When can Vermonters get back to work?

Published: Apr. 13, 2020 at 4:22 AM EDT
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Thousands of Vermonters who are unemployed because of COVID-19 want to know when they can get back to work.

Gov. Phil Scott says once the coronavirus winds down, rebooting Vermont's economy won't happen overnight. But he also says what businesses come back online and when depends on how well we do at keeping COVID-19 at bay.

Coleman Parker is the owner of Live Edge Construction in East Montpelier. He's still finishing up a few projects where he's able to work alone. But he's had to push back some planning and design work that would mean close contact with co-workers or customers.

"You don't really want to go into someone's house who has two young children, but you need to go into their house to take measurements or ask them questions on how they want to do this project," Parker said.

He's just one small business owner affected by the economic ripple of COVID-19, which has ground Vermont's economy to a halt.

As we make progress fighting the virus, thousands want to go back to work.

In dealing with the coronavirus and rebooting our economy, Gov. Phil Scott equates it to opening a spigot one turn at a time. As soon as certain sectors of the economy are ready to come back online, we'll open up the spigot just a little bit, one turn at a time, until finally, the economy is ready to go.

"My team is working every day to look for ways to get Vermonters back to work safely and responsibly and just as soon as we possibly can. Working closely with public health experts, we'll open up the economic spigot a quarter turn at a time to do just that," said Scott, R-Vermont.

President Trump says he wants most of the country back to work by early May.

"To pick an arbitrary date, I think, is irresponsible," Scott said.

But the governor says the state will continue to listen to health experts and make the determination of what can come online when.

"If all of a sudden we open up the spigot and people go back to work and then all of a sudden everything spikes and gets out of control and we have to shut the spigot off again, there's going to be a lack of confidence in government," Scott said.

But in the weeks and months ahead, the future is murky on exactly what businesses can open and when. Low contact jobs, such as landscaping, will likely be first.

"We're going to look at all sectors in terms of how do we open up the spigot a little bit and provide that sense of relief," Scott said.

Parker says he's optimistic for his small business because he's already in talks with clients for after COVID-19 subsides.

But whether other businesses in Vermont's interconnected economy will be ready to open then is still unknown.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to get materials and subcontractors, excavators, concrete people to get on it when things get better," Parker said.

Vermont's executive order is in effect until May 15 but it can always be pushed back if we aren't doing enough to flatten the curve.