With the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which includes a $2.7 billion package of aid for Vermont, we have an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen our economy and communities through significant investments in one-time ARPA dollars. More than half of these dollars are directly appropriated to federal agencies, individuals, local governments, education institutions, and others. Leaving approximately $1 billion for the state to expend over the next four years.
Throughout the last decade, communities across Vermont have been planning for the future of their towns. They have tangible plans and shovel-ready projects designed to boost the local economy, help residents thrive, attract new families to the area, and combat the effects of climate change.
Over the last four years, as the Governor and cabinet traveled the state to meet with local businesses, municipal officials and community members, it was clear towns would need resources from state government to help make their visions a reality. With $198 million in direct funds to local governments, we have tremendous opportunities to work with our communities to be strategic and spend this money in the most advantageous and transformative way.
Vermont’s cities and towns need help to expand their economic foundation,with investments in water and sewer infrastructure, broadband deployment, climate change mitigation, housing, and further economic aid. This will provide opportunities for workforce expansion, growth in all 14 counties, a healthier climate, and ultimately a more affordable and competitive state.
The Governor’s proposed budget, coupled with this funding proposal, continues to focus on that vision. As well, this plan reflects broad agreement with the Legislature in many areas. The proposal outlines 5 major buckets:
- Economic Development
- Climate Change
- Water/Sewer Infrastructure
This is about foundational and transformative change, and resists the temptation to use one-time dollars to fund programs. Doing so is not sustainable, and it does not address the long-standing needs and challenges that have been holding our communities and our state back for years. The Governor hopes the legislature will work with the Administration to create a single ARPA budget, wait on expending these dollars in anticipation of more federal guidance, and use general fund and Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) first when crafting budgets and legislation. This approach is the most strategic and transparent way to appropriate the significant dollars available to Vermont.