The COVID-19 crisis entered a sad and urgent new phase this evening with the first two Vermont deaths of the pandemic, a patient at the WRJ VA and a patient in Chittenden County.
It felt like state government took a breath today and tried to digest the massive changes that have transpired in the last three days from closed restaurants to school and daycare closings. In this update, I am including links to several reports from state agencies that expand and clarify some of the changes we have seen in recent days:
Work in Congress is ramping up to address the COVID-19 crisis. So far, two bills have passed into law that direct aid to states and employees. On March 6th, Congress appropriated funding to states ($4.9 million to Vermont) to support emergency services and medical supplies/equipment.
This week Congress has passed and the President has signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This law allows for an employee working for a business with less than 500 employees (or the government) to take 10 days of unpaid leave to care for a child whose school or daycare has closed because of a COVID-19 emergency declaration. After 10 days of unpaid leave, the employer will pay for subsequent leave at a rate of 2/3rd's the employee's regular pay up to $200/day capped at $10,000 in aggregate. The employer may take a tax credit for 100% of the costs of the employee's paid leave.
This bill also allows for employees at businesses with fewer than 500 employees (or the government) to take up to 10 days of paid sick leave if they are quarantined, sick from, or caring for a person with COVID-19. Sick pay will be equivalent to regular pay, but is not to exceed $511/day or $5,110 in aggregate. Employers may take a tax credit for 100% of the costs of the employee's paid sick leave.
The bill also includes hundreds of millions of dollars for low-income nutrition programs.
The third COVID-19 relief bill moving through Congress will cost upwards of $1 trillion and will include direct payments to individuals along with targeted relief to businesses. I expect that bill will be moved to the President's desk by the end of next week.
Have a good evening,