State leaders celebrate start of $40M community recovery and revitalization program

Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 6:07 PM EST
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ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - State officials are celebrating the launch of a $40 million program to help communities bounce back from the pandemic. It’s one of many grant programs the state of Vermont stood up with federal relief funds. So what happens when the cash runs dry?

On a brisk November day in St. Johnsbury, local and state leaders gather to celebrate science. The Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium is getting a new addition, the Tang Science Annex, which will feature hands-on science exhibits and new accessibility features.

“A pillar and a catalyst to an ecosystem of education, tourism and the creative economy,” said Adam Kane, the executive director of the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium.

It’s also the first building in the world to be built out of a type of hemlock lumber.

The $6 million project was able to get across the finish line thanks to some $400,000 in state grants.

“What that funding at the end did was give us the confidence to know that we could build this in 2022 with all of the construction effects that have come out of COVID,” Kane said.

The project is one of many that have been made possible by a once-in-a-lifetime investment of federal pandemic relief cash.

The money has also gone to programs like housing the homeless and universal school meals. And there’s more money on the way. Tuesday, state leaders announced another round for projects like this-- this time, $40 million.

The Community Recovery and Revitalization Program carves out cash for improvements or expansions of for-profit and nonprofit organizations, as well as towns and cities.

“Arts, entertainment, recreation, hospitality, agriculture and educational services,” Vt. Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein said.

This $40 million program is one of many created by a tsunami of federal pandemic cash. Top lawmakers say this coming legislative session, the state won’t be able to maintain that spending.

Appropriations Chair Sen. Jane Kitchel says the federal cash has created budget surpluses. With federal funding drying up, she says there will be a robust debate this session on which programs to continue.

“How they will look in the future and how we transition off of them,” said Kitchel, D-Caledonia County.

Gov. Phil Scott agrees and stresses the money we have needs to be spent on one-time investments.

“We’ll look for any opportunity we can to increase the amount of money we can leverage to really make Vermont more attractive to attract the families that we desperately need,” said Scott, R-Vermont.

The museum hopes to complete its addition next summer.

Click here for more on the Community Recovery and Revitalization Program.