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This year will surely go down in history. It will be remembered as the year that everything changed. Across the globe, the coronavirus has caused closures, disruptions, and a shocking loss of human life. Even with Vermont's comparative success limiting the spread of the pandemic, Vermonters remain anxious about what lies ahead. As the House and Senate return to the virtual State House for an extraordinary session to address the fallout from COVID-19, we are committed to helping Vermonters through this challenging time.

Our agenda is based on your needs. Throughout the spring and summer, Vermont's citizen lawmakers have been at work connecting with constituents and helping them through their challenges. The themes we heard were consistent: we heard from parents who are worried about balancing work and childcare. We heard from workers who still aren't getting their unemployment support. We heard from small businesses who aren't sure how they'll make ends meet. We heard from teachers and school staff about safety measures needed in their schools. We carry these stories and experiences with us as we set our priorities for our work.

To ensure a strong recovery, we must focus on crafting a state budget that supports the pressing needs of vulnerable Vermonters and our communities. We will fund the State Department of Health, hospitals, and community services, prioritizing investments that support the health and well-being of neighbors. We'll invest in institutions that play a central role in our economic recovery, including our public colleges and universities, organizations that provide workforce training, the Agency of Commerce, and Department of Labor.

While the budget moves through the legislative process, lawmakers will work to advance legislation that addresses issues that require immediate action. We must face urgent threats like climate change, social inequities, lack of child care, and the many other challenges that can't wait for COVID-19 to subside. These are the priorities Vermonters have asked us to address, and we're focused on meeting them head on — both in this short session and in the new legislative session in January.

The COVID-19 pandemic has unmasked the inequality and structural weaknesses in our nation. Americans are hurting, and we know too many Vermonters face an uncertain future. Vermont's citizen lawmakers are committed to working together to make a more just, a more equitable society. We cannot, and will not, delay progress. We pledge to continue to take action together to build a Vermont that works for all of us.

State Sen. Becca Balint, D-Windham, serves as Senate Majority Leader. State Rep. Jill Krowinski, D-Chittenden 6-3, serves as House Majority Leader. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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