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Attorney General’s Office Continues to Protect the Environment, Seniors, And Consumers in the Face of COVID-19

May 1, 2020

Actions taken by the AG during the week of April 27 – May 1

Contact: Charity R. Clark, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171

The Attorney General’s Office has been hard at work this week protecting the rights of Vermonters and standing up for the environment. “During these uncertain times, our mission and dedication to protecting Vermonters remain steadfast,” said Attorney General T.J. Donovan. “My office will continue to do its part in the COVID-19 pandemic. Vermont will get through this together.” Here are some of the actions taken by the Attorney General’s Office during the week of April 27 to May 1, 2020:

Protecting clean water

Today, May 1, Attorney General Donovan joined a coalition of attorneys general in filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s unlawful final rule redefining the “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The final rule continues the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) effort to weaken water quality protections under the Clean Water Act and narrow the definition of “waters of the United States.” The new rule removes protections for all ephemeral streams, many wetlands, and other waters that were previously covered under the Act. In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that EPA’s rule directly conflicts with the text of the Clean Water Act, Supreme Court precedent, and the EPA’s own scientific findings.

Safeguarding seniors with reverse mortgages from foreclosure

Today, May 1, Attorney General Donovan joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in urging the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to take actions to ensure senior citizens with reverse mortgages will not be at risk of foreclosure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The coalition’s letter recommends several actions, including:

  • Requiring servicers to educate their customers about available relief, so that no senior citizen slips through the cracks and loses their home.
  • Allowing servicers to add missed property tax and insurance payments to the end of a reverse mortgage loan balance so that homeowners do not need to make up these missed payments as soon as a forbearance period ends.
  • Preparing now to extend relief beyond 12 months, if needed, to protect senior homeowners affected by COVID-19.

Standing up for antidiscrimination protections in health care

Yesterday, April 30, Attorney General Donovan joined a multistate coalition in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging it not to finalize its proposed regulation, “Nondiscrimination in Health and Health Education Programs or Activities” (Section 1557 Rule). Section 1557 is an antidiscrimination provision that prohibits discrimination in healthcare based on gender, race, ethnicity, sex, age, or disability.  If finalized, the proposed changes to this provision would seriously undermine the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) critical antidiscrimination protections at a time when they are most needed to help address the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed rule would roll back anti-discrimination protections for communities of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, those with limited English proficiency, and people with disabilities by undermining critical legal protections that guarantee healthcare as a right.

Continuing the fight against the Trump Administration’s public charge rule

Tuesday, April 28, Vermont joined New York, Connecticut, and New York City in filing a new motion for preliminary injunction asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to halt implementation of the Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule. Tuesday’s motion was filed after the Supreme Court last week chose not to halt the order, but gave the coalition permission to take their request back to the District Court. The Public Charge Rule drives immigrants and their families away from accessing health and nutritional benefits to which they are entitled by threatening applicants’ eligibility for green cards and visa renewals. The coalition is requesting interim relief on public charge in light of the new and devastating effects that the rule has had on the nation’s public health and the economy as COVID-19 continues to spread.

Requesting a special enrollment period for

Tuesday, April 28, Attorney General Donovan joined a coalition in sending a letter to the US. Department of Health and Human Services requesting that the Administration create a special enrollment period on to create greater access to mental health and substance abuse care during these unprecedented times.

 Protecting consumers from price gouging

As previously announced, on Monday, April 27, Chittenden Superior Court Judge Helen Toor granted a preliminary injunction to stop a price-gouging scheme involving surgical masks. Attorney General Donovan filed a lawsuit and motion for preliminary injunction against Big Brother Security Programs and its owner Shelley Palmer of Williston, Vermont, on April 13, 2020. The lawsuit alleged that Big Brother Security Programs imported surgical masks that cost 10 cents each and re-sold them to Central Vermont Medical Center for $2.50 each. With Monday’s ruling, Big Brother Security Programs and Mr. Palmer are now enjoined from selling surgical masks or any other personal protective medical equipment at inflated prices. A copy of Monday’s press release is available here.