'A Significant Sacrifice For Far Too Many': Gov. Scott Unveils $400 Million COVID Relief Plan
Gov. Phil Scott unveiled a $400 million plan Wednesday to help the Vermont economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scott credited Vermonters with so far successfully slowing the spread of the coronavirus. But he also acknowledged the unprecedented financial pain as businesses shuttered by rules imposed under his state of emergency.
“I know this has been a significant sacrifice for far too many, families who’ve struggled with unemployment, and business and entrepreneurs across the state who have seen their world and dreams evaporate right before their eyes through no fault of their own,” he said. “I know you’re all scared, sad, and probably pretty angry.”
"I know this has been a significant sacrifice for far too many, families who've struggled with unemployment, and business and entrepreneurs across the state who have seen their world and dreams evaporate right before their eyes through no fault of their own." ?— Gov. Phil Scott
The $400 million package requires legislative approval and includes:
- $310 million for immediate relief in the form of grants and loans to the most affected businesses, including food, lodging, retail and farming enterprises.
- $50 million fund for housing the homeless and for rent stabilization payments.
- $5 million in technical assistance for businesses and employees.
- $5 million in marketing support to promote state businesses to Vermonters who are being urged to buy local and stay at home this summer.
Another $90 million will be set aside for “phase two” of the program that Scott said will be used to transform Vermont’s economy. The money will be used “to help our economy, not just survive, but come out better positioned to thrive for the future.”
The governor said his administration will provide more details on that phase later on.
Vermont’s hard-pressed dairy industry will get a $50 million piece of the initial $310 million. Many dairy farms are on the edge because milk prices crashed when schools and restaurants closed during the pandemic.
Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said five farms closed in early May and many more may not be able to pay next month’s bills. He said cheesemakers have reported sales losses ranging from 50-90%.
“Right now it's about survival and challenges,” Tebbetts said at the governor’s news briefing. “And I can assure you that the agency, the governor, and the team at commerce and everyone in state government is going to fight for the survival of every single farm.”
"Right now it's about survival and challenges. And I can assure you that the agency, the governor, and the team at commerce and everyone in state government is going to fight for the survival of every single farm." ?— Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts
Under the proposal, dairy farms would get $40 million in payments to cover such costs as bank payments, utilities, and feed bills. The other $10 million would go to dairy processors that have suffered losses because of the pandemic.
The entire financial aid package now moves to the Legislature. Scott urged lawmakers to swiftly approve the plan even as he acknowledged many competing needs for the $1.25 billion in federal funds.
“So it doesn't leave a lot of extra money, when you consider all the other initiatives that are out there, the state colleges, the public school system, the hazard pay initiative, and so forth,” he said. “There are a lot of other unmet needs. This is not near enough to meet every single sector.”