In the normal course of business, the ninth week of the Vermont legislative session is usually focused on our annual “crossover” deadline — the date by which House bills must proceed to be considered for passage this year. Business has been anything but normal due to the emergence of COVID-19, popularly known as coronavirus.
COVID-19 is serious and demands extraordinary actions to combat this threat. We continue to regularly monitor updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the Vermont Department of Health. Community members should visit healthvermont.gov for the latest information and daily updates.
As you may know, I serve on the House Education Committee and keep in regular contact with the Agency of Education and local school officials. I have heard from many neighbors who have had questions about whether schools will be closed to mitigate chances that COVID-19 is transmitted through our communities. Based on the feedback you have provided, I reached out to the Secretary of Education this morning to share your views.
This past week, the Vermont House advanced a package of bills to put us on a strong footing as we meet this public health challenge. State and local government are working to address the root causes of the pandemic, with an eye toward protecting the vulnerable, limiting the spread of infection, and maintaining public health and safety.
On Friday, we passed emergency measures to provide flexibility for health care facilities; to free up financial assistance if and when needed; and to expand insurance coverage of health services, including greater flexibility for telehealth options. We also passed a resolution urging President Trump to declare health care locations a “safe zone” for undocumented immigrants, so that these community members can seek health care without fear of future legal ramifications, protecting public health.
In addition, we advanced a package to make it clear that COVID-19 affected businesses and individuals are eligible for unemployment benefits. This includes both individuals who need to self-quarantine, who are infected, who need to care for people who are infected, and businesses that need to shutdown.
The Vermont legislature recessed Friday and is scheduled to return, at the earliest, on Tuesday, March 24. Closure of the State House is an extraordinary step. We took this action out of an abundance of caution and with public safety in mind. Likewise, your local Essex State Representatives have decided to cancel the Community Coffee meeting that we were scheduled to hold this Sunday, March 15, at Nest Coffee and Bakery. We will share information about our next meeting time as soon as we are able to.
There is a lot of uncertainty in our communities right now. With so much unknown, I encourage you to reach out if I can be of assistance or support. Your voices inform my work. You can always reach me at [email protected] or by phone at (802) 734-8841.