Public Assets Institute > Blog > State’s commitment to people doesn’t end with COVID

State’s commitment to people doesn’t end with COVID

Vermont leaders demonstrated their commitment to Vermonters during the pandemic. They told the truth, faced reality, and committed to the public good to weather the emergency. The post-COVID recovery requires this same level of commitment to address the ongoing challenges that the pandemic highlighted—deteriorating infrastructure, income insecurity, and systemic inequities. Aided by federal relief funds this year, the $7.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2022, which started on July 1, provides a good start.


Lawmakers allocated $150 million of federal funds for broadband improvement, to start fixing a system that left many unable to learn or work from home over the past 15 months. Another $115 million from the feds will go toward clean water, and $50 million will support climate action. These are entrenched state problems requiring large-scale investments.

The need for more permanent, affordable housing also became apparent during the pandemic, with over 1,600 Vermont households currently needing emergency hotels. The budget invests $144 million of federal and state money in Vermont’s housing infrastructure, to bring new and badly needed affordable units on-line.

Income security

During the pandemic, caring for children kept some parents from their jobs. But lack of affordable, quality child care already made it hard for parents to take on paid work, straining household budgets. The Legislature’s $12.7 million appropriation of state and federal funds makes the third investment in a five-year state plan that is increasing child care affordability, expanding affordable care to a larger number of families, and improving provider compensation.

With so many people out of work during the pandemic, the limitations of the unemployment insurance (UI) computer system—a part of Vermont’s safety net infrastructure in need of repair for years—left many Vermont residents scrambling for income. The state is beginning to fix this problem with $3.5 million set aside for the first step in a four-phase plan to upgrade the system.


Equity investments this year are small. A $180,000 investment of one-time state money will fund activities to address health inequities, which became more pronounced during COVID. Another $150,000 of federal funds will support research on how Vermont can support BIPOC business development, recognizing the large racial wealth gap and its impact on businesses. Both initiatives require collecting and disaggregating state health and business-ownership data by race, ethnicity, and gender (and disability status for health data). This is needed in a wide range of areas so we can better understand inequity and develop responses that eliminate disparities.

As Vermont enters the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers need to apply the same candor and commitment they’ve used to solve problems over the past 15 months. This year’s budget begins that work, but now we must build on it, with or without the federal relief that made this year’s progress possible. The pandemic might be ending, but a lot of work remains to create a Vermont that works for everyone.

Posted by Julie Lowell on July 2, 2021 at 2:16 pm

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