Hazard pay on the way for Vermont essential workers

Published: Aug. 28, 2020 at 5:10 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 28, 2020 at 5:11 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Millions in hazard pay and hospital grants are on the way to Vermonters next week as the pandemic continues to put a strain on the economy.

Six months into the pandemic, Governor Phil Scott Friday again acknowledged the emotional and economic toll it’s taken on Vermont, in much same way Tropical Storm Irene did when it slammed Vermont nine years ago today. “Like Irene, this pandemic and what we had to address as a result has come at a cost,” Scott said.

Forty-thousand Vermonters are still unemployed and businesses are still getting clobbered with unsustainable operating costs.

New data shows 40 percent fewer visitors are coming to the Green Mountains, a big impact on the travel and tourism sectors.

And as schools and colleges open back up, Scott says the state and regions COVID data will continue to dictate if he can continue to open the economic spigot. “It builds upon that trust to further open up the economy, to further open up in-person instruction in our K-12 schools and so forth. We have to build upon our success to get back to some sort of normalcy,” Scott said.

But the governor says the biggest economic determinants going forward will be whether the state can increase capacity numbers and use $10 million in federal funds to ramp up out-of-state marketing to bring in more people to stay.

Starting next week, thousands of frontline workers in nursing homes, clinics, and public safety organizations are slated to receive $10 million in hazard pay benefits. After that, there’s still $18 million left. The state is still reviewing applications.

There’s also $275 million on the way to over 90 hospitals, clinics, and long term care facilities as part of a health care stabilization grant program.

“We were successful in sustaining and propping up the health care system during the times of most fiscal stress. This is helping to reimburse them for the money they spent or the lost revenue they had during that time,” said Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith.

Smith says 3SquaresVT households will also see an increase in their maximum food benefits. The $16 million in additional funding for the program will only mean a temporary bump in benefits. Current recipients don’t need to do anything different to receive the benefits.

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