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Vt. lawmakers prepare new stimulus package

Includes investments in businesses, health care, education
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 5:25 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont lawmakers are putting together a mini-COVID-19 relief package to help bridge the gap while Congress hashes out the details of President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan.”

Like previous relief packages from the state, this one has a smattering of programs from supports for kids, more business help and long-term investments in health care. Lawmakers call the new package a bridge to get Vermont into the spring, when they say we’ll hopefully get more help from Congress.

“We have to be ready for that, but until it happens, that money isn’t real yet,” said Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, D-Windham County.

Lawmakers say we can’t wait until the summer when Montpelier votes on a state budget to pass more help. Fueled mainly by leftover federal cash and one-time money from the governor’s budget, the new relief package doesn’t have a final price tag. But Balint says it will be in the tens of millions of dollars and will include investments in businesses, the health care workforce, educational support for kids and other programs.

There’s a carveout of some $10 million for more business grants with a cap of $150,000, aimed at businesses that fell through the cracks in other programs.

“There’s already massive events that have been canceled for the state this summer, so there’s sort of an expectation for a depressed economic outcome,” said Charles Martin with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.

And there’s money targeted toward the nutritional and developmental needs of kids. Many may have to take summer school or more programs to catch up after being set back by remote learning.

“We know there’s a tremendous need for families,” Balint said. “We know they’ve tried to give them the supports surrounding education but we will be facing a situation where it’s going to be all hands on deck helping them get back on track.

Also on the table are strategic investments in the health care workforce, including $3 million over the next three years for a nursing scholarship program, and $2 million to create a partnership between Vermont Tech and skilled nursing facilities.

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