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Without Snow, Many Dependent On Winter Economy Are Struggling To Get By

Liam Connors
While holiday decorations like these in Charlotte seem comical without the traditional blanket of snow, the warm weather is putting a major economic strain on Vermonters who rely on the winter economy.

The mild winter is creating hardship for many who rely on the income from snow and skiing-related jobs.  

Penny Muzzey lives in Westminster. Her husband drives a plow truck for a living. “The company that he works for will guarantee him a 40-hour work week,” she says. “But if it’s not snowing, they don’t have other jobs to fulfill, so he might have to go on unemployment for the winter time which we never want to do. Because he wants to be out there working."

"So if its not snowing it kind of impacts our income quite a little bit,” adds Muzzey.

Kelly Giancola is Director of the Rutland Community Cupboard.  She says demand for food has gone up recently and they’re noticing a lot of new clients.  She says it’s hard to say for sure what’s causing the uptick.

But Giancola says if this mild weather goes on much longer, she expects to see demand for food assistance in Rutland going up even more.

“I would think so, I really would,” she says. “Especially for the seasonal people, who either don’t have another source of income or did summer construction or landscaping, and were depending on that to roll into ... a second job or just a regular job; I think we will see a change.”

Pam Shambo works with BROC, Community Action in Southwestern Vermont, a nonprofit in Rutland that helps those in need.

She says for the last three years, Pico Mountain ski resort has partnered with BROC to collect non-perishable food donations during the ski resort’s opening weekend. Shambo says the program has been tremendously successful in the past, but this year it’s been put on hold.

"At the moment we don't even know when their opening weekend will be." - Pam Shambo of BROC, Community Action in Southwestern Vermont

“[The resort was] supposed to have opening weekend last weekend and now we tried for this weekend and there’s no snow,” says Shambo. “So that means no food drive at the moment and that will impact how much we have on hand to give out.”

Shambo says “at the moment we don’t even know when their opening weekend will be.”

Elizabeth Eddy, who also works for BROC, says just this week a man just came in to pick up Christmas presents that the agency had collected for his mother.

“And he was very grateful," says Eddy, “because he was unable to do much for her this season because his employment hadn’t started yet and he is seasonally employed in the ski industry.”

Eddy expects demand for their services to go up if the mild weather continues.  But she says these are the types of short-term crisis that their agency is geared for.   

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