Broadband, housing prioritized for Vermont’s $1B in federal aid

Vermont News

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — Vermont plans to get $2.7 billion from the American Rescue Plan.

On Tuesday, members of the Scott Administration said about half of these funds will be used to stimulate the economy and strengthen Vermont’s rural communities.

Through the American Rescue Plan Act, the state will have four years to strategically allocate $1 billion to recover from the pandemic. Cabinet members say this will give them time to make significant investments with these one-time funds. 

“This is what we call a once in a lifetime opportunity to strengthen our economy and our communities,” said Administration Secretary Susanne Young.

State department leaders shared their proposed budgets for broadband, business growth, housing, climate change, and water and sewer infrastructure. The largest amount of money right now is being considered for broadband, at more than $250 million.

“This spend would give access to high speed broadband to 52,759 addresses across the state,” said Commissioner June Tierney with the Public Service Department. 

That’s tens of thousands of homes that do not have high-speed connectivity at this time. The second highest budget is housing. 

“As a result of the pandemic, over 2,000 Vermont households are still living in hotels and homeless shelters and middle-income families have been priced out of home ownership in Vermont,” said Housing and Community Development Commissioner Josh Hanford.

Hanford proposed spending almost $250 million to create 5,000 more housing units by 2024 and reduce reliance on the state’s  current emergency housing program. 

“At the same time, the Vermont climate council is in the throws of developing a climate action plan,” said Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore.

Moore says she would like to allocate a total of $200 million to address climate change, half of which implement state’s climate action plan by December 1.

Secretary Young says these aren’t emergency dollars but recovery dollars, money the legislature needs to approve first. Cabinet members also proposed $170 million for water and sewer infrastructure and $147 million for economic growth and workforce expansion.

“First, we have to work out what are we going to spend this one, what do we agree is important, what do we agree is going to make a difference to the future of Vermont,” said Young.

She says these proposals are expected to be approved this year but the money will become available over the next four years. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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