Dear Vernon Residents,
As your State Representative I want you to know that during this difficult and challenging time I am available to assist you. The Governor’s Stay Home/Stay Safe order remains in effect, but the good news is that these measures appear to be slowing the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, we are well aware of the severe impacts of the crisis.
Far too many Vermonters are going without pay and are still unable to receive benefits from Vermont’s unemployment insurance program or the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed individuals, independent contractors and others not traditionally able to receive unemployment benefits. Despite the Governor’s pledge to clear the backlog at the Department of Labor for unemployment insurance claims by Saturday, April 18th and provide $1200 to those individuals whose claims were not cleared, I am still hearing from Vermonters who have not received any money under this program. I am also hearing from Vermonters who are having trouble making claims through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and are unable to get through on the phone to get assistance. This is especially frustrating since the Department of Labor should have been prepared to deal with an influx of claims to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program given its recent experience with COVID-19 related unemployment insurance claims. All of this is simply unacceptable. Along with other Windham County legislators I have been calling on the Governor to immediately fix the mess at the Department of Labor. Vermonters who have lost work due to COVID-19 need to be able to access unemployment benefits in their time of need. Please reach out to me if you continue to have issues or problems filing your unemployment claims with the Department of Labor.
The phased re-opening of the Vermont economy started last week. In the first phase, crews of no more than two people were allowed to resume performing outdoor work and construction in unoccupied structures. Supporting operations utilizing curbside pickup and delivery also resumed. Services operating with a single worker (such as appraisers, realtors, municipal clerks, attorneys, property managers and pet care operators were allowed to resume one-on-one operations. Effective Monday, April 27, the second phase allows crews of no more five people to resume performing outdoor work and construction in unoccupied structures. Manufacturing and distribution operations can resume with a maximum number of five employees in one location. Outdoor retail operations, such as garden centers and greenhouses, can resume with no more than ten people (customers and staff) in any location. Libraries can now begin curbside pickup. Farmers Markets also may open on May 1 using limited in-person operations and following guidance from the Agency of Agriculture. All currently operating businesses and those about to re-open must implement specified physical distancing, health and sanitation measures, including requiring employees to wear face coverings. All employers must also provide – and all employees must complete – training on these health and safety requirements by May 4. The Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration is developing this training.
I also want to make sure you are aware that the Vermont legislature is working to give cities and town the authority to change property tax due dates, adjust municipal property tax rates in 2020 and reduce or waive penalties, interest and fees for late payment of property taxes owed by tax payers. We are also looking into how the State can help cities and towns that may have to borrow funds to pay the educational property tax to the Education Fund.
I am hosting my coffee hours now on zoom on the first and third Sunday of each month from 3-4pm – the next one happening this Sunday, May 3rd. I’ll be sharing updates and want to hear how folks are doing.
If you haven’t used zoom yet it’s pretty user friendly – you can join with your computer or by phone. I will be posting the link on my legislative facebook page or send me an email and I can send you the link.
This is a tough time for many in our community, but it is inspiring to see how neighbors are helping neighbors – together we will get through this and rebuild. Please reach out to me anytime, and take good care.
Rep. Sara Coffey
Windham 1: Vernon, Guilford