively, believing you can achieve those goals. When you achieve a goal, recognize your accomplishment and set a new one. With every achievement, you will feel more and more confident, which will give you energy to continue.Pay off your balance before your savings account – Regularly adding to your savings account is financially smart, but if you’re carrying credit card debt, paying that off before putting money into a savings account often results in higher savings. Current interest rates on savings are typically less than 1 percent, compared to the average variable credit card rate of 15 percent. By paying off your credit card balance, you are essentially earning a 15x greater return on your money.Learn and adapt – As your 2015 holiday debt dwindles, acknowledge the holiday spending habits that put you in debt and how you can plan for 2016. Using credit can cause you to overspend and result in costly interest charges. By saving for holiday expenditures throughout the year, you will have the funds available to you and can avoid credit card spending over the holidays. This approach will start you off on strong financial footing for 2017.For more budgeting strategies and financial tips, visit the VSECU Blog at http://blog.vsecu.com/(link is external).  MONTPELIER, VT, JANUARY 13, 2016 – VSECUlast_img read more

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Vermont Secretary of State’s 2016 poster and essay contest deadline May 1

first_imgVermont Business Magazine The Vermont Secretary of State’s Poster and Essay Contest is an annual event to promote awareness of Vermont history, the Vermont Constitution, and the importance of civics among students in Grades K-12. The program was started in 2000, making this its 16th year. The essay topics this year, for older students, focus on youth involvement in politics and governance and asks students to imagine creative ways in which we can encourage and increase their participation. The younger students, in keeping with tradition, are asked to create their own rendition of state symbols and posters by thinking about what Vermont means to them.Every year, we receive great submissions from students across the state. We then select winners in each category and invite their entire class to join us for a day in Montpelier where they tour the State House, the Vermont History Museum, and are recognized in an awards ceremony.We ask teachers to share this opportunity with their students and encourage them to participate. The deadline for submissions is May 1. We are excited to see what new and thoughtful submissions we receive this year from our talented Vermont students!More information about the contest, the class topics, and submission forms can be found attached with this press release and on our website.last_img read more

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Auditor questions DCF fraud collections, commissioner cites mission to help poor

first_imgby Timothy McQuiston Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont state auditor’s latest investigation was made public today on how much fraud plagued the Vermont Department for Children and Families. State Auditor Doug Hoffer reported that the DCF substantially investigated alleged beneficiary fraud on two of the programs, but not all, and improper payments were not effectively collected. Only 3SquaresVT disqualified fraudulent recipients for a period of time. The DCF budget in FY 2015 was $101.2 million (the fraud amount was $1.8 million on 1,036 improper payment claims over 40 months).The auditor also questioned how hard the DCF was trying to collect improper payments. For instance, DCF could work with the Tax Department to garnish income tax refunds.He also believes that if a recipient is cheating on 3SquaresVT, it’s reasonable to investigate whether that same person is cheating the fuel assistance or another program, but DCF did not take that initiative.The auditor can investigate and make recommendations, but he does not have enforcement authority. The report can be found HERE.(link is external)DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz said in a written response to the report, in part, that: “Overall, we agree with most of the findings and recommendations of the draft report, although we do not believe the title of the report (“Alleged Beneficiary Fraud Investigated, but Improper Payments Not Effectively Collected”) accurately reflects the reasonable efforts made to collect on improper payments and respectfully request it be changed. As you found in your audit, the scope of the improper payment is tiny when compared to the very sizeable amount of benefits issued by ESD programs and the integrity of the program administration is strong.”He goes on to say that some of the recommendations will be implemented as soon as possible. However, because of the cost of the technology involved and the time involved, “We need to be mindful of the cost benefit analysis of implementing changes within the availability of program resources.”Typically in an audit report, the department targeted defers to the auditor more so than is found in this case. Schatz not only pointed out the relatively small amount of money involved, but also stressed that DCF must focus on its ultimate mission.“Our programs serve Vermont’s most vulnerable citizens,” Schatz wrote, “and we need to make sure implementing any proposed recommendations does not inadvertently jeopardize their health and safety. The recent policy shifts in Vermont support this approach, such as the current implementation of significantly reduced traffic fines for indigent Vermonters to allow them to regain driving licensees to support them in becoming more financially self-sufficient as well as waiving the normal General Assistance rules to implement cold weather exception in the emergency housing program to ensure all homeless Vermonters have a safe, warm place to stay during very cold winter weather.”According to the report issued September 12, in fiscal year 2015, the Department for Children and Families’ (DCF) Economic Services Division (ESD) distributed millions of dollars in benefits to, or on behalf of, low and moderate income Vermonters.These programs provide help to families with children for their basic needs and services that support work and self-sufficiency (Reach Up program), food assistance (3SquaresVT program), home heating assistance (Seasonal Fuel Assistance program), and emergency assistance (General Assistance program).Because of the magnitude of these federal and state-funded programs, the auditor decided to conduct an audit of how DCF was addressing the risk of beneficiary eligibility fraud. Our objectives were to:(1) determine whether and how DCF’s ESD prevents and detects beneficiary eligibility fraud and(2) determine the extent to which claims are established, beneficiaries are disqualified, and improper payments are recovered for ESD programs.The audit found that ESD’s fraud unit prevented and detected beneficiary eligibility fraud by conducting investigations of potential fraudulent activity based on information contained in referrals from internal and external sources.The fraud unit documented its investigations, which generally met the unit’s internal standard for timely completion.However, ESD did not have assurance that all allegations of fraud were reviewed as they did not record and track to resolution all allegations made by the public. Without such tracking, ESD management cannot be certain that the allegations were handled properly.Between January 1, 2013 and April 21, 2016, ESD’s fraud unit determined that $1.8 million was owed by program beneficiaries resulting from 1,036 improper payment claims.However, all of the cases were in the 3SquaresVT and Reach Up programs with no claims having been established in the Seasonal Fuel Assistance or General Assistance programs.ESD’s fraud unit did not check whether overpayments in these programs also occurred when they substantiated client violations that resulted in overpayments in the 3SquaresVT and Reach Up programs. As a result, ESD may not be seeking repayment for all inappropriately obtained benefits.Moreover, if an individual is found to have intentionally misrepresented his/her income or household composition, the only program that disqualifies beneficiaries from receiving benefits for a period of time is the 3SquaresVT program.Except in very limited circumstances, beneficiaries in the other programs may continue receiving benefits if they continue to meet eligibility criteria, without consideration given to previous intentional misconduct.Lastly, ESD did not utilize all available methods to collect the improper payment claims. For example, ESD did not send bills to individuals that defaulted on their debt, with the exception of when a 3SquaresVT debt was sent to a federal offset program for interception of federal payments.Nor did ESD use the Vermont income tax refund offset program, which allows any State agency to send their debt to the Department of Taxes for offset against personal income tax refunds and homestead property tax income sensitivity adjustments. As a result, ESD is losing opportunities to recoup additional improper payments.“We made a variety of recommendations to DCF,” Hoffer wrote in the report, “including establishing a system to track all allegations and utilizing the State’s income tax refund offset program to collect defaulted debts.”Recommendations:1.Direct ESD to create a system to track allegations of fraud from inception to resolution and periodically review whether the allegations are being handled appropriately.2.Enable the public to submit an allegation of beneficiary fraud electronically.3.Direct the FACU to develop a mechanism to track the confirmations sent out regarding potential fraudulent activities identified via the Department of Labor wage data match and Public Assistance Recipient Information System data match and follow-up as necessary.4.Fix the ACCESS software problem that isresulting in too many matches with theVermont Department of Labor’s wage data.5.Direct ESD to regularly perform a computer data match between ACCESS and the Department of Corrections’ case management system to identify prisoners who may be receiving benefits.6.Direct the FACU to check whether changes in income or household composition detected during investigations would have affected whether or how much a client received in Seasonal Fuel Assistance or General Assistance benefits and seek recoupment of overpayments when found.7.Direct ESD to modify program rules to disqualify Reach Up clients for a period of time if they are found to have intentionally violated rules in the program in order to fraudulently obtain benefits.8.Direct ESD to modify program rules to disqualify Seasonal Fuel Assistance clients for a period of time if they are found to have intentionally violated rules in the program in order to fraudulently obtain benefits.9.Direct ESD to modify program rules to disqualify General Assistance clients for a period of time if they are found to have intentionally violated rules in the program in order to fraudulently obtain benefits.10.Direct the FACU to set a standard for a reasonable maximum repayment period in negotiating the monthly repayment amount for overpayment claims.11.Direct ESD to periodically bill clients who are in default in repaying overpayment claims.12.Direct ESD to use the State’s income tax refund offset program to collect ESD’s delinquent debt for overpayment claims.13.Direct ESD to review the duties of the FACU supervisor and reduce her capability to control or perform all key aspects of the investigation and claims process.Source: Vermont Auditor. 9.12.2016. In accordance with 32 V.S.A. §163, the auditor is also providing copies of this report to the commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management and the Department of Libraries. In addition, the report is also available at no charge on the state auditor’s website, http://auditor.vermont.gov/(link is external).last_img read more

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