Scott urges Legislature to release stimulus funds
MONTPELIER — During his Friday press conference, Gov. Phil Scott appealed to the Vermont Legislature to release hundreds of millions of dollars of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act money.
"If we don't fix this now we are going to have this systemic problem in years to come," said Scott.
Three weeks ago, the Scott Administration proposed a $400 million stimulus, but this week the Senate passed a portion of the proposal, with about only one-third of what Scott recommends, and the House has yet to sign off.
"We cannot wait any longer," said Vermont Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle. "We need to start getting money out the door now."
Scott said he doesn't believe the Legislature is being political in the way it has been proceeding.
"They just have a different approach," he said. "But it seems shortsighted to me."
Scott also noted that reduced business activity means reduced tax revenue for the state.
"If we don't act now to save our businesses and the jobs these businesses provide, the budget gaps we are facing today will be just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "There will be a systemic loss of revenue for years to come."
Scott said he had hoped the Legislature would pass the proposal relatively quickly, but it's been three weeks and many Vermont businesses and non-profit organizations still haven't received help. Scott said these businesses and organizations need relief now. "They can't wait another month or two."
The $400 million proposal comes from the $1.25 billion the state received from the federal government. Scott noted that demands on the money will likely exceed the $1.25 billion.
"While I am appreciative of the Legislature moving forward with something, even a reduced amount, I am hoping they will get back to work on the remaining $310 million quickly," Scott said.
That's exactly what is happening, wrote Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, in an email to the Reformer.
"The House is debating an enormous $93 million economic relief package right now that, if passed, will be on its way to the Governor's desk," wrote Johnson. "The bill provides $70 million to businesses, $20 million to local/regional/state economic development authorities, and $23 million in housing assistance."
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"The urgency of getting immediate relief to Vermonters and their businesses is felt by the Legislature and any statement otherwise is misleading at best," she wrote. "This $93 million was fast-tracked for that exact purpose."
Johnson wrote that the Legislature is considering over the next week three additional bills containing hundreds of millions of dollars in relief.
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