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Vermont Congressional Delegation Holds Tele-Town Hall To Discuss Pandemic Concerns

Tele-town hall screenshot
Senator Patrick Leahy's office
Tele-town hall screenshot

Vermont’s Congressional delegation has been sponsoring periodic telephone town halls so constituents can question state leaders or express concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday evening, senior U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy brought together the entire delegation and state officials to hear from Vermonters.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy is vice-chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and has had a key role negotiating the four COVID-19 relief bills.  Leahy said the latest bill attempts to fill gaps in needed relief.  “We have more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. They took steps to try to assist the small stores, mom and pop shops. We want them to get these funds. We made it a high priority to expand the SBA’s disaster program to include small farms and agricultural operations. We insisted on providing a $25 billion down payment for testing. Testing has to be expanded throughout the country so we can go back to some kind of normalcy.”

Leahy added that more help must still be provided by the federal government.  “There are thousands of Vermonters and business owners who are still anxiouly awaiting help. Others need more guidance and they need flexibility about the funding they received.  Vermont and local governments are struggling to keep communities afloat to help to address the pandemic. They need more money. I'll work with Bernie (Sanders) and Peter (Welch) on a Coronavirus relief bill in the coming weeks to address these.”

Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders wants to make sure that Congressional aid gets to the people who need it.  “Last month a $2.2 trillion bill was passed. That's a lot of money. How do we make sure that that money gets out to workers who have lost their jobs, to small businesses who are worried right now that they may never reopen? So what we've got to do is make sure that the money that was passed in Congress gets out as quickly as possible. But second of all is we must make certain in the next bill, in my view, that everybody in this country during this crisis has health care. Second of all, we got to streamline the process to make sure that people get the paychecks that they previously had. I'm going to make sure that nobody in America goes hungry. So there's a lot of work to be done.”

State leaders took questions for about 45 minutes and topics ranged from agricultural eligibility and assuring voting rights to opening businesses.  
Moderator: “Dan from Middlebury”
Dan:  “I own a 21-room inn and a restaurant in Middlebury, Vermont. We do not need to call our employees back right now. We need the PPP and the eight week period or whatever period it will be to be used when we open our restaurants and our inns. And we need the Congress to help us with technical changes to the CARES Act and the PPP to help us get through this.”
Senator Leahy:  “We are working on another package. We are demanding more flexibility, we have to have more flexibility, to take care of these things.”  

Moderator: “Jim from Shaftsbury.”
Jim:  “As I understand it several hundred doctors have died giving their lives to help our country survive including hundreds of nurses and other first responders. And I think if something could be done for these families. Survivor’s benefits? Let's take care of these folks. They’re heroes. A lot of them made the ultimate sacrifice for us.”
Senator Sanders:  “Tim that is, this is Bernie, that is a wonderful and important point you making. So many people have made the ultimate sacrifice: doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks. I think you're absolutely right.”

The link to hear Senator Patrick Leahy’s tele-town hall:



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