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Rep. Peter Welch: What The New Federal Aid Package Means For Vermonters

Rep. Peter Welch
Susan Walsh
The Associated Press

The largest rescue package in American history was signed by President Donald Trump on Friday, so what does that mean for Vermonters? Rep. Peter Welch joins Vermont Edition to answer questions about the federal aid package and what else the government is doing to provide relief.

The audio from this show includes a caller commenting on an editorial written by White House Coronavirus Taskforce member Dr. Anthony Fauci, however a fact-check by VPR could not verify the facts stated.

How has your office had to adapt to the coronavirus?

We’re all working at home, Welch said. We are all working remotely, talking through video and teleconferences. We are really relying on the internet for communication.

How hard has it been to adhere to social distancing?

We’ve been pretty scrupulous about it, Welch said. There is tape put down at press conferences to make sure everyone is standing six feet apart, and the press is mostly communicating via phone. 

What do you think about bringing the House and Senate back soon? 

Welch thinks that’s wishful thinking. There’s a growing awareness that we need to be guided by science, facts and data. The worst thing for our health and the economy is relaxing. It’s much better to err on the side of doing too much too soon when it comes to social quarantining. 

Has the state considered putting a moratorium on rent, mortgages and car loans?

Every situation is different, Welch said. The hope is that the relief from the federal government will help with those payments. I think you're going to see that the help is going to allow people to pay their bills. And if that’s not enough, the state will have to approach the problem. 

Is the aid the federal government is offering for unemployed workers enough for everyone in Vermont?

It’s not sustainable for some families. The supplemental unemployment will help, which is getting unemployment in Vermont with an additional $600 from the federal government for up to four months. For short term assistance, small businesses should take advantage of the payment protection plan which allows them to get up to 250 percent of their monthly payroll to pay staff and other business expenses. 

Will Section 8 housing receive funding in the next aid package?

Housing is a huge problem in Vermont. I think in addition to addressing Section 8, we need to do something to make housing more affordable in general. 

Do those whose hours get cut but are still employed qualify for help?

In Vermont, you can get partial unemployment, Welch said. That makes you eligible for partial federal unemployment, which will help you recover what you lost when your hours were cut. 

Are late fees for things like credit card payments still in effect?

The goal here is that credit card companies will waive late fees, and some have already agreed to do that, Welch said. But it’s important to communicate with your creditor to let them know your situation. 

What happens to young adults who were claimed as dependants by their parents in 2019 but are now in the workforce and facing these challenges?

They aren't currently included in the package, and I personally think that's a mistake, Welch said. I am a co-sponsor for legislation that would change that, though I don't know if it will be enacted in time. 

What are the chances of another stimulus package?

What we have now is just to stabilize us. When we come out of this we are going to have an unstable economy. There’s a real focus on something that will help vitalize the economy across the board. I’m hopeful that this will reignite the sense of urgency that this is an investment in our future. 

What’s the best way to get in contact with you?

Broadcast live on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at 12 p.m. Rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.
Lydia worked for Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS from 2019 until 2022.
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