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Scott signs partial Vermont budget bill and $600M COVID-19 relief package

Published: 7/2/2020 9:49:01 PM
Modified: 7/2/2020 9:48:50 PM

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott this week signed a budget bill that will fund state government for the first three months of the fiscal year, and a series of COVID-19 relief bills that will send about $600 million in financial assistance into the state economy.

The partial state spending bill, which Scott signed June 30, the day before the start of the new fiscal year, buys lawmakers and the governor time until September to put together a full budget for the next fiscal year.

That budget will likely come with spending cuts due to the state’s strained revenues. Vermont is expecting losses to top $200 million next year because of the pandemic, and its impact on the economy.

Lawmakers have adjourned until August, when they expect to have more accurate economic projections to inform the state budget.

Bills the governor signed Thursday — HB 965, HB 966, and SB 351 — contain hundreds of millions of dollars in spending on COVID-19 relief, including a $300 million package for the state’s health care industry, $35 million for farms, and nearly $100 million in grants for struggling businesses.

It also includes about $20 million to fund broadband expansion to households that require internet for remote work and learning, and tens of millions to address food insecurity and rental assistance.

The legislation relies on nearly half of the $1.25 billion the state received from the federal government in April to address costs that stem from the pandemic.

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, called on the governor to immediately sign the COVID-19 spending bills on Wednesday, the day before he announced that the bills had been signed.

Lawmakers expected that the governor would sign the legislation, though he has said he believes that the spending packages do not include enough funding for the struggling business community.

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