I hope you have had time to rest and to spend with family this Labor Day weekend. As Vermont’s entire education community begins another year of instruction and learning, I encourage us to all remain informed and engaged. There is nothing more important to a society then it’s children which are the future. We have such tremendous support from teachers, administrators and boards working to provide a quality education in extremely difficult circumstances. It is inevitable that adjustments will be needed and changes will have to occur as we work through this year. We can do it.
The legislature has reconvened and passed the follow bills.
- S.233 An act relating to uniform licensing standards in concurrence with the Senate
- S.337 An act relating to energy efficiency entities and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the thermal energy and transportation sectors in concurrence with the Senate. S.337 allows Vermont’s electric efficiency utilities — Efficiency Vermont and Burlington Electric Department — to spend up to $2 million of its existing budget a year over the next three years on heating and transportation efficiency projects. Vermont’s renewable emergency standard requires all electric utilities to reduce their customers’ fossil fuel use by helping customers participate in Tier III energy transformation projects in their homes and businesses.
The House is working towards a vote on the budget this coming week which will take place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act which will take place on Wednesday. The budget will be voted out of the House Appropriations committee tomorrow (Tuesday).
The Senate has recently passed another Hazard Pay bill. I have heard from several folks that have felt the Hazard Pay bill passed previously which only went to healthcare workers was unfair. So many Vermonters stepped forward in the opening days of the pandemic, including many public safety, childcare and grocery store workers. I am worried about missing a category of essential worker and the cost of continuing to expand this program and will be looking for fair solutions.
Here is an interesting look at how, before the pandemic, Vermont’s governor’s State of the State priorities compared with governors across the country.
This week the Governor signed an executive order to accelerate a series of reforms and modernization of public safety services in Vermont, and to initiate a comprehensive, ongoing discussion with state residents—especially historically marginalized communities—about how law enforcement can best serve communities’ needs.
The Governor’s Public Safety Reform Initiative immediately implements seven key short-term priorities, such as engaging Vermonters in robust participation in the modernization process; ensuring uniform, statewide policies regarding body-worn cameras and uses of force; improving and standardizing data collection by law enforcement agencies; and bolstering practices for hiring, training and promoting law enforcement officers.
The Executive Order also advances planning on three legislative proposals for 2021, including a universal reporting portal for improper conduct allegations; a statutory mandate regarding use of force investigations and reviews; and the creation of models for community oversight.
The Executive Order comes in addition to legislative work currently being done on policing reform in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. There have been reports that some policies under consideration may be delayed to first hear from more Vermonters.
On Tuesday the House will vote on H.968 An act relating to the Vermont Coronavirus Economic Stimulus Equity Program. Governor Scott proposed these payments as a part of his budget stimulus payments for Vermonters who were ineligible to receive $1,200 in federal Covid-19 stimulus checks this spring.
- (A) is a resident of Vermont; (which means any individual living in Vermont who intends to make the State his or her principal place of domicile either permanently or for an indefinite number of years. Individuals who live in the State for a particular purpose involving a defined period of time, including students, migrant workers employed in seasonal occupations, and individuals employed under a contract with a fixed term, are not residents for purposes of this legislation)
- (B) was ineligible to receive an economic impact payment under the CARES Act due to reasons of immigration status; and
- (C) had an adjusted gross income of less than $99,000.00 in taxable year 2019 or, if filing jointly, an adjusted gross income of less than $198,000.00 in taxable year 2019.
Buy Local Coupons
The state is inviting Vermonters to sign up to receive $30 coupons for use at local businesses that suffered losses due to Covid-19.
Starting on Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 11:00 a.m., residents can sign up online to be “matched” with participating local businesses through the #BuyLocalVermont program.
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development is launching the program to help businesses that have suffered losses during the Covid-19 pandemic. The program will use $425,000 of funding from the federal CARES Act.
The offers are administered through Nift, a Boston-based technology company that pairs businesses who sign up for the program with potential customers. Vermonters who register will be automatically “matched” with local businesses and may choose between two offers.
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development is inviting eligible businesses to sign up for the program now. To be eligible, businesses must be based in Vermont and must have suffered losses due to Covid-19. The funds cannot be used for weapons, firearms, alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, lottery tickets and fireworks.
Child Care Flexibility Bill
The House just passed H.967 to help more families access child care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, small private in-home care providers cannot provide more than 4 hours a week when school is in session. This legislation makes it possible for children to have access to child care during remote learning days.
Social distancing, wearing a mask and following guidelines issued by the department of health are working. Vermont’s COVID numbers are low, people are going back to work, and schools are beginning to open. Parents across the state, especially in rural communities, found that their small home based providers were not allowed to provide care during remote learning. This legislation will allow these providers to make sure children are safe and cared for on remote learning days while their parents are at work. It is our goal to help Vermont businesses and families successfully transition through these difficult times.
GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT ANNOUNCES STATEWIDE EFFORT TO PROVIDE PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES TO VERMONT SCHOOLS
Montpelier, Vt. – The Vermont Agency of Education, working in close cooperation with the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), is working to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and other resources to support Vermont schools as they prepare to reopen next month. These resources include PPE kits for school nurses and school COVID-19 coordinators, hand sanitizer, cloth face coverings, posters and other mask campaign resources to remind and encourage all Vermonters that face coverings are required in all Vermont schools to protect students, staff and their families.
“School administrators, principals, teachers, staff and parents are working incredibly hard to make the start of this school year a success for our kids and ensure all health and safety protocols are in place to keep schools safe. We are pleased to further support this work by providing these additional supplies,” said Governor Phil Scott. “I hope all Vermonters will remember that the most important thing we can do to help our kids and school employees is to stay vigilant and keep the prevalence of COVID-19 low in our communities.”
Vermont school districts and independent schools are in the final phases of their efforts to prepare for reopening on September 8, a universal start date as directed by Governor Scott.
“Educators and school administrators are in the middle of a herculean effort to get ready for students to return to the classroom,” said Secretary of Education Dan French. “At the state level, we’re doing everything we can to find and provide resources to help them do this. It has been a team effort, and I am grateful to our state agency partners at Vermont Emergency Management, the Health Department, the Agency of Transportation, and the Vermont National Guard, for their efforts and assistance.”
The State is providing 1,515 PPE kits for school nurses and COVID-19 coordinators. In total, the State will distribute 75,750 pairs of gloves, 75,750 surgical masks and 75,750 surgical gowns, as well as over 1,500 face shields. These kits will be available to school nurses, COVID-19 coordinators, and other key staff for use when performing health care tasks and assessments within close contact (within six feet) of those who are potentially ill or injured. The State is also providing nearly 800 gallons of hand sanitizer and 23,620 adult-size face coverings.
These resources are being provided to schools free of charge, with costs covered via Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance, Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) and private donations.
The SEOC, with assistance from multiple agencies, has led the work to find and coordinate distribution of these supplies. The resources were sourced from the State’s medical logistics warehouse and transported by VTrans and Vermont National Guard staff to regional VTrans garages. Schools are picking up their orders from garages in their area this week and next.
“This distribution effort highlights the ongoing partnership among state and federal agencies that has defined the response to COVID-19 in Vermont,” Vermont Emergency Management Director Erica Bornemann said. “From the beginning we have taken a whole government approach to ensure the continued well-being of Vermonters, and that will continue throughout this pandemic.”
For more information:
- COVID-19 health information, guidance and case data, visit www.healthvermont.gov/covid19.
- State health guidance for school reopening, visithttps://education.vermont.gov/news/covid-19-guidance-vermont-schools.
- The Governor’s actions, visit https://governor.vermont.gov/covid19response.
- The State’s COVID-19 modeling, visit https://dfr.vermont.gov/about-us/covid-19/modeling.
Help for business still available
There remains a considerable amount of money in the Emergency Economic Recovery Grants fund – nearly $50M. The only program which has depleted its funds are the grants for women owned businesses. For the remaining grants, the applications are straightforward – if you need help with completing the applications – go to https://accd.vermont.gov/ for FAQ and Assistance Line. At this time only S corporations and C corporations are eligible to apply for these grants. The legislature is working expanding these programs to more businesses – including sole proprietors.
- Forest Economy Stabilization Program is for businesses in managing, harvesting, trucking, processing, manufacturing, crafting, or distributing forest or wood products derived from Vermont forests, including consulting forestry services and secondary manufacturers of wood products.
- Childcare providers, summer camps, and after school programs should apply for funding through the Agency of Human Services (AHS). AHS received $12 million to provide additional restart grants and other costs.
- Lodging, retail, hospitality, arts, travel and event affiliated sectors are eligible for additional grants. There will be an increase to the maximum grant award for Economic Recovery Grants for Vermont businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses who have been awarded grants, can reapply for additional funds.
Top 5 Tips for Completing Your Agriculture & Working Lands Application
Wondering whether or not to apply to the Agriculture and Working Lands Assistance Application? Here are the top 5 things to know before you apply!
- 1. There are many paths to eligibility! We know it’s been confusing, so we created this flow chart to help you understand if your business is eligible.
- 2. You are only required to upload 2 different types of documentation for the application:
- a. Your federal and state tax returns from 2019. (If you haven’t completed your 2019 Federal tax return, the most recent is acceptable)
- b. A 2019 and 2020 profit and loss statement broken out by month. It is optional to gather and submit receipts from other COVID-19 related losses; If you have them they are eligible for reimbursement.
- 3. Registering to apply only takes 2 minutes. Make sure you write down your username and password so that you can log back in later.
- 4. The deadline to apply is October 1 at 8 AM, so get started early to ensure you can completely fill out the application and seek assistance if needed.
- 5. We are here to help answer questions! We have people on the line to help you figure this out. Please reach out directly and we can answer questions or trouble shoot any technical difficulties.
Dinner at Bittersweet Cafe in Wardsboro
Like all Valley families with children preparing to go back to school or college, the past 10 days have been busy for our family. Tj and I dropped our youngest off for his freshman year at Saint Michael’s College last weekend and have great hope that the plans put in place by the college administration will be successful and allow our kids to keep moving forward with their education. Following that I drove to my daughter’s home in Georgia where she is stationed as an army nurse. We have not seen her since December and though we are so proud of her service, of course we have also worried about her health treating COVID-19 patients. It was a joy to see her and participate in the legislature remotely from her home for the week. And now for the quarantining…
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Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or email@example.com. Follow my regular posts online at http://www.laurasibiliavt.com
Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham