Vermont Congressman Peter Welch held a virtual meeting with municipal leaders across the state this week to discuss concerns about the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and what actions Congress should take to help.
Democratic Congressman Peter Welch met for over an hour Thursday with town and city officials across the state. He said he is very concerned about the impact of the pandemic on “the ecosystem” of communities especially now that negotiations for aid from Washington have stalled. “You can’t do anything without getting money from the federal government. And my view on this from the beginning has been that the federal government is the only fiscal entity that has the flexibility and the capacity to provide the financial wherewithal to help our communities, to help our small businesses, and to help our individuals. The negotiations that are underway right now have been stalled. Bottom line we know that more aid is needed. We know that your revenues have collapsed, that state revenues have collapsed and we have to provide some assistance so that you can continue to meet the needs that are significant in each of your communities.”
Vermont League of Cities and Towns Executive Director Maura Carroll reported that the organization sent out a survey in May asking for information about what municipalities were seeing regarding revenue loss from the pandemic. She noted that the survey was taken relatively early in the pandemic so estimates were provided.
“About 60 percent of our members responded to that survey and approximately half of those responding indicate that they expect some revenue reductions. But many won’t know the extent of that until property tax payments are due this fall. And just as a contextual issue: when the CARES Act money was distributed to states, Secretary Mnuchin (U.S. Treasury Secretary) suggested that states share 45 percent of that money with cities and towns. In Vermont we are receiving roughly 1 percent.”
City and village leaders shared the impact of the pandemic on their budgets with Welch. Stowe, Vermont is among many towns and villages that rely on tourist revenues. Town Manager Charles Safford: “We’re starting to see an increase in delinquencies on our commercial properties particularly some of our hotels which is concerning. And the particular challenge we face is if their taxes are abated because they’re not able to pay we still own state education taxes which is a real concern to us as this becomes protracted.”
Congressman Welch: “Yeah, you know Charles, these expenses just keep coming in and the wear and tear of this going on and on and on. You know you can cobble things together for a period of time but there’s a point if it goes on too long where it wears down the fiscal capacity to do duct tape and baling wire.”