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Gov. Scott Unveils New Economic Recovery Package, 'Buy Local' Cards

Gov. Scott at COVID news briefing
Screenshot
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ORCA Media
Gov. Phil Scott says the Vermont economy and local businesses, especially the hospitality sector, have paid the price of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Phil Scott has rolled out a new $133 million plan to boost the state economy and help businesses suffering from financial fallout during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan requires legislative approval and would use some of the $1.25 billion in COVID relief funds Congress sent to Vermont earlier this year.

Scott noted that the state has been successful in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, with Vermont having both the lowest case count and the lowest cases per capita in the country.

“However, our successes have come at a huge economic cost for families, communities and businesses, not to mention nearly $300 million in lost revenue needed for government services,” he said. “Put more simply, our economic engine isn’t performing at its full capacity.”

More from VPR: 'Terrified About Money': Poll Shows Most Vermonters' Finances Affected By COVID

"Our successes have come at a huge economic cost for families, communities and businesses, not to mention nearly $300 million in lost revenue needed for government services." — Gov. Phil Scott

Scott’s proposal includes:

  • $23 million for economic recovery grants for businesses to cover more companies, such as sole proprietorships, whose losses did not meet the initial 50% threshold, and those in business for less than a year.
  • $50 million to help the hospitality and tourism sector survive during the upcoming foliage and ski seasons while travel and lodging capacity limits remain in place.
  • $10 million for marketing, including social media and paid media, to bring more out-of-state visitors to Vermont.
  • $50 million to send every Vermont household a $150 “buy local” incentive card.

Scott said this last idea is to encourage people to support businesses in their communities.
“It's a program we are trying to develop to make sure that if we provide for these dollars for families, that they'll be spent specifically in Vermont,” he said.

New cases in long-term care facilities

Meanwhile, state officials reported that residents of two long-term care homes were tested for COVID-19, after a positive case was discovered in each facility.

The cases were detected at the Helen Porter Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Middlebury and the Wake Robin assisted living facility in Shelburne.

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith says the situation is being monitored to prevent a more widespread outbreak.

“Facility-wide testing  has been done at both of these facilities in accordance to our testing protocol with long-term care facilities,” he said. “We may do some re-testing on some of these, just to reconfirm.”

Smith says the Health Department is conducting contact tracing at both places to determine who else may have been exposed.

No state testing planned for schools

Officials also continued to underscore their message that it’s safe for schools to reopen next month. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said the public should expect school-related cases, but the numbers should reflect the state’s low rate of COVID infections.

“Our schools are just a microcosm of our communities, and our communities are doing well,” he said. “As I’ve said, and as our epidemiologist and the modeling experts expect, we will see new cases of COVID-19 in our schools, just as we continue to see sporadic cases and clusters and even limited outbreaks in our cities and towns."

Levine added: "That is, if we all keep up the basic, everyday practices that have led Vermont to this point today of having the lowest prevalence of COVID of all the states.”

"Our schools are just a microcosm of our communities, and our communities are doing well." — Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine

But Levine said the state currently has no plans to test public school students before they return, and that the decision to administer tests to K-12 students will be made at the local and not the state level.

“Obviously that doesn't mean that there will never be testing in schools,” he said. “That will be on a case by case basis, if that was appropriate for a particular individual, but it's not a criteria for the opening of schools."  

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter John Dillon @VPRDillon

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