Vermont lawmakers returned to Montpelier on Tuesday and passed a series of bills to help the staste respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Legislation passed Tuesday would make sure anyone who loses their job or has to leave one to care for someone who is ill will be eligible for unemployment benefits; ensures state and local elections can go forward later in the year; and temporarily modifies the state’s open meeting laws so local government can function remotely.
The House is expected to vote on the issue Wednesday so it can be sent to the governor.
“Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic is not the top priority, it is the only priority at this point,” said Senate President Tim Ashe.
State leaders called Tuesday’s legislation ‘beginning work’, saying there’s plenty of heavy lifting ahead. They estimate a loss of more than $100 million in state revenue over the next three months and they say federal funding will largely affect the response. One thing they know is political differences must be set aside.
“None of us know how long this enemy is going to be before us,” said Sen. Joe Benning. “When that enemy is gone, trying to repair the damage, I think you’re gonna see a lot of people coming together to figure out how to come out of that hole.”