As a sometime reader of Counterpunch, I occasionally run across items of local interest. This time, it’s an article highlighting a voice iBrattleboro readers know well — Vermont-chapter AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen. Van Deusen has been posting articles on iBrattleboro about local labor issues, and I’ve always been surprised by how refreshingly “left” this union rep sounds — why he’s almost a firebrand! Which is why I was unsurprised to learn that not everyone finds his labor radicalism so appealing.
The article, entitled “Why is AFL-CIO So Worried About Its Vermont Affiliate?” details recent friction between Vermont’s local chapter of the AFL-CIO and the national leadership of the parent organization. It all stems from a local resolution to call for a general strike if there was any protracted attempt on the part of the Right to keep Trump in office illegally.
Vermont sugarhouses are a vanishing landmark and with them their history is at risk of being permanently lost. A statewide network of sugar-making enthusiasts have organized a project to create a comprehensive and descriptive list of all sugarhouses in Vermont with a focus on the oldest sugarhouses.
Once the list is complete the project team will interview sugarmaking families and photograph Vermont sugarhouses. This visual and documented history will be made available for future review and use. The final outcome will be the creation of a photo book to showcase these architectural legacies and landmarks.
Vermont Governor Scott gave his budget address today. Here’s the full text of his remarks, following a bit of PR from his office
“Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today delivered his fifth budget address to the General Assembly, presenting a balanced budget that, with the help of federal stimulus, includes $210 million in bold new investments to strengthen the economy, create more and better paying jobs, and address big priorities, like downtown revitalization, infrastructure, broadband and climate change. All without raising taxes or existing fees or cutting essential services.
The $6.83 billion budget lays the foundation for a strong economic recovery in all of Vermont’s 14 counties as we build back from the pandemic. This includes $123 million over two years in state capital construction, $680 million in roads, bridges, and other transportation projects, $1.99 billion in general fund spending and $1.89 billion for preK-12 education.
Here’s what the state of Vermont says about gathering during the holidays:
For the period from December 23 – January 2, one household may gather with one other trusted household. That is a maximum of two households gathering during this period.
Staying home and with people you live with is still the lowest risk. Gathering with people you do not live with is not recommended for people who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 or people who care for them.
If you do gather, the Health Department strongly encourages getting tested 7 days afterwards.
If you gather with anyone from out of state, everyone in both households must quarantine for 14 days, or 7 days with a negative test.
The travel policy has not changed. If you travel outside of Vermont, you must follow quarantine requirements.
Governor Scott issued new COVID-19 executive orders today for Vermonters. The big news is that everyone must limit attendance at all gatherings to members of their immediate household. This includes staying at home for Thanksgiving, with a tiny loophole for family members living alone.
Effective Saturday November 14, 2020 at 10pm it is ordered that multiple household social gatherings be suspended, restaurant hours and seating limits be tightened, and bars and clubs be closed to in-person service.
It is furthered ordered that restaurants and public accommodations keep contact logs, that the public comply with contact tracing efforts, and that recreational sports programs be suspended.
There’s more: all college students returning home in or out of state must quarantine at home, and all businesses shall reinstitute or reemphasize telecommuting and work from home.
The full text of the executive order is below.
Seven Days online newspaper informs us in a bold headline in the Daily 7 column of October 1st, item #7: (Vermont) Biologists: Shooting Ruffed Grouse Could Offer Clues As to Why They Keep Dying
Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott, the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) and the Department of Taxes today announced expanded eligibility for Economic Recovery Grants for Vermont businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the original eligibility criteria, a business was required to have at least one W-2 employee who was not an owner of that business. Starting today, August 3, businesses with at least one W-2 employee – now including those who are an owner – are also eligible and encouraged to apply.
“Businesses of all sizes are doing everything they can to survive under the difficult circumstances caused by this pandemic, and it’s our responsibility to step up and support them in the recovery,” said Governor Scott. “We are hopeful these new requirements will provide some additional relief as we continue to rebuild together and emerge from this crisis stronger than before.”
Montpelier, Vt. – As the state continues its sustained efforts to encourage mask use as a tool to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the most vulnerable, Governor Phil Scott today announced strengthened mask requirements in public places and congregate settings.
“Based on national and regional data on how the virus is spreading – and rather than waiting like other states have – I feel we need to act now to protect our gains, which have allowed us to reopen much of our economy,” said Governor Scott. “That’s why today I signed an Order, which will strengthen our current mask mandates, so that we do not take steps backwards and we can stay open into the fall as people move more of their interactions indoors,” Governor Scott added.
Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the Vermont State Housing Authority and the Vermont State Housing Finance Agency today announced $30 million in housing assistance to those affected by COVID-19. The programs, first proposed by the Administration and amended and passed by the Legislature, utilize federal CARES Act funding to provide relief for those tenants unable to pay rent, landlords suffering from a loss of rent payments and those lower income homeowners needing assistance in paying their mortgages.
“Landlords, renters, homeowners and those experiencing homelessness have all been impacted by this virus and need assistance, which is why we’ve worked closely with the Legislature to provide this relief,” said Governor Phil Scott. “As we continue to fight this virus, keep Vermonters safe and restart our economy, we know our recovery starts with everyone having a safe and secure place to call home.”
Montpelier, Vt. – As state data and expanded testing and tracing capacity continue to support reopening, Governor Phil Scott today announced he will expand the number of states covered under Vermont’s county-by-county quarantine-free travel policy, which allows direct travel from designated counties without a 14-day quarantine requirement.
In early June, the Governor, in close consultation with the Vermont Department of Health, opened up travel to and from counties in New England and New York with less than 400 active cases of COVID-19 per one million residents without a quarantine requirement. Effective July 1, this policy will be expanded to counties below this threshold in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. Quarantine requirements remain in place for those traveling to and from other regions.
June 23, 2020 Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott and the Vermont Department of Labor today announced changes to the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program that will reduce employers’ UI tax rates and increase the maximum weekly benefit amount for UI claimants.
“This tax relief will help reduce the burden on employers who’ve had to make difficult decisions to protect the health and safety of their workers and help limit the spread of COVID-19 in Vermont,” said Governor Scott. “We know Vermonters made a tremendous economic sacrifice in order to respond to this virus, and we will continue to pull every lever we can to help workers and employers recover from this pandemic.”
Montpelier, Vt. – As state data and expanded testing and tracing capacity continue to support reopening, Governor Phil Scott today announced the state will raise occupancy limits for event venues, arts, culture and entertainment venues, as well as restaurants.
Beginning June 26, these venues can expand capacity for events and dining to 50% of approved occupancy size or one person per 100 square feet of customer facing space. This change will allow for indoor events of up to 75 people and outdoor organized events of up to 150.
Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today signed an executive order to update and extend the State of Emergency in Vermont to July 15. The latest order reflects all current re-openings and eased restrictions, which have been underway since late April to account for the State’s low case counts and continued slow growth rate.
State data and modeling shows overall spread of COVID-19 continues to be limited, even as the state has seen an isolated outbreak with 84 related cases in the Winooski area.
Governor Scott also detailed how a robust testing and tracing program; better knowledge of the virus; greater public awareness of, and adherence to, preventive measures; health and safety requirements across sectors; and increased stock of critical healthcare supplies, the state is much better positioned to track, manage and box in outbreaks and slow spread, which is critical to managing this virus until there is a vaccine.
Montpelier, Vt. – As state data and expanded testing and tracing capacity continue to support reopening, Governor Phil Scott today announced the resumption of limited indoor seating at restaurants and bars and a data-driven approach to allow travel to and from designated areas without a 14-day quarantine requirement.
“One of the many things that Vermont is so well known for is our great local food and craft brews, so I know how important this sector is to our economy,” said Governor Scott. “I know we still have a very long way to go to help our restaurants get back on their feet but we’ve got to start somewhere and we’ll be able to build on this progress if our numbers continue to move in the right direction.”
“Protests have been an important part of our democracy, driving change throughout our history. The peaceful protests we’ve seen in Vermont are an important outlet for our communities to express their sadness, anger and frustrations, and to call for change. This is a critical moment in our history, and it is our responsibility, as public servants, to listen and allow for these protests to safely continue. I thank Vermonters for their commitment to protecting each other, both through the change we are trying to seek and how we are seeking it.” – Governor Phil Scott
Vermont is again “opening the spigot” to allow gatherings of up to 25 people if certain rules are followed. There are new guidelines for close contact businesses (you can get your hair cut again) and summer camps and college programs, as well. Pick your own agriculture has a green light to get going, as do flea markets, gyms, libraries, massage parlors, museums, tattoo parlors, theaters, nail salons, and the similar.
None of this looks particularly easy or fun, and there are a lot of hoops to jump through to gather and work correctly. Masks and distancing rules still apply. Participants must give up contact information. Curbside pickup remains encouraged. Still, if your goal is to get out and about, here are the new guidelines for you to follow:
2020 Census – SHAPE YOUR FUTURE.
It starts with each of us doing our part. We do this is by completing the 2020 Census questionnaire. You can do it online or by phone. It is easy, safe and takes around 10 minutes to complete.
Completing the questionnaire allows you to influence the amount of money that comes to Vermont for many of our essential programs…programs that benefit our health and safety, that pay for our roads, for local government, for schools, for hospitals, and for so much more…
Instructions for Second Home Owners
Second home owners should know they must respond to the Census – once for each home they own. Please use the following instructions to complete the survey for each house that you own.
1. Go to 2020Census.gov and enter another form once you have completed the survey for your primary residence.
2. In the address location, where it *specifically* says, “Where were you living ON APRIL 1?” disregard that instruction about the date, and put in the seasonal/second home address.
Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today announced the resumption of additional business operations, including outdoor seating at restaurants and bars, hair salons and barber shops and some additional health services.
“I believe these steps forward will be welcome news for many and because Vermonters are being smart to stay safe, our data continues to show we’re still moving in the right direction,” said Governor Scott. “As more Vermonters get back to work and there are more places to visit and meet with others, it is more important than ever to stay vigilant about your health and the health of others.”
Governor Scott has announced that F-35A fighter planes will be flying over Vermont municipalities on Friday, May 22. They take off at noon in Burlington and will fly for 90 minutes, over Bennington, Berlin, Brattleboro, Burlington, Essex Junction, Middlebury, Morrisville, Newport, Randolph, Rutland, Springfield, St Albans, St Johnsbury, Townshend, White River Junction, and Windsor.
This is billed as a salute to health care workers and front-line COVID-19 responders and essential workers.