Image of a Zoom MeetingIt’s hard to believe it’s May. We’re nearing two straight months of COVID-19 disruptions, and for many of us, our calendars seem irrelevant as we adjust through continued social distancing measures. I know this is a stressful time for those who are out of work, our small business owners who aren’t sure what comes next, and others who feel the weight and uncertainty of this moment. Your Essex State Reps (Village and Town) are holding a Virtual Town Hall this Saturday (May 9) from 9:00-10:30am. We want to hear from you! For those who would like the link/dial-in information to attend, email me at [email protected].

The Governor announced Wednesday that certain types of outdoor recreation and social interactions can resume. While the order provides some flexibility, it comes with new health and safety guidelines. Vermonters are encouraged to keep a small social circle. Activities should follow public health standards and the social distancing guidelines we’ve become familiar with (wear a mask when interacting with others, 6ft distancing, etc.).

The new order allows gatherings of 10 or fewer, with a strong emphasis on outdoor meetings to allow for adequate space between attendees. Children are now allowed to play with friends, provided health and safety precautions are followed as much as possible. I encourage everyone to review the recommended health and safety guidancelines for this order found here: https://www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/Safely_Connect_with_Friends_and_Family_FINAL.pdf. Please share this document. If anyone has questions about the Governor’s new order, let us know and we’ll try to provide clarity.

At this point in the calendar year, lawmakers and the governor are typically finalizing the annual State Budget that funds operations from July 1 through June 30 of the following year. Our budgeting process looks quite different this year. COVID-19 disruptions have caused a severe revenue downturn at the same time we’ve had to increase spending to address emergency needs. The unprecedented nature of this public health crisis makes budgeting difficult.

To start our budget process, the House of Representatives is developing a short-term funding bill to resource the first quarter of FY2021 (July 1 – September 30). This stop-gap legislation is expected to be passed into law in June. Lawmakers will likely pause activities through July as so FY2020 can be closed out and future projections can be updated. We expect the House to resume session in late summer to finalize a budget for the remainder of the Fiscal Year (October 1 – June 30). While Vermont has weathered its share of natural disasters and challenges, this crisis is unique. The impacts of COVID-19 disruptions are many, and we’ll all need to pull together to work through tough times.

One local example of COVID-19 change is our voting process for municipal and school budgets. The legislature passed a law to provide flexibility to certain districts that had not approved local budgets. The Village’s municipal budget, and our area school budget, are typically considered by voters in early April. This year, due to the public health emergency, the elections were postponed. The Village Trustees and Essex Westford School District Board have approved vote-by-mail, which will allow budget ballots to be mailed to all active registered voters. If you live in the Village and are a registered voter you will be receiving the ballot in the mail, which you can fill out and return. The votes will be tabulated on June 2. Watch for updates from local officials soon.

We know you are receiving a lot of information and that it’s hard to keep up with all the COVID-19 news coming from various sources. Please be in touch with me or Rep. Houghton if we can be of support. 

Thanks, and stay well.

Rep. Dylan Giambatista