Fall Legislative Session Begins

Last week, the Vermont Legislature resumed its 2020 session, reconvening to focus on the fiscal year 2021 state budget, additional Coronavirus Relief Funding, and a few remaining priority bills. The session will be a short one, with a target adjournment date of no later than September 25. I will do my best to keep you up-to-date with our work, but it will likely go by fast! Below are a few reminders and bits of information, as we bid August farewell and move into September.

Complete the U.S. Census
Vermont’s response rate for the decennial U.S. Census is one of the lowest in the nation, with fewer than 60% of Vermonters filling out the Census survey. This may not seem like a big deal, but the U.S. Census data is used to calculate federal aid, create voting districts, and study population health, economics, demographics, and many other important factors. Having an accurate count of every single Vermonter is hugely important for the economic, political, and social well-being of our state. The deadline for completing the U.S. Census is September 30, so you have only one month to complete the Census online, by mail, in-person, or over the phone. Please visit the U.S. Census website to learn more about how to complete the Census, why it matters, and how to get multi-lingual assistance.

Voting in the General Election
Election Day is Tuesday, November 3rd. With an important presidential election at stake, 2020 is a crucial year for everyone to vote. Every active voter in Vermont will be mailed a ballot for the general election starting September 18. To ensure you’re an active, registered voter in Vermont, visit the My Voter Page to register to vote or check your voter registration address and status. If for some reason you don’t receive a ballot by mail, you can request an absentee ballot online or by calling your town clerk. You can return your ballot by mail any time after completing it. You can also return your ballot early or vote in-person at your local polling location on November 3rd. For more voting information read the Secretary of State’s First Statewide Elections Directive and visit the Secretary of State’s Voter Information website.

A Few More School Resources
With K-12 schools starting one week from today, I know many people are scrambling to get the final ducks in a row to be sure we have a safe, positive beginning to a brand new school year. You can find some useful information about schools and COVID-19 on the Department of Health and Agency of Education websites. For families who are struggling with internet connection, the Legislature created the Vermont COVID-19 Line Extension Customer Assistance Program, which provides $3,000 per household to extend a cable or other internet service line to your home for use for remote learning or working.

I know many families are struggling to find or pay for child care during remote learning days, contact the local community child care support agency for your area. In Addison County, the Mary Johnson Children’s Center provides child care referrals and financial assistance – call (802) 388-4304 and speak with my friend Jane Reilly. Finally, if your family is struggling to pay rent, the Legislature created the Rental Housing Stabilization Program, which you can learn more about via this great video created by Vermont Landlords Association. I wish all the kids a fun last week of this extended summer vacation, and everyone a healthy, happy start to a new school year. We can do this!

Agriculture Assistance Programs
I know this has been a difficult year for many farmers, food producers, and agriculture businesses. The Legislature created a number of programs to provide economic relief for this important sector. You can find information about the Vermont COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Programs on the Agency of Agriculture website. There is still plenty of funding available, so if you are a farmer, food producer or processor, slaughter facility, or farmers market, you should definitely apply – this funding is for you! The Senate Agriculture Committee is also working to make the programs more flexible and extend the deadlines. We want to make sure that everyone who needs assistance can access it.

United Way Days of Caring
September is the month for the United Way Days of Caring volunteer event, which this year will be a Month of Caring! During this crisis, there is so much we all can do to help our neighbors and community, so they’ve created a whole month when we can each find ways to individually (and sometimes remotely) help local community organizations or neighbors in need. Check out the United Way of Addison County website for ideas on how you can help and how to sign up to be part of this special Month of Caring. Thanks for all you do!

Finally, speaking of people who care for their community, this past weekend Mona Rogers, the librarian at the East Middlebury Sarah Partridge Library retired after 17 years serving the tiny town where I live. My three kids have grown up with Mrs. Rogers as their town librarian, always there to read a story or help them find a book. Every town in Vermont has a Mrs. Rogers or several, often older women who are librarians, clerks, local historians, volunteers, organizers, and care-givers of all kinds. Many thanks to all of the Mrs. Rogers of our communities, and congratulations to Mona on her well-earned retirement.

Stay safe and be well.

P.S. The header photo above is taken from the summit of Mount Abraham, which I hiked with my daughter this past weekend. It was a gorgeous diversion from my legislative work!