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Vermont News Updates For Wednesday, August 5

A man hauling hay bales
Peter Crabtree
/
For VPR
Harry Briggs brings in the season's second cutting of hay at the Meadow Valley Farm in Shaftsbury last week.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of ongoing local coverage of the coronavirus, food insecurity and more for Wednesday, August 5.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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Five more people test positive for COVID-19

The Vermont Health Department reported five new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. Two were in Rutland County, plus one each in Franklin, Windham and Washington counties.

Another 702 people tested negative for the coronavirus. A total of 98,990 people have been tested in Vermont so far, with 1,436 receiving positive test results.

One person is hospitalized with the disease in Vermont. Since March, 57 people have died, and 1,254 are reported to have recovered.

- Mark Davis and Elodie Reed

UVM survey: Nearly quarter of Vermonters experiencing food insecurity

Nearly a quarter of Vermonters are experiencing food insecurity due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey from the University of Vermont.

The new study is the second in an ongoing survey by UVM researchers looking at COVID-19’s impact on food access in the state.

More than half of respondents experienced job loss or disruption since March, and about 20% are receiving unemployment benefits.

More from VPR: As 'Food Box' Program Is Renewed, Questions Remain If It's Best Way To Feed Hungry

Meredith Niles is an assistant professor at UVM and the lead researcher. She says the survey found that people of color were four times more likely to experience food insecurity than white people.

Niles says people of color have also had a harder time recovering.

“The rate of food insecurity was virtually unchanged between March and June of 2020, while the rate of insecurity for white Vermonters went down,” Niles said.

The study found that people are increasingly using relief programs, like food stamps.

“We also saw nearly a 50% increase in the use of SNAP, or Three Squares Vermont benefits, and a smaller increase in the percent of people enrolled in the Woman Infants and Children, WIC program,” Niles said.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Isaias caused power outages for more than 38,000 Green Mountain Power customers

Tropical Storm Isaias caused widespread power outages last night. Green Mountain Power says damage from the storm left more than 38,000 customers without electricity. 

GMP spokesperson Kristin Kelly said this was caused by the storm’s high winds.

“Most of the damage we saw was trees taking down power lines,” Kelly said. “And in Windham County, where we had the most customers out and the most extensive damage, we also have broken poles.”

GMP says power has been restored to most households, but the damage is extensive and some people won’t be back online until tomorrow.

Isaias left over a million people without power across New England.

- Anna Van Dine

VPR-Vermont PBS poll: Coronavirus "major" financial threat to one in four Vermonters

The coronavirus is a “major threat” to the financial situation of one in four Vermonters —that’s according to a new VPR-Vermont PBS poll.

Rich Clark is a political science professor at Castleton University and director of the poll.

Clark told Vermont Edition the way Vermonters spent their federal relief payments — the so-called "stimulus checks" amounting to $1,200 dollars for most taxpayers — shows how dire the situation is for many.

“The people who are in households that made $40,000 or less, two-thirds of them said they used that money to cover expenses,” Clark said. “So that $1,200 is going right back into the economy. In other words, these are people who needed the money.”

Nationally, data shows women are bearing the brunt of layoffs and lost wages in the coronavirus economy. But Clark says the poll doesn’t find much difference between men and women and their financial situation in Vermont.

Listen to the full conversation on Vermont Edition.

- Matthew Smith

USDA to provide $57.8M loan to Winooski School District

The Winooski School District will receive a $57.8 million federal loan to build a new campus.

The loan, awarded by the United State Department of Agriculture, will be used renovate and upgrade the existing facilities, build new additions and redesign the school's grounds.

The Winooski School District says it will save about $11 million over the life of the loan due to the low interest rates secured through the USDA.

Schools officials will offer more details about the project during a press conference Thursday.

- Liam Elder-Connors

VPR-Vermont PBS poll: Nearly half of surveyed Vermonters have experienced anxiety during pandemic

The coronavirus is contributing to people's mental health symptoms in Vermont, according to a new VPR-Vermont PBS poll — but experts say the toll could be even greater.

Some 49% of Vermonters say they feel increased anxiety since the pandemic began, and one in four feel depressed, the poll finds.

Aron Steward, chief of psychology at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, tells Vermont Edition the poll likely only scratches the surface.

“Because there’s self-report, and there’s stigma associated with reporting mental health symptoms, still, unfortunately, it might even be an under-representation of what people are feeling,” Steward said.

Steward points to one positive note: Online mental health services and therapy are more accessible, and covered by more health insurers, than ever before.

Listen to the full conversation on Vermont Edition.

- Matthew Smith

VPR-Vermont PBS Poll: Majority of Vermonters want budget balanced through revenue increases

As the state deals with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Vermonters prefer that lawmakers balance the budget with revenue increases, instead of spending cuts, according to a new VPR-Vermont PBS poll.

The poll found that 54% of respondents prefer that the state look to raise more money, while only 28% preferred cutting programs. Some 10% preferred a mixed approach.

But there was a significant gender split. Men preferred cutting spending, while women, by a large margin, wanted to raise revenue.

The state is projecting a gap of more than $200 million in the next fiscal year.

The poll has a margin of error of 4%.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Lyndonville logger killed while working Monday

A logger from Lyndonville was killed while working in the woods in Stockbridge on Monday afternoon.

Vermont State Police say 58-year-old James W. Gilman was cutting a felled tree, when he was struck and killed by an adjacent tree that became uprooted.

Logging has consistently been one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. According to a study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, loggers die at a rate over 21 times higher than the average American.

- Mark Davis

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