Last Friday, almost $600 million dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funding (CARES Act) bills were sent to Governor Scott for his signature. Then the Legislature adjourned until late August, when it will meet again to tackle the second round of the budget using updated financial projections.
This almost $600 million adds to the over $400 million already spent or appropriated to help Vermonters, more than $1 billion total. The last round includes:
$35 million for farm relief
$82 million in economic recovery grants (for businesses)
$275 million for health care stabilization (for medical facilities)
$62 million in housing assistance
$12 million for Parent Child Centers and restarting childcare and summer programs
$20 million for broadband expansion
$15 million for local governments
A very readable list of covid-19 relief fund appropriation can be found here: https://ljfo.vermont.gov/assets/Uploads/0ab5819219/Floor_Doc_Version_of_Senate_Final_CRF-v5.pdf
The State Auditor has tracked over $4 billion in covid-19 federal spending in Vermont, which includes the $1.25 billion from the CARES Act. https://auditor.vermont.gov/content/covid-19-federal-and-state-expenditures-0
The use of this CARES money must follow strict federal guidelines, including that it must be spent by December 31 of this year. Our biggest problem is not simply how to spend the money in time, but rather seeing that it’s done responsibly: establishing control measures for who qualifies, applications, distribution of funds, and verification.
The Legislature also approved a handful of policy bills including S.219, a bill addressing racial bias and use of force by law enforcement. The bill, which passed the House 147-0 in a roll call vote, prohibits the use of chokeholds and requires state police to utilize body cameras. Perhaps most important, the bill requires that these decisions be reconsidered next year to determine if they are the right actions in what is a complicated, fluid and contentious dynamic.
As always, please contact me with questions or concerns.