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Campaign Countdown: Scott and Zuckerman on the coronavirus economy

Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 3:57 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 15, 2020 at 6:52 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - On the road to campaign 2020, jobs and the economy are taking center stage as the coronavirus continues to clobber state and local coffers. That comes on top of Vermont’s ongoing demographic crisis that threatens the economy. Calvin Cutler sat down with Governor Phil Scott and Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman to hear how they would heal the coronavirus economy and their vision going forward.

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a significant toll on Vermont’s economy, specifically in the tourism and hospitality sectors over the last year.

“I’m tremendously concerned as I have been about our economy, about the number of jobs lost during the pandemic,” Governor Scott said.

Next year, Vermont’s General Fund is facing a $100 million shortfall and there are still some 30,000 Vermonters out of work. Scott says how we proceed in the coming months relies on whether Congress can pass a new stimulus package or give the state more flexibility on how to use existing CARES Act funding. “They need to act, they need to come together. The president and Congress need to get back to the table to provide relief for the economy,” Scott said.

His challenger, David Zuckerman, says the state can’t wait for Congress. “The ramifications of the unemployment situation are going to be dire through the winter,” he said.

Zuckerman is calling for more investment in contact tracing teams so more restaurants and hospitality workers could get back to work. “Make sure we can contact trace if there is any inkling of an outbreak, so it doesn’t blow out into a bigger situation,” Zuckerman said.

But even before the pandemic, Vermont was scrambling for solutions to the demographic crisis, an aging population, out-migration of young people, and shortage of skilled workers to help businesses grow. Both candidates agree that housing and child care are the top priorities in keeping people in Vermont.

Scott this year floated a $2.5 million universal afterschool proposal paid for by revenue from a cannabis market. “There has to be opportunity for them, there has to be housing, there has to be child care. We’ve done a lot in all of those areas but we have a long way to go in order to be successful,” Scott said.

Zuckerman is calling for a $30 million investment in child care paid for by a tax on the wealthiest Vermonters and by dipping into the state’s $200 million rainy day fund. “It’s from a great economy and good management. It’s now raining. Let’s use those resources and get people back to work,” he said.

But the two agree that tackling the demographic problem will require more than the government, but also businesses and community action.

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