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Sanders calls $1.9T COVID relief plan most significant bill in decades

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 5:38 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2021 at 7:00 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont is slated to get a lot of money from the $1.9 trillion rescue plan approved by the Senate. And we’re following the money for you.

So how much are we talking about and how exactly is the money going to be spent? About $1.3 billion in the form of stimulus checks, extended unemployment and programs for local schools.

Our Calvin Cutler spoke with Sen. Bernie Sanders to talk about what it means for Vermont.

As Congress prepares to give the final seal of approval to the $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan,” Sanders touts the bill’s benefits for Vermont.

“This, to my mind, is the most significant piece of legislation to help working people that has been passed by Congress in decades,” said Sanders, I-Vermont.

About 90% of Vermonters will receive $1,400 stimulus checks.

Unemployment benefits will be extended to September with a $300 supplement.

There will be more money for schools and summer programming to catch up on lost time in the classroom. And an extension of the child tax credit covering roughly 145,000 kids.

The package passed through the Senate with no Republican support, with many saying 1.9 trillion is too high a price tag, as it’s all borrowed.

Sanders says with his new role as budget committee chair, he’s going to find new revenues by putting pressure on the top earners.

“When you have large multinational corporations today in some cases that pay zero in federal taxes, we’re going to take a hard look at how the wealthiest people in this country and large corporations will pay their fair share of federal taxes,” Sanders said.

The package includes hundreds of millions of dollars to help state and local governments.

In his budget proposal, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott cautioned against creating new programs which will need investments every year.

“It should be looked at in terms of one-time investments whether it’s in water or storm or sewer or broadband or any mitigation due to climate change,” said Scott, R-Vermont.

Democrats in the Legislature plan to use the money for pandemic investments but also bigger budget items, like our $4.5 billion unfunded pension liability.

“There may be ways in which we can fill some holes with the federal funds, free up some dollars and then put some money into our much-needed pension funds,” said Sen. Becca Balint, D-Vt. Senate President Pro Tem.

But exactly how the Legislature and the governor intend to spend the money is a topic that will once again dominate this legislative session and the next.

Sanders says it will still be a few weeks after the president signs the bill before the money begins flowing.

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