Vermont Governor Proposes $400 Million Coronavirus Aid Package

May 20, 2020 by Gaspard Le Dem

Vermont’s Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced a $400 million coronavirus relief package on Wednesday that taps into some of the $1.25 billion in funding the state received through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

In March, Congress passed the first round of coronavirus stimulus — the CARES Act — allocating $150 billion in funding for states, tribal governments, and local governments. 

As the nation’s second least populated state, Vermont has experienced a relatively manageable COVID-19 outbreak, reporting 54 deaths and fewer than 1000 cases as of Wednesday.

Still, stay-at-home orders have forced thousands of businesses to suspend in-person activities, taking a significant toll on the state’s economy. 

Like many other states, Vermont is now taking a phased approach to reopening the state’s economy. Last week, Gov. Scott extended the state of emergency while relaxing some restrictions on residents and businesses. 

Retail stores now have the green light to reopen under certain conditions, such as requiring staff to wear masks. Hotels, campgrounds, and marinas will be allowed to resume operations starting Friday.

“The relief and recovery package we are proposing today takes bold action to bring support to Vermonters in need as we continue to manage this public health crisis and open the economy back up,” said Scott. “We are looking to address the immediate cash needs of businesses so they can survive, while also laying the foundation for our economy to emerge stronger and thrive over the long term.”

The relief package will provide four different types of aid — financial, housing, technical, and marketing assistance. The largest chunk of money — $250 million — will be used to provide grants for various businesses that include restaurants, retail stores, and farms. 

The measure will also help replenish the state’s Rental Housing Stabilization and Re-Housing Recovery funds with $50 million to assist property owners and people experiencing homelessness. Another $10 million will support mental health programs for struggling business owners and fund marketing campaigns that will stimulate the economy by encouraging local spending.

“These ideas are the result of talking to many local employers over the last two months to identify what they need now, and what they will need on the other side of this,” said Vermont Agency of Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle. “What we heard in those conversations was that there are gaps in federal programs and these initiatives announced today work to address those gaps for our most vulnerable sectors.”

The governor’s stimulus package will now head to Vermont’s state legislature in Montpelier for review and approval by state lawmakers.

“I look forward to working with the Legislature to pass these initiatives so we can get this money in the hands of Vermonters quickly,” Scott added. “I want to thank our congressional delegation, Senators Leahy and Sanders and Congressman Welch, for their leadership and support to secure CARES Act funding for Vermont. We could not do any of this without their efforts.”

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