Don’t Scapegoat ESD Workers For Error Rate!


Recently, the State of Vermont’s Department for Children and Families sent an email to 24 state employees who administer 3squaresVT food benefits to Vermonters in need. The email read, in part:

“You have been identified as one of the 24 workers in the state responsible for a large portion of the 3SQVT errors. As such, you will need to complete the JINC and DCEX forms and have them approved by a supervisor (we discussed this at staff meeting) before approving a case. You will also be subject to overtime restrictions.”

August 18, 2010: Seven Days
November 24, 2010: Brattleboro Reformer
November 29, 2010: Burlington Free Press
 March 2, 2014: Times Argus/ Rutland Herald

The email rightfully angered not only the 24 employees being singled out, but also many of their colleagues; most of whom have been struggling for years with very limited resources to restore the program’s once top-ten status in terms of 3squaresVT error rates.

The program is now sadly 53rd in the nation, and instead of receiving federal bonus money for having a low error rate, Vermont is now paying hefty penalties to the federal government. ("3SquaresVT Faces More Federal Fines" via

Adding insult to injury, DCF workers have been warning for years that the State’s “modernization” of the 3SquaresVT program, which began in 2009, would not work and would lead to the crisis facing Vermont today. Only recently did DCF leaders finally decide to listen to one of the workers’ main complaints about the modernization effort and move 3sqauresVT back to being district-based; something workers had long advocated.

We hope you will agree that it’s wrong to penalize a few DCF frontline workers for what has been a crisis-in-the-making for many years now, as evidenced by these quotes VSEA has pulled from various Vermont news outlets.

Click on the "Timeline To Scapegoat" box below, and you’ll find DCF 3SquaresVT-specific historical material excerpted from VSEA’s in-house weekly publication “VSEA Week In Action” .

After reading through all this, we hope you’ll agree with VSEA that it’s wrong for DCF to single out these 24 workers for causing the well-documented problems that have been plaguing the 3squaresVT program for years.

Please send DCF Commissioner David Yacovone and DCF Deputy Commissioner Richard Giddings a message saying “Don’t blame the workers for the 3squaresVT program’s high error rate.” In the subject line, please write “No Scapegoating!”

Commissioner David Yacovone:
Deputy Commissioner Richard Giddings:

 Click here to see the full timeline of events that led to the scapegoating of workers.


September 2009, Times Argus

“[3squares] numbers went up dramatically last year and they have remained at that higher level. We have seen a continued high demand for services.”

-DCF Commissioner Steve Dale, confirming a growing demand for human services

“The actual peak in requests for public programs is likely to be later.”

-Gov. Jim Douglas, echoing Dale’s concerns, while at the same time cutting frontline employee positions


October 2010, Free Press

“It feels like the State’s lack of planning and foresight has negatively affected both our staff and our clients.”

-Central Vermont Council On Aging Director Beth Stern, talking about serious issues with 3Squares’ program’s inability to meet need


October 2010, VTDigger

“’Thousands’ of Vermonters are being adversely impacted by the current flaws in DCF’s streamlined delivery service.”

-Joint press release from Washington County Hunger Council and the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger


June 2012, Addison Independent

“Our budget was strapped and we had to be conscious of staffing. Because we suddenly had so many people participating, caseloads went up. And when caseloads go up, you have a little less time to manage the caseloads if you don’t have a subsequent increase in staff.”

-Then-3Squares Director Renee Richardson, who left soon after to work in the private sector.

“Not only was the [3Squares’] division short-staffed, it also lost experience.”

-DCF Deputy Commissioner Richard Giddings,


October 2012, VTDigger

Click here for a larger graph.Click here for a larger graph.“The caseloads continue to grow, and when you reduce your infrastructure you eventually get problems, and that’s what we’ve got…It’s like not keeping up with road maintenance. If you don’t fill the pot holes for three years then you’ve eventually got to replace the whole roadbed.”

-ESD Chief of Quality Control Rick Smith


September 2013, Times Argus

“If ever there were an example of what happens when you cut budgets indiscriminately, this is a good one. I’m not pointing fingers, but when people cut positions … well, those people are working hard, and there are consequences when that happens.”

“And if you eliminate the training unit for what are rather technical transactions, your error rates are going to go up, and that’s what happened.”

-DCF Commissioner David Yacovone on 3Squares’ being penalized again for high error rate


November 2013, Times Argus

“Vermont will almost certainly its federal benchmarks for the third straight year” and is “bracing for an additional $370,000 penalty in June 2014.”

-DCF Commissioner David Yacovone on 3Squares’ penalties

Help us spread the word and stop the scapegoating of workers.

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