Late is better than never for more COVID relief

Posted by Jack Hoffman on November 10, 2020 at 9:05 am | Comments Off on Late is better than never for more COVID relief

Now that Election Day is over Congress needs to get back to work and approve another round of COVID relief to support the states. New national daily COVID cases are topping 130,000, and the first round of federal relief is running out.

So far, Vermont hasn’t taken the financial hit that was anticipated last March when COVID-19 became a pandemic. That is due in large part to swift action by Congress. The CARES Act directed more than $4.5 billion in federal aid to Vermont businesses, individuals, and state government. That included $600 a week in federal supplemental unemployment benefits, which was a lifeline to workers who had to stop working but couldn’t support their families on regular state unemployment insurance payments.

According to a new report from the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office, the federal aid pumped into the Vermont economy helped to generate nearly $50 million in extra tax revenue for the first three months of this fiscal year. General Fund tax receipts from July through September were expected to be $523 million. Instead, the state took in almost $573 million.

Will we set a new voting record?

Posted by Julie Lowell on October 27, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Comments Off on Will we set a new voting record?
The presidential election is a week away and Vermonters have already broken one voting record. Forty percent of voting age Vermonters have cast an absentee ballot so far, according to Vermont’s Election Division, breaking the 2008 record of 19 percent. Now let’s break one more – total voter participation rate.

No school tax increase for COVID shortfall

Posted by Paul Cillo on October 23, 2020 at 11:07 am | * Comments (1)

The Legislature did the right thing this year by holding property tax payers harmless after the COVID pandemic took a big bite out of the state’s Education Fund. The state is better situated to deal with a revenue shortfall than individual taxpayers or school districts, who already face monumental trials during this crisis. Read more

Fiscal 2021 budget provides some help to Vermonters left behind

Posted by Julie Lowell on October 8, 2020 at 2:32 pm | Comments Off on Fiscal 2021 budget provides some help to Vermonters left behind

Washington scrambled to meet people’s needs as COVID-19 shutdowns began in March. Many received financial support, others did not. Those left out include low-wage, essential workers—disproportionately women and Vermonters of color—who have been hit hardest by the crisis both physically and economically.

Vermont’s Legislature and governor deserve credit for taking the pandemic seriously and working to address Vermonters’ needs during this crisis. Before taking a summer break at the end of June, the Legislature appropriated $28.0 million for the Hazard Pay program, providing 16,000 front-line public safety and health care workers with one-time bonus pay of up to $2,000.

In September, they finished work on the state’s fiscal 2021 budget, signed by Governor Scott on October 2nd, addressing additional inequities. The budget allocates $5 million for the Economic Stimulus Equity Program and an additional $22.5 million to expand the Hazard Pay program, strengthening their COVID-19 response by including more workers.

Vermont’s unemployment rate riddle

Posted by Paul Cillo on September 23, 2020 at 1:10 pm | Comments Off on Vermont’s unemployment rate riddle

Q: When is a drop in the unemployment rate bad news?

A:  When people are leaving the labor force rather than going back to work.

The official monthly employment numbers for August were released last Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Vermont’s reported unemployment rate fell from 8.3 percent in July to 4.8 percent in August.

That would normally be great news. Fewer unemployed means more people have gone back to work, right?

Testimony follow up: Vermont Tax Structure Commission

Posted by Sarah Lyons on September 14, 2020 at 10:53 am | Comments Off on Testimony follow up: Vermont Tax Structure Commission

September 11, 2020

Vermont Tax Structure Commission

Re: Follow up to August 31 testimony

Dear Commissioners:

Thank you for inviting me and our deputy director Stephanie Yu to your meeting last week. We appreciated the opportunity to review with you some of the key reasons we believe that eliminating the school property tax on primary residences is good public policy and how making this change would create a fairer, simpler school funding system for voters and taxpayers.

I want to review and expand on some points that were addressed at the August 31 meeting:

Balanced budget can’t make up for lost federal aid

Posted by Jack Hoffman on September 10, 2020 at 3:17 pm | Comments Off on Balanced budget can’t make up for lost federal aid

Dithering in Washington has left a lot of states scrambling to figure out how to pay for the support and services their citizens desperately need. In Vermont, Washington’s paralysis means the Legislature will have just over a month to determine whether the $7.1 billion budget Gov. Phil Scott proposed for the current fiscal year will be adequate to get Vermonters, including individuals and businesses who have seen federal support dry up, through the coronavirus pandemic. In a normal year, House and Senate committees spend four or five months taking testimony, negotiating, and deliberating on appropriations bills.

Complete the Census, fight COVID-19

Posted by Julie Lowell on August 12, 2020 at 11:37 am | * Comments (1)

Time is running out! Vermonters only have a month and a half to complete the 2020 Census, and we’re way behind.

Vermonters need to be counted because of the importance of Census data. Census population and poverty counts determine how much federal money many Vermont programs receive. Given increased need due to COVID-19, and the economic uncertainty of state revenues, federal funding is crucial for Vermont’s physical and economic health. Population estimates have already determined an influx of assistance for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing; emergency food and shelter; and childcare and elementary and secondary schools. For COVID-19 testing and tracing alone this has meant $65 million for Vermont, supporting over 100,000 people being tested.

Some help for some essential workers

Posted by Stephanie Yu on August 6, 2020 at 1:01 pm | * Comments (1)

It took a little while, but Vermont’s Front-Line Employees Hazard Pay Grant Program opened for applications this week.

The $28 million program will provide grants from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund to qualified employers to provide $1,200 or $2,000 in hazard pay to certain frontline workers, depending on how much they worked. The money will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

The program covers some workers in public safety, public health, human services and health care who:

  • had elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19;
  • earn less than $25 an hour; and
  • worked at least 68 hours between March 13th and May 15th.

Vote in the August 11 primary

Posted by Stephanie Yu on July 23, 2020 at 10:23 am | Comments Off on Vote in the August 11 primary

It’s summer in Vermont. And despite the pandemic, we can still do some of the things we usually do this time of the year: go for a hike, hit a bike trail, go to a swimming hole. These activities might look a little different: more masks, for one thing, smaller groups for another, and socially-distanced lines waiting for creemees. And there’s one more summer activity that will look a little different this year: Vermont’s August 11 primary.

Back in June, the Legislature worked with the Secretary of State to pass legislation making voting by mail available to all Vermonters for the November general election. And this week, Secretary Condos announced that all registered voters will be automatically sent ballots for the November election.

The August primary looks a little different. Rather than sending all voters a ballot, registered Vermonters should have received a postcard asking if they would like to request a ballot by mail.