Message from Montpelier

Vermont weather is always a source of conversation and it has not disappointed so far in April, but I am hopeful we have finally turned the corner to spring. We are also turning the corner in the legislative session and are seeing the end draw near. Which means a lot of activity in committees and the House floor. There is no way to encompass everything in this short space but you can follow and watch the work by streaming Vermont House of Representatives - YouTube.

Rep. Dolan and I look forward to hearing from residents so please do not hesitate to reach out with opportunities, concerns, or questions. Our contact information is: lhoughton@leg.state.vt.us or KNDolan@leg.state.vt.us.

MAY 4TH LEGISLATIVE PUBLIC HEARING ON UI

On Tuesday, May 4, 2021 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development and the House Committee on Government Operations will hold a joint public hearing to listen to employees and employers in Vermont about the issues faced with unemployment insurance during the COVID pandemic.

The public is invited to register to speak at the hearing or submit written testimony. To register as a speaker at the hearing, please sign up here: legislature.vermont.gov/links/public-hearing-unemployment

Registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and testimony time will be limited to two minutes per person. To submit written testimony, please email an MS Word or PDF file to testimony@leg.state.vt.us

The hearing will be live streamed on the Legislature's Joint Committees YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUSAo8mdI5WQ1DseraqKCWg/featured

RESTAURANT REVITALIZATION FUND & GUIDELINES ANNOUNCED

The Small Business Administration announced key details about application requirements, eligibility and a program guide for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The restaurant industry has been among the hardest-hit sectors during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help bring jobs back and revive the industry, the American Rescue Plan has established the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The SBA will administer the funds to the hardest-hit restaurants.

RRF will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Recipients are not required to repay the funding if funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.

"We strongly encourage Vermont restaurants, brew pubs, food trucks, coffee shops, bars and all other potential applicants to look through this website and get their documents ready as it will be a very popular program. This is not a loan, it is a grant," said Darcy Carter, SBA Vermont District Director.

Details about application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide are now available in English at www.sba.gov/restaurants or in Spanish at www.sba.gov/restaurantes.

LEGISLATION UPDATE

The Vermont House passed H.265 which creates an independent, impartial office composed of an Advocate and Deputy Advocate whose job it is to provide oversight of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and to promote effective reforms that prioritize the best interests of children. 

The Department of Children and Families holds a massive responsibility to provide compassionate care, services and interventions for hundreds of children and youth in their custody, including those participating in therapeutic programs that span eight states. The Child, Youth & Family Advocate will work in collaboration with state agencies and contracted agencies to ensure that evidence-based best practices are employed, that youth transition successfully to adulthood, that racial and social equity are prioritized across systems, and that investigations are conducted with an eye towards systemic reform. Vermont has been the only state in New England without an office of this kind, one of the fastest growing areas of state government. This bill now heads to the Senate.

HOUSE HEALTH CARE COMMITTEE UPDATE

We heard testimony on Vermont children’s mental health, specifically to grapple with documented trends in emergency department mental health service wait-times. Patient boarding is when a person remains in the emergency department after it has been determined they need inpatient care but have not yet been transferred or admitted to a designated inpatient mental health unit. According to testimony from Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems as of Thursday, April 15th, at noon, six people waiting for admission to psychiatric inpatient care were children. Four children had been waiting between 1-6 days and two children had been waiting 7 or more days. A confluence of reduced bed capacity by 30%, dramatic possibly seasonal uptick in emergent cases, and reduction in community-based services, have served to create a distressing scenario – for both children and adults. We are scheduled to hear more next week with the focus on short-, medium- and long-range fixes to address this dire problem.

We also passed out S.42 which creates an Emergency Service Provider Wellness Commission. We heard the stories from emergency service workers and family members who have experienced trauma, some over and over, and the need to ensure we have the resources available to help them. Some of the work of the commission will include exploring the effects of trauma on all Emergency Service Providers statewide both professional and volunteer, creating mental health resource materials, examining the secondary impact of trauma on families, and addressing cultural barriers to health and wellness.

NEXT COMMUNITY CONVERSATION WITH HOUSE DELEGATION

Sat., May 8, 9-10:30 am

We will post a Zoom link a few days before. Please join us for a respectful, civil community conversation about what's happening in the virtual State House!

If you or someone you know needs help during this difficult time, please reach out to Representative Dolan or I and we will do our best to connect you with appropriate services. Contact us at lhoughton@leg.state.vt.us or KNDolan@leg.state.vt.us.

Be kind to each other and yourself.

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