Dear Neighbors and Friends,
It’s hard to find the words during this extraordinary time we’re living in. We all keep saying “unprecedented” – and that’s because it is. I hope you are finding ways to stay healthy and connected to friends, family and community during this time of social distancing. This e-newsletter has an update on my work in the legislature and some links to resources and ways to help and stay connected in our communities.We are all having to return to our reservoir of patience, kindness, and optimism, while taking care of others and ourselves.The community spread that we’re now seeing puts us at a tipping point to reduce or amplify infections. The health of our state and the success of our health care system in treating this pandemic is now up to us. Please model good behavior by staying home except for absolutely necessary outings, and practice thorough and frequent hand washing. Collectively, we have the power to slow the spread and flatten the curve.
RESOURCES DURING COVID-19
I am receiving a lot of press releases from state government, social service agencies, nonprofits, business organizations and more. I am keeping an updated list of resources at the top of my legislative Facebook page and posting updates on Front Porch Forum and community Facebook pages. It is by no means an exhaustive list – but I hope it can help connect you to reliable information and resources that you might need in Windham County.
NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBORS
I continue to be inspired by the grace, positivity, and creative problem solving that I am seeing all around me: the healthcare workers and first responders who are on the front lines of this health emergency; the bus drivers delivering meals to families and students; people who stock the shelves and run the cash registers at grocery stores; the folks at the Guilford Country Store and the Cold Brook Store readapting to offer take-out and curbside pick-up; state employees pulling long hours to roll out emergency response programs while staffing hotlines and answering emails; leaders in the Vermont legislature who are working quickly, under very difficult conditions, to keep the House and Senate running to advance key bills, and the directors and staff at the nonprofits and social service agencies that support our most vulnerable Vermonters.
Inspired by some of the efforts already underway in Vernon and Brattleboro, I’ve been working with Guilford Cares, the Broad Brook Community Center and the Town of Guilford on developing ways we can support our neighbors in Guilford. We created a survey and a postcard mailing that was sent out to all Guilford residents this week to find out what people need during the COVID-19 pandemic, including food shopping and delivery, running errands, picking up prescriptions, connecting with physical and mental health professionals, or just to talking to a neighbor. It was a wonderful collaborative effort and a big shout out to Jaime Durham of the Broad Brook Community Center, Verandah Porche of the Guilford Selectboard and Leah Gessner and Ann Montgomery of Guilford Cares.
I want to share a few ways we can support each other through this challenging time:
- If you live in Guilford and are interested in volunteering to help a neighbor or if you have a need that you could use some help meeting, please fill out this survey or contact Leah Gessner of Guilford Cares (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Selectboard member Verandah Porche (email@example.com) who are working together to match needs with resources nearby.
- If you live in Vernon and are interested in volunteering to help a neighbor or if you have a need that you could use some help meeting, please contact Vernon Town Clerk Tim Arsenault (firstname.lastname@example.org) who is working together with local EMS efforts to match needs with resources nearby.
- Support our small, family-owned businesses by buying gift certificates and shopping local. Both the Cold Brook Store in Vernon (802-258-1579) and the Guilford Country Store (802-490-2233) are open for business providing take-out and curb-side delivery. Stop by or call ahead to place orders
- If you’re able, make a financial contribution to nonprofits and social service agencies that serve Vermonters in need. Help vulnerable Vermonters by making a contribution to the Vermont Food Bank, Groundworks Collaborative or Guilford Cares or donate to the Vermont Community Foundation’s VT COVID-19 Response Fund which provides support for local non-profits who are deploying emergency assistance in communities across Vermont.
WORKING THROUGH THE PANDEMIC
This past week we returned to our work in the Vermont House. Committees started to meet via Zoom, and many of us had to make an unexpected trip to the State House on Wednesday to pass house resolutions to permit us to vote remotely during the COVID-19 crisis and legislation to help with health care, human services and government operations. You can read the backstory here.
The good news is that we passed critical legislation that will help give flexibility and resources so Vermonters can get through this healthcare and economic crisis caused by COVID-19. The legislation we approved includes provisions to make sure anyone who loses their job or has to leave one to care for someone who is ill will be eligible for unemployment benefits; provisions for state and local elections to go forward later in the year; and temporary modification of the state’s open meeting laws so local government can function. These bills are now on their way to the Governor’s desk.
This week I also spent a lot of our time on Zoom with my committee members, where we did our work to finalize the capital bill. We have been working closely with various agencies to anticipate the needs and build in resources and flexibility to support the health and economic well-being of Vermonters during this crisis and beyond. We dedicated a lot of time discussing how we can push for change in our correctional facilities and programs; supporting our mental health facilities like the Brattleboro Retreat; building more infrastructure for charging electric vehicles for state employees and the general public to address climate change; providing funding for the completion of the 93-mile Lamoille Rail-to-Trail which will support the recreational economy in 17 Vermont communities; and much more.
We will be voting the capital bill out of committee early next week and then moving on to legislation that advances some of the recommendations of Justice Reinvestment II. Now you can view our committees as we work via YouTube – the links for live streaming are on our legislative pages – the link for my committee House Corrections and Institutions is here.
Even while social distancing is becoming part of our everyday lives, it is so important that we don’t become socially isolated. Here is a great piece from the Washington Post that recommends exercise, social “closening”, mindfulness and doing something kind for someone else. Even as we shelter in place or maintain our 6-foot spacing, maintaining personal connections and getting outdoors is so important.
In Vermont we are lucky to be able to access the outdoors. I have been so happy to hear the sounds of frogs in my pond and other evidence of spring. If you cannot get outside bring some of those peaceful sounds indoors with this three-hour video featuring the sounds of a gentle forest stream, birds singing in the background and the view of lush green forest and flowing water. Enjoy the calming sounds – many thanks to the Connecticut River Conservancy for sharing this. I hope it creates an atmosphere of peace and tranquility while you have to be inside.
STAY IN TOUCH
Though we may be physically apart, we are all in this together. In the meantime, I’ll continue to work for the people of Guilford and Vernon in the Vermont House. I will not let you down.
Thank you for doing what you can during this difficult time. While my April coffee hours are cancelled, please do not hesitate to be in touch if you need help connecting with resources or have any concerns.
Windham-1/ Guilford & Vernon
House Committee on Corrections & Institutions, Room 33
House Seat 60