Letter to Governor Scott on Coronavirus Relief Funds
Dear Governor Scott,
The coronavirus pandemic has touched all corners of our state, disrupting every aspect of our daily lives. Vermonters have risen to this challenge, adjusted personal habits, transitioned their lives to implement social distancing and together we have overcome the first hurdle and successfully flattened the curve. I thank you and all Vermonters for your dedication to this process.
The road to recovery is going to be long, but with planning, leadership and creativity Vermont and Vermonters will emerge strong and healthy. The first test in this recovery is upon us as we decide how to allocate and effectively utilize the $1.25 billion Coronavirus Relief funds from the federal government. As Governor and legislative leaders, I know you are aware of some looming needs, but the public must be engaged in these discussions as they too can offer ideas and deserve transparency in how the money is to be spent. I request you create a transparent process that includes an opportunity for public input and feedback on the allocation of these funds.
This week, through conversations with business leaders, economists, educators and farmers I have already received innovative ideas. Let me offer a few specific examples of how the Fund could offer significant support to Vermont workers, families, businesses and non-profits during these unprecedented and challenging times:
- Extend or upgrade internet service to unserved and underserved areas of Vermont to facilitate distance learning. COVID-19 has created the need for virtual learning across the state. Both teachers and students need connectivity to ensure Vermonters continue learning now and in the future.
- Invest in e-learning opportunities for educators and or additional staff to be prepared to address the returning student population’s mental health, stress, grief and trauma needs.
- Create a State-wide food delivery program to serve our most vulnerable citizens. Design an integrated program that links restaurants, farmers, and hungry/vulnerable Vermonters.
- Implement a program that addresses the unique challenges being faced by workers and owners of hard-hit restaurants and the broader hospitality industry. Such a program could include small grants to restaurants and other businesses and the provision of paid sick and family leave to workers.
- Invest in rental assistance for those unable to cover their housing costs and find permanent solutions to house our homeless in ways that will allow proper social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19 or other contagious diseases.
- Provide students and educators with the technology, computers, I-pads and training, necessary to participate in distance learning while schools are closed.
Vermont's workers, businesses (of all sizes), non-profit organizations and families are suffering the economic consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic. They also are a great resource in identifying community and regional projects to utilize the funds in a way that will address current expenses and get money back into our local economy. A transparent and inclusive process will allow all of Vermont’s creative minds to participate and help us quickly identify hammer ready projects.
I look forward to working with you and bringing additional ideas to the table.