Last Friday, the Vermont Legislature recessed until August 25th, after an intense and historic six-month session filled with constant crisis management and a completely new mode of remote-legislating. So, I am writing to provide the first of two updates on the results of the legislative session thus far. This update will provide an overview of the funding decisions made by the Legislature and the next will provide information about some of the policy decisions made by the Legislature. The session culminated in a final week in which we passed major legislation and allocated nearly $700 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to aid Vermont's ongoing efforts to stave-off COVID-19 and begin a period of economic recovery.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020 and all of the graduates from local schools - many students graduated from elementary school, middle school, and high school this past week. It was the last week of school for most local students, and I know it came with a mix of emotions. Students were excited for the beginning of summer and an end to remote classes and online learning, and many were sad to that their daily connections to friends and teachers were ending without the fun and closure of a "regular" school year.
The horrific torture and murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, and the nationwide protests that it has sparked, has once again laid bare the brutal impact of systemic racism in our country. I know that many of my constituents are scared, angry, or confused, especially as this violence peaks during an already uncertain and stressful time. The combined impact of nationwide unrest and racist violence, a global pandemic that continues to claim lives, and a growing economic crisis, is overwhelming. I also know that many of my constituents want to help, and are showing up for protests, organizing, and supporting the efforts around the country. Your stress, fear, and desire for change are all real, understandable, and admirable. I feel it too.
Memorial Day is usually is full of parades and family gatherings, and generally marks the unofficial start to summer. While this year feels very different, some things are still basically the same. I participated in the fantastic Vergennes Memorial Day Clang 'n Bang Parade that included good physical distancing, loud revelry, patriotic masks, and Little City pride. Many families, including mine, carefully gathered for a picnic outside with friends (for the first time!). The weekend's weather was gorgeous and today it hit the low 90s.
Yesterday marked two months since the Governor declared a state of emergency and began closing down the state so we could Stay Home & Stay Safe. Thanks to the hard work of thousands of essential workers on the front-lines and the cooperation of Vermonters across the state, we have slowed the spread of the virus enough to begin opening up additional sectors of society. We still have to remain vigilant, as the virus could surge again in Vermont, but it does mean that collectively, we have done an excellent job of keeping each other safe so far.