Dear Constituents –
I hope this update finds you well. We began the week on April 20 with a small number of businesses being allowed to resume and ended with another tiny sector poised to join them on April 27. This gradual opening of the economy will ensure that Vermont is not overwhelmed by sickness and our health care facilities have the capability to care for us. Thank you for your patience and cooperation and please remain vigilant by continuing to social distance, limit your excursions, and wear a cloth mask when you have to be out in public. I am grateful to everyone who is checking on their older neighbors and family members to keep them safe.
We also began dealing with the fallout from the Vermont State Colleges System announcement that it was eyeing closure of campuses to address its ongoing financial crisis. Your Representatives are taking input from constituents with creative, alternative solutions – please continue to email us with your thoughts.
On Wednesday, The House of Representatives met virtually and held a unanimous, historic vote to allow remote voting to take place. We passed HR.18, a Resolution that will enable us to take up all of the legislation we are working on in Committees to help Vermonters through this time of crisis and to utilize remote voting procedures to pass those bills on to the Senate and ultimately to the Governor. Although I had reservations as to the security and appropriateness of the platforms we are using, my concerns were addressed in time to vote yes, so we can continue to provide assistance to all Vermonters without assembling in person at the Statehouse.
In my House General Committee, we took final testimony on S.333, an act relating to a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 State of Emergency. Committee work is limited by the amount of time allocated to zoom meetings by our IT staff, so we must work efficiently to cover the areas of jurisdiction that each Committee is tasked with. This week’s meetings will focus exclusively on homelessness and our response to the anticipated lifting of the Stay at Home order on May 15, specifically for those formerly homeless individuals and families currently being housed in motels for safer social distancing. Because of measures like these, the curve of infection has remained level and is dropping off, but continued vigilance will involve great expense with regards to the homeless population. It was reassuring to hear from our Joint Fiscal Office that Moody’s Analytics ranked Vermont in the middle of all New England states for financial solvency, mainly due to our stable tax structure and “rainy day” funds, yet our economic outlook remains fragile. We hope to utilize Federal CARES Act funds for housing solutions, as well as other social services. The April shortfall projections of $61 million in the General Fund, $69 million in the Education Fund, and $42 million in the Transportation Fund due to decreased revenues will keep us mindful of our budgetary constraints, and we are grateful for the Federal monies. All meetings are available on YouTube, live-streamed or recorded. Just follow the links on the Vermont General Assembly website.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program opened this week, allowing individuals who are self-employed, independent contractors, and sole proprietors, as well as some other formerly ineligible workers, to collect benefits from the Federal government for the first time ever. Please be advised that the Dept of Labor at www.labor.vermont.gov is where you will find answers to your employment benefit questions. The uncertainty of our situation weighs heavily on all of us, and my hope is that we can help as many people as possible to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Don’t hesitate to contact any of us with your concerns. I can be reached at [email protected]
Stay well and be safe,
Representative Lisa A Hango