Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Birong has produced results for his constituents

This has been a difficult year for most Vermonters, but none have struggled more than people facing homelessness and food insecurity. More than 200 people in Addison County found themselves in shelters and motel rooms at the height of the pandemic. Even more lined up at food banks. And hundreds of their neighbors responded with acts of kindness and generosity. One of the people who responded wholeheartedly in his personal and professional capacities was businessman and Representative Matt Birong of Vergennes.
As a restaurateur and board member of the Vergennes Boys and Girls Club, Matt is keenly aware that too many of our neighbors — many of them seniors or families with children — haven’t had enough to eat during the pandemic. That’s why he helped launch Everyone Eats, a program that leverages CARES Act funds to buy to-go meals from local restaurants for households negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Much of the food is grown on local farms. Families get great meals, and local restaurants and farmers can keep their employees working to help the community. Thanks to Matt’s vision and support and the work of amazing local restaurants and farmers, thousands of meals are delivered in Addison County and throughout the state, including to seniors, people in shelters, and families that have lost their jobs.
Fortunately Matt was also a key member on the House General Affairs and Housing Committee where he worked tirelessly to craft far-reaching legislation to get federal CARES Act funding into Vermont communities to provide an array of affordable housing opportunities. Some of the initiatives that Matt’s committee authored include back rent payment to landlords to prevent evictions, capital construction funds to create new affordable housing units for people experiencing homelessness, rehab funds to bring privately owned units up to code, and services to help people find and pay for an affordable unit. Matt invited me to testify before the committee this spring, and I was amazed that he and his colleagues actually wrote and swiftly passed a comprehensive bill that is now helping so many Vermonters. Of course the measure helps the poorest people hit hardest during the COVID emergency, but the multiplier effect of the legislation is to provide funds to nonprofits, private landlords, builders, developers, contractors, and their many local employees. 
In these difficult times the people of the Vergennes area are fortunate to have a Representative like Matt Birong that can bring Main Street values to the Vermont Statehouse in a way that benefits so many.
Elizabeth Ready
Lincoln

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