Burlington mayor vows to fight for residents amid COVID-19 pandemic

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is vowing to keep fighting for the people of Burlington and to restore the city amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I want you all to know that the city has been fighting for you throughout this crisis and we are going to keep fighting for you,” he said during his 2020 State of the City address Monday night.

Weinberger focused his entire speech on the city’s COVID-19 response. He echoed what state and federal leaders have been saying about the threat of the virus worsening in the coming days and he warned that the city could feel the impacts of the crisis for the next 12 to 18 months.

“This State of the City is a state of emergency. It is an emergency that is likely to last in some form for many months and threatens us all regardless of class, race or age,” said Weinberger, D-Burlington. “We believe we are approaching the crest of the public health emergency. The state is projecting that this crisis will peak sometime this month. Yesterday, the country’s surgeon general warned that ‘This is going to be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans’ lives.’”

Weinberger highlighted three new initiatives the city is working on to address the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

The first step is making sure all essential workers have a mask. Weinberger says the city plans to make tens of thousands of masks by May 1.

“So that every Burlington resident who wants one can have a high-quality mask when we move to stage two and start reopening parts of the city,” Weinberger said.

Next, he says money from the federal government is on the way. He says aid will be made available through the newly created Resource and Recovery Center.

The third initiative is a $20 million proposal that seeks to give relief to property taxpayers by extending the June deadline to August. The city council, which took the oath of office earlier that night, voted unanimously to pass it.

“With our credit rating strong and our cost of borrowing currently very low, we can take this unprecedented action to support our residents and workers at minimal costs and with limited financial risk,” Weinberger said.

Due to low economic activity, Weinberger says the city is anticipating a revenue shortfall of $5 million this year and larger losses next year. He says that means the city will need to delay or let go of some city goals prior to this crisis.

He didn’t mention which goals he was referring to, but he said the city plans to bring forth the first phase of a COVID-19 Emergency City Financial Plan to the City Council at the end of this month to outline the city’s financial position and what actions the city needs to take to get through this crisis together.