Vermont Governor Phil Scott delivered his latest update on the state’s progress during the pandemic today. Funding for a hazard pay program was announced and officials were questioned about the state’s contract with an out of state prison where Vermont inmates tested positive for COVID-19.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott began his briefing announcing that the state has opened applications for hazard pay for those who are eligible. “This program asks employers in public safety, health, human services and health care with employees who helped in our COVID-19 response to apply for hazard pay on behalf of their employees. It’s really important for everyone to understand this program is on a first come first served basis.”
Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith explained that the eligibility for the Frontline Employees Hazardous Pay grant program is restricted and does not apply to all workers in hazardous positions. “The program was established by Act 136 of the 2020 Legislature. A total of $28 million was appropriated to the Agency of Human Services to provide the grants. The application is for covered employers to apply for the program and then pass the amounts on to their eligible employees. While there have been many employees throughout the state of Vermont who did amazing work this program is for specific employers and employees as defined by the authorizing legislation and this program is focused on public health, human services and public safety employers.”
Vermont contracts with CoreCivic to house 219 inmates at a privately run prison in Mississippi. After six returning inmates tested positive for COVID-19, the Vermont Corrections Department ordered all Vermont inmates held at the Mississippi prison to be tested. At least 85 tested positive and about 90 tests are pending. Smith says the state is requiring the private prison company to follow Vermont testing protocols. “We are now insisting that Vermont protocols be put in place by CoreCivic in Mississippi. Those include testing the entire population and not just those showing signs of the virus. And that includes regular testing of the population in a rotating basis like we do here in Vermont. We want them to test correctional officers and staff in the Vermont section of the prison. The contractor was slow to implement the Vermont protocols to contain the outbreak especially in light of the spread of the virus in Mississippi and we needed to be better on top of that.”
State officials hoped to have test results on the remaining prisoners back today, but as of Tuesday morning the results from a commercial lab in Michigan had not been received.