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What's In Gov. Scott's $400 Million Coronavirus Relief Package?

Gov. Phil Scott stands at a podium next to a screen
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Gov. Phil Scott announced a $400 million economic recovery package on Wednesday. We talk about what his proposal holds for industries like dairy, tourism and more.

Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday unveiled a $400 million economic recovery package for the state, a plan that uses a large portion of the $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars coming to Vermont. But the package has to be approved by the state Legislature before any of the proposals take effect. We talk about what this could mean for industries like dairy, tourism, hospitality and more. 

Our guests are:

  • Anson Tebbetts, secretary of the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
  • Ted Brady, deputy secretary for the Agency of Commerce and Community Development

Broadcast live on Thursday, May 21, 2020 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

The following has been paraphrased for clarity and brevity.

Q & A with Secretary of Anson Tebbetts of Agriculture, Food and Markets and Deputy Secretary of Commerce Ted Brady

Jane Lindholm: How are you each assessing the need for money in each sector of the economy?

Ted Brady: Our research analysts at the Agency of Commerce said the COVID-19 economic crisis has about $1 billion a month impact on the Vermont economy.

Then, we went to Vermont businesses and sent them a business impact survey and they reported their losses to us. As of right now, there are about $350 million of reported losses per month.

This is as much of an economic crisis as it is a health crisis. It’s hard to see a path forward, and we want these grants to give businesses and organizations a chance to fight back.

"This is as much of an economic crisis as it is a health crisis." - Deputy Sec. of Commerce Ted Brady

Anson Tebbetts: It was pretty clear as things unfolded in March that the markets had dried up. That milk that farmers were producing had no place to go, so under the federal system it became quite clear that supply and demand was not balanced. We based the need for farmers on the forecast and what’s happening on the ground.

More from VPR: Farmers Seek Financial Help As COVID-19 Piles New Pressure On An Already Stressed Industry

Jane Lindholm: What is the $50 million for the dairy sector in this package going to do for Vermont farmers?

Anson Tebbetts: It’s about survival. Farmers can’t survive under the current situation. These dollars can get to the farms quickly to pay grain bills, fertilizer, feed, vets, etc., but this won’t cover all of the losses that farmers have sustained.

Jane Lindholm: Why aren’t dairy farmers without documentation included in this package?

Anson Tebbetts: There are discussions outside this bill on this topic; it’s just not in this particular program. I wouldn’t say it’s not going to happen.

Jane Lindholm: What exactly will the $5 million for technical assistance do for businesses and organizations?

Ted Brady: Sometimes businesses need somebody to come in and help them look at things differently. How do we help them transition to an online economy so that they can better balance those revenues in the event that a surge happens in the fall? Financing is only part of the solution, and this part of the package will provide businesses with the tools they need to adapt to these unique circumstances.

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Jane Lindholm: What is the thinking surrounding the $5 million in-state tourism marketing plan?

Anson Tebbetts: We’re all going to have to be creative. Like Gov. Scott said in his press conference, now is the time to buy local and take care of our neighbors. Having a focused, Vermont-based marketing campaign is taking the responsibility to market for our local farms, bed and breakfasts, parks, etc. It’s an opportunity to rediscover what’s around us.

"Our research analysts at the Agency of Commerce said the COVID-19 economic crisis has about $1 billion a month impact on the Vermont economy." - Deputy Sec. of Commerce Ted Brady

Jane Lindholm: There is also a $50 million allocation in this bill for rental assistance. The majority of that would go to landlords and tenants for up to three months of emergency rental relief. How is that money being allocated?

Ted Brady: We have an eviction moratorium in place right now. This program, however, is aimed at preventing homelessness. The money would go to the landlords and they need to demonstrate they did not receive payments from residents and that they need some assistance. We’re looking at it as a way to keep families from getting forced out of their homes after this crisis is over.

For a timeline outlining Vermont’s response to COVID-19, head here

Jane Lindholm: Tell us about the $8 million that is earmarked to help those who are homeless get more stable housing.

Ted Brady: There are about 19,000 units that are in need of significant repair. So this program would provide grants to people who are getting those units back online, so we can get those who are homeless into these units and put some of these units online for Vermont’s most vulnerable residents. It’s not the best solution, but it’s a solution.

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