We appreciate Gov. Phil Scott’s initial response to the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in our state, but there are more immediate steps that are necessary to ensure the public health and safety of ALL Vermonters, especially those who are most at-risk and vulnerable in times of crisis.
We know that Vermonters are already coming together in communities across the state and providing mutual aid to residents who cannot afford to wait for state, local, or federal government responses.
We are calling on your administration to follow the lead of these organizations and direct our collective resources as a state to those who most need our support now, and in the ensuing months.
In that spirit, we are asking that your administration, in conjunction with legislative leadership when necessary, immediately and, where appropriate, through the duration of the State of Emergency:
Healthcare & Frontline Response
- Prioritize and mandate testing, in order to combat a virus that is contagious prior to and sometimes without symptoms, as well as to free up infected persons to immediately file for unemployment insurance, for the following categories of persons:
- Health care providers, other medically necessary personnel, home health aides, and other long-term care providers;
- All visitors—with the exception of visitors for residents receiving end of life care—to:
- Nursing homes and other residential care facilities for older Vermonters;
- Assisted living residences, residential care homes, and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disability; and,
- Hospitals, except Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital;
- Food service industry employees;
- First responders;
- Any other category of employed or self-employed person who works in direct contact with others and whose places of work are not subject to closure by Executive Order;
- Rapidly expand free drive-through and drop-in coronavirus testing at locations throughout the state;
- In order to provide additional emergency medical staffing in the State, waive licensing fees for formerly licensed medical professionals in good standing, who have retired or left the medical services professions; and,
- Ensure that any vaccines to combat the virus are free for everyone, and that any treatments are free to low-cost for everyone.
Economic & Employment Supports
- For all those workers affected by Executive Order 01-20, or any addenda, utilize the reserves in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund (estimated to be $500 million as of December 2019) to provide immediate paid family leave (similar to H.107 as passed by the Legislature in 2018), and/or full (100% of the wages paid to the individual during their base period, or 52 times their weekly benefit amount, whichever is higher) unemployment compensation;
- Employers must be provided with immediate guidance on how to protect their employees from infection and prevent the spread of the virus. Front-line workers (including health care, janitors, maintenance, food service, and other essential services) must be kept as safe as possible from the virus, while preventing spread. These workers must be provided proper protective equipment, receive training on social distancing, best practices to protect their families, and language appropriate training; and,
- Provide immediate financial support for independently owned and sole-proprietor businesses impacted by the emergency closures and slow-down of our economy, such as extension of coverage under unemployment compensation.
Safety & Justice Protections
- Waive all fees and charges for inmates to make phone or video calls to family and friends; and,
- Ensure that Vermont’s law enforcement does not coordinate any activities with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to ensure that undocumented workers can receive tests and treatment without fear of detention or deportation.
Housing & Well-Being
- Ensure that there is a clear, coordinated effort to deliver meals to vulnerable students during the extended school closure;
- Institute an immediate statewide rent/mortgage holiday, rent/mortgage freeze, and/or rental assistance during the State of Emergency for all those financially impacted by temporary full or partial layoff, business closure, or other financial impact;
- Enact a statewide eviction/foreclosure moratorium;
- Ban utility shut-offs—phone, VOIP, cable, internet, water, electricity and heating—and restore service to all households; and,
- Provide homes and expanded services for people experiencing homelessness.
In addition, we are asking that you, Gov. Scott, as a leader in the Republican Party call to call on the president to cease his racist and xenophobic comments regarding a virus that knows no borders.