When I ran for office back in 2018, I could have never imagined that we would be grappling with a healthcare and now economic crisis like the one caused by the arrival of COVID-19. This pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives, including the usual rhythm of the Vermont Assembly. In mid-March we pivoted from working under the golden dome to working remotely from our living rooms and home offices over zoom for an extended session. Working at a distance over zoom has required all of us to adapt and stretch. I am proud in the way the House has worked across party lines to advance critical legislation and allocate $1 billion in relief funds to help Vermonters through and beyond this crisis. We will return in late August to complete our work on the FY21 budget, finalize other priority legislation and address any additional legislation needed to help Vermonters through this health and economic crisis.
During this pandemic we have seen how our collective actions of staying at home, social distancing, and wearing masks in public have helped to flatten the curve in Vermont. We continue to have a shared social responsibility to protect our neighbors and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. During many of us are grappling with our white privilege and structural racism in our society. In a strange way, COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to come together to speak out against racial inequities in our society and to pave the way for some real transformative change. This gives me great hope.
ADDRESSING RACIAL BIAS AND USE OF FORCE
On Friday June 25th we completed our work before a summer recess working into the evening to pass S.219, a bill that addresses issues of racial bias and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement. We heard from community leaders in racial equity and members law enforcement who support these changes. This is the first of many steps to address the institutional and systemic racism in law enforcement that disproportionately harms people of color. I was proud that the bill passed the House with unanimous tripartisan support. We will be back August 25th to dig in and continue the work to address systemic racism in Vermont. To read the complete bill go here: https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2020/S.219
RECOVERY GRANTS FOR VT BUSINESSES & NON-PROFITS
Over the past several weeks the Vermont Assembly has finalized $1 billion in Corona Relief Funds to help Vermonters, including over $235 million for businesses, farms, and non-profits who have suffered significant losses due to COVID-19. We know the creative sector is a significant part of Vermont’s economy, and sustaining arts and organizations and the work of creatives is key to rebuilding our communities. I am particularly proud of the work I did with several of my colleagues in the House to effectively advocate for $5 million in relief funds for the arts and cultural sector.
Below is a partial guide that I hope will help local businesses and non-profits in accessing these vital economic relief grants. Please reach out to me via email if you need additional help in connecting with these resources.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY GRANTS
$50 million – FOR BUSINESSES FILING SALES, MEALS, ROOMS TAX
Guidelines available now:
$102 million – GRANTS FOR BUSINESSES & NONPROFITS
ACCD is doing a webinar on July 2 and grants will be available Monday July 6th
$5 million – ARTS & CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS AND CREATIVE BUSINESSES
Guidelines in development by the Vermont Arts Council and grants will go through ACCD www.accd.vermont.gov
Additional Information: www.vermontartscouncil.org/covid-19
$5 million – WOMEN & MINORITY OWNED BUSINESSES
Guidelines in development by the VT Commission on Women and will go through ACCD
$5.5 million – FOREST ECONOMY STABILIZATION & OUTDOOR RECREATION BUSINESSES
Guidelines in development; will be posted soon
$3.5 million – WORKING LANDS PROGRAM
Over the summer I will be reaching out to constituents and working on behalf to ensure our neighbors, businesses, and frontline workers have the resources they need. Please reach out anytime if I can provide any support or answer questions. You can also reach out to me via email to share your ideas or concerns. It is an honor to serve as your State Representative in the Vermont Assembly.
Stay safe and healthy and take good care!
Rep. Sara Coffey
Windham 1: Vernon, Guilford
Home phone: 802-257-0288