Vermont Gov. Phil Scott thanked the Legislature on Monday for its hard work in appropriating around $576 million in spending to help the state confront the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at his regular Monday briefing, the governor said his office has not received officially the spending Legislation yet, but his staff will study it once it arrives.
“While we haven't seen eye-to-eye on everything, I want to thank the speaker, Pro Tem and the entire legislature for their efforts to keep moving forward while navigating incredible challenges,” Scott said, referring to Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive.
Scott said the the state could begin as soon as Wednesday announcing the first round of state assistance for some Vermont businesses that have been hurt by the pandemic.
State lawmakers approved more than $576 million in spending from the $1.25 billion Vermont received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act.
As part of the latest funding package, lawmakers directed money to help the state's health care providers, money for housing and to improve broadband connectivity across the state.
The Legislature previously allocated other CARES Act funding so Friday's legislation brought the total to about $1 billion. The Legislature will return Aug. 25 and appropriate the remaining funds.
“The legislature and the administration in their various proposals left a little money on the bottom line for August,” Johnson said Monday during a separate briefing for reporters. “This decision was made strategically and consciously to ensure that we’re able to meet the needs of Vermonters.”
The Vermont Health Department reported Monday six new positive cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the total since the pandemic began to just over 1,200. The number of people who died is unchanged at 56.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said none of the new cases were connected to any of the outbreaks the state has been monitoring in recent weeks in parts of Vermont.
The number of new cases in Vermont remains low, highlighting the effectiveness of social distancing and the use facial coverings, Levine said.
"The virus is still here and it really preys upon the ability of human beings to spread it through the air that we all breathe and share,” Levine said.
BURLINGTON STREET CLOSINGS
The city of Burlington is closing off some downtown streets to traffic on Saturdays this summer so businesses can operate outdoors.
Mayor Miro Weinberger says the closed streets will allow more people to visit businesses in safe outdoor settings and will help to boost the customers with the current indoor capacity limits, WCAX-TV reported.
“I think that people are still a little bit nervous about coming in,” Bridget Conry of Ceres Natural Remedies said. “But they want to be out, so they’re walking the streets and so this gives us the opportunity to be out here and engaging.”
Customers say they are more comfortable shopping and dining outdoors.
“I think this is something that will give both the businesses the little boost that they need, or the big boost that they need, and I also think that it gives the patrons the opportunity to go out and still feel safe,” said shopper Gena Graham of Texas.
College, Bank, Cherry, Center and South Champlain streets will all be closed every Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. until Aug. 28.
Associated Press writer Lisa Rathke in Stowe, Vermont, contributed to this report.