VTDigger

MONTPELIER — For nearly 15 months, Gov. Phil Scott has led Vermont through the COVID-19 crisis, relying on immense executive powers granted through the declaration of a state of emergency. Since March 13, 2020, Vermont’s emergency status has served as a vehicle for Scott to implement drastic measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus — limiting Vermonters’ travel, shutting down in-person business operations, directing residents to quarantine and issuing a statewide mask mandate. Over time, the governor has rolled back restrictions, slowly reopening the state. But as virus cases...
MONTPELIER — After sending a $7.35 billion state budget to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk, the Vermont Legislature adjourned this past Friday, ending a historic legislative session marked by remote lawmaking and the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For what many hope to be the last time, legislators in the House and Senate met via the teleconferencing app Zoom, displayed in a sea of squares on a YouTube livestream, to pass final pieces of legislation before wrapping up their work for the year. Signs of the abating pandemic were visible Friday as a handful of maskless senators joined...
MIDDLEBURY — A Burlington-based solar development company has worked for more than a year to gain approval for a large-scale solar array on farmland owned by Middlebury College, which would help the college achieve its goal to be 100% renewable by 2028. But after clearing every hurdle except one, Encore Renewable Energy could now be sent back to the drawing board. It’s a process that Encore representatives say makes it increasingly difficult for solar developers to build, and in turn complicates Vermont’s ability to reach the goals outlined in the Global Warming Solutions Act passed last year...
MILTON — Becca Brynga of Milton is pro-vaccine. Brynga received her second Pfizer dose about a month ago, and her two kids — a 13-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son — have received every vaccine available to them. But the relative newness of the COVID-19 vaccines has given Brynga pause about getting her kids vaccinated right away, she said in an interview last week.  Brynga isn’t alone, according to Vermont pediatricians. They’ve fielded a growing number of questions from concerned parents — mostly vaccinated themselves — about whether the vaccines are safe for their children, and what the...
MONTPELIER — In the past decade, Vermont has spent $285 million supporting the dairy industry and mitigating its environmental impacts. Those findings are from a new report by the Vermont State Auditor’s Office, which dove into what it called the “complex web” of state and federal policies and programs that regulate the dairy industry. “Can we determine, through analysis, if we’re achieving our goals? Because it’s costing us a lot of money,” said state Auditor Doug Hoffer. “This can force policymakers to revisit decisions that were made 10 or 20 years ago, and ask if they’re still really...
MONTPELIER — A $100 million broadband expansion bill was approved unanimously Tuesday by the Vermont Senate. The plan would funnel federal dollars both to the state’s communications union districts and small internet service providers to bring fiber to areas with no high-speed broadband. Boosting internet access has been a priority for both lawmakers and Gov. Phil Scott during the Covid-19 pandemic, when children needed broadband to learn remotely and parents needed it too, so they could work from home.  An estimated 60,000 addresses in the state still don’t have an internet connection, or...
MONTPELIER — Trudy Namubiru, a single mother and New American who moved from Uganda in 2018, said she loves her job as an accounts payable specialist at the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity.  But the pandemic has brought financial stresses, such as increasing costs of housing and of caring for her 5-year-old daughter. As a middle-income earner, Namubiru said she doesn’t qualify for many subsidies that help out low-income families.  That’s where the child tax credit expansion comes in. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes a one-year refundable income tax credit worth...
The number of Vermont COVID cases each day has fallen 61% since April 1, the steepest drop in daily numbers in a year, officials said at a press conference Tuesday. The state reported 504 cases this week, down from 797 last week. Cases are dropping in every age group, even categories with a low vaccination rate, said Mike Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, for the state’s weekly statistical presentation. As of Tuesday morning, 324,100 Vermonters had been vaccinated against COVID-19, the state reported; of those, 100,000 had received their first dose of the...

PANTON SELECTBOARD CHAIRMAN Howard Hall, left, shown here in 2019 with Town Hall Committee Chairman David Raphael, has hopes for federal pandemic relief money his town will get but will be careful about how it is spent. Independent filed photo/Steve James
PANTON — Panton Selectboard chair Howard Hall is looking forward to a “Christmas bonus” that his rural, creekside town on the western edge of Addison County expects to receive in June. But that gift — as much as $200,000 from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act — also raises plenty of questions for the local leader, whose hometown has just 677 residents. Hall would like to spend some of the money, which amounts to close to one-third of the town’s $624,000 annual budget, on digitizing Panton’s municipal records. That’s a costly project taxpayers likely would not be thrilled to...
VERMONT — Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday unveiled a plan to spend $1 billion of federal COVID-19 aid on major investments in broadband expansion, affordable housing and initiatives to address climate change. If approved by the Legislature, Scott’s proposal would direct $225 million to a broadband plan his administration says would provide high-speed internet to 53,000 Vermont addresses with poor service or none at all. The plan would direct $249 million towards affordable housing, bringing 5,000 new units to market. Vermont’s housing commissioner, Josh Hanford, said the proposal offered the “...

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Addison County Independent