This week my attention has been glued to working on our state's connectivity crisis. There are communities in VT where over 40% of households lack sufficient access for a teacher or a student to participate in remote learning activities. Through a patchwork of efforts by the Department of Public Service, nascent Communications Union Districts, private wireless providers, and electric utilities some households will get relief. Many will not, and efforts will need to adjust as to how to focus federal dollars most effectively to connect the 8%-10% of VT households that have little/no access and the additional 15%-17% whose access is unacceptably slow.
Here is some information that may be helpful to you in your local leadership role:
First, as you have likely heard, President Trump on Wednesday acceded to Governor Scott's request for a disaster declaration for the State of Vermont. Vermont is the 47th state to receive this declaration (Alaska, Wyoming, and Idaho are the three state holdouts as of this morning). This disaster declaration brings FEMA funding directly into the picture as a financial assistance resource to help state and local governments with expenses related to COVID-19 response. It bears repeating that it is a critical time to be vigilant in accounting for all expenses related to COVID-19 response. I am again sharing this video link to FEMA funding expert Christina Moore providing advice on how to prepare to apply for and receive FEMA funding.
Second, for the first responders in your town, I am hopeful they are familiar with this page of resources on the Department of Public Safety website. It is chock full of resources and links for your community's emergency responders, which anyone in town government might find helpful. Also for your first responders, here is a link to the Department of Health's new guidance on requesting and utilizing personal protective equipment
Third, for educators and school board members, the Agency of Education this week issued additional guidance on providing continuity of mental health services to students and recommended practices and assessments of remote learning environments. While each guidance memo provides an overview, they also contain numerous links to additional information.
Fourth, the Department of Labor this morning issued a new structured intake process for organizing the extraordinary increase in unemployment insurance claims. Here is a link to the announcement that directs how workers should schedule the submission of a UI claim.
Finally, this morning Governor extended his "stay home/stay safe" order, originally in place until April 15th, until May 15th.
Please take good care,