As I write this, our Internet was down for five hours today – no WiFi for texting or calling on cellphones, no Zoom meetings, and in my case, no voting on the virtual House floor. When the House of Representatives voted to allow ourselves to vote remotely, I had some concerns. One of them was NOT what would happen if I lost internet and couldn’t use my cellphone OR my landline, which is exactly what happened to me today. I chose to not join the voting by landline because I was already using my landline to field calls from constituents on call-waiting while I was on hold with our internet provider, hoping to advocate for all of us who needed to work and attend school virtually. Although I have voiced this new concern to House leadership, I remain unconvinced that this issue will not come up again.
Monday began the week with a meeting of the Community Housing Response Team that covers Franklin County – I joined their call to learn more background information about how homelessness is being addressed in our area. Also on Monday, and again on Wednesday, we learned more about the Supplemental Budget Adjustment Act, Vermont’s portion of CARES Act funding, and how the budgeting process will unfold – the BAA, which was passed on Friday to true up the current fiscal year’s budget, a “Skinny Budget”, which will be for the first three months of the new fiscal year beginning July 1, and the remaining nine-month budget, which we will work on in August and September, after tax receipts from July 15 are calculated. We were also updated on UI/PUA claims, with many of those being resolved, including some of the cases I’ve submitted for constituents. I also have begun reaching out to internet providers to expedite installations for families with students who have been unable to access services, not anticipating that today would be a day I’d have to advocate to them for my own household, as well! Monday evening brought my first in-person meeting of the Berkshire Selectboard since the State of Emergency began, appropriately physical distancing throughout the Town Hall building, with members discussing equipment needs, paving schedules, and other housekeeping items.
On Tuesday, my House General Committee brought back H.739, a rental housing rehab and safety bill, taking it off the wall with hopes to use it for post- COVID Housing needs. This dovetailed with the conversation I connected with on Monday’s Housing Response Team Meeting, and was reinforced by testimony from the Office of Economic Opportunity. The question of how to best re-house nearly 2000 people who were formerly homeless prior to COVID-19 looms large in our Committee, and I am not convinced that this bill will be able to play a part in that. Tuesday evening was a remote meeting of the Enosburg-Richford School District (ERUUSD) where the Board members heard an update on the status of Education funding as a result of lost Meals & Rooms and Sales & Use taxes, as well as the real possibility that towns may not be able to collect all of their expected property taxes. Municipalities will be borrowing against those anticipated taxes in order to pay into the State fund, as they typically do, and we are watching this situation closely.
Thursday is my morning at the Enosburg Food Shelf, and I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the volunteers and donors who have stepped up in many different capacities to serve our food-insecure households. On that note, there will be another food distribution in Franklin Co – for a complete list:
We have also heard that farm workers may now be eligible for unemployment benefits through the PUA system but must first apply through the regular UI system at www.labor.vermont.gov and this is a resource for Federal aid to farming operations: https://www.growingfarmers.com/caresresource
If you run a re-opening childcare business, updated guidelines are here:
For all other business operating and re-opening guidance, visit: www.accd.vermont.gov
Lastly, free COVID-19 testing appointments may be scheduled at: https://humanresources.vermont.gov/popups Please don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance during this uncertain time firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep Lisa A Hango