Dear Constituents –
I hope this writing finds you and yours well and safe. May began, as most months do, with attendance at meetings outside of my legislative committee – remotely “attending” the Missisquoi Valley School District, Franklin County Home Health Agency, Northern Mountain Valley Unified Union School District, and Highgate Selectboard meetings this week. Issues of internet access, remote learning for students, safety for healthcare professionals, successes and challenges during this pandemic, cancellations and substitutions for annual events, and road work were topics of discussion. My gratitude goes out to all of you who are adapting to, and reworking what is, the new normal in our lives – there is so much good in humanity to celebrate in this time of crisis!
Committee work continues to focus on how to best re-house formerly homeless individuals and families once the State of Emergency ends, and bills on the House floor dealt with responses to the COVID-19 pandemic for municipalities and the judiciary.
An All-House Caucus briefing on Wednesday focused two issues:
The Vermont State Colleges System – a Legislative work group is developing what a higher education system serving 21st centers needs must take into consideration, an independent consultant will be evaluating the current financial picture, and the VSCS will be looking at what operating levels at each campus are options for Fall learning and collaborating on proposals for bridge funding with the Legislature.
Unemployment Insurance, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and Extended Benefits – the Dept of Labor has a plan to move unresolved cases forward. On Monday, after completing training, Legislators and other State employees stepped in to assist DOL employees and an outside vendor in triaging claims to route them to the proper authority. As of Wednesday , there were some 10,000 Vermonters who were unable to collect benefits because of any number of unique situations; by Friday, that number was dropping, and I started hearing positive feedback that constituents were contacted and cases were being resolved.
On a Thursday call with Consolidated Communications’ Government Relations Director, I got a crash course in download/upload speeds, broadband buildout, and why it is so difficult for many of us to run multiple devices in our homes or use both video and audio simultaneously. For those of you who have to tell others in the household to “get off your devices so I can upload this video to my students/staff/co-worker”, I can offer you the following: around 300 users in our district are eligible for higher speeds but are not yet upgraded – please contact your provider to inquire! If you are not deemed eligible but are told you are “very close” to the distance cutoff where the connection is located, there may be something that can be done, so please contact your provider to be re-evaluated. If you are a family with students who does not have internet service currently and would like to hear about programs offered through schools, please contact your Supervisory Union IT director to learn if you qualify; past deadlines may be extended in certain cases! Don’t forget about free WiFi hotspots that have been set up in many public spaces (libraries, schools, town halls). A map of locations can be found on the Vermont Dept of Public Service webpage and here: https://vtpsd.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=c926d155167d4a5586e8e1aca1701cfa
Please also remember to fill out your 2020 Census form – this is very important when the Federal government is determining the level of need in your state or municipality, particularly during times of crisis. The form may be found at www.census.gov
As always, please do not hesitate to contact your Legislator – we are happy to assist!
Rep Lisa A Hango