July 1, 2020 Legislative Update End of the Session

What a long and unusual final last week for the Vermont State Legislature. Usually we’re finished up our budget and have adjourned by mid-May, but Covid-19 had other plans and kept us until the final fall of the gavel at 8:43pm on Friday, June 26th. Unfortunately, after all the hard work, many hours and compromise, we still aren’t finished and will be returning on Tuesday, August 25th to work on the next part of the budget.

Over the last four months we have worked hard to pass a challenging budget for quarter one of the FY2021 with many uncertainties regarding our revenue projections. In the wake of Covid-19 we put forth a tri-partisan effort on many bills to get relief to Vermonters who need it. 

Over the last few weeks we got to work passing dozens of programs worth hundreds of million dollars to assist the economic recovery of our state. The Federal CARES Act provided the State of Vermont $1.25 billion and on Friday we finished up passing the legislation allocating that money. These bills are very complex and hard to follow so here are some highlights: 

  • General Business Grants Phase 1 (S.350) = $70 Million
  • General Business Grants Phase 2 (H.966) = $93.5 Million
  • Agriculture/Food/Working Lands Grants = $39 Million
  • Technical and Marketing Assistance = $9 Million
  • Local Government Reimbursements = $15 Million
  • Housing Assistance = $85 Million
  • Connectivity/Utility Assistance = $31 Million
  • Health Care = $367 Million
  • Food Insecurity = $21.7 Million
  • Children/Family/Vulnerable Population Support = $14.7 Million

One of the most important bills we passed was to help our local, small businesses. The Vermont Economic Recovery Grants application process will open on Monday, July 6th. Please refer to the ACCD for eligibility criteria and for links to the applications for General Business Grants, Women and Minority-Owned Business Grants, and Outdoor Recreation Business Grants: https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/economic-recovery-grants. If you are a restaurant, retailer, lodging property, etc., please refer to this Dept. of Taxes site for the eligible criteria and applications: https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/economic-recovery-grants

The bills passed were pretty complex and hard to explain in this brief legislative update, but you can refer to the House website below to see a spreadsheet of the money: https://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2020/WorkGroups/Senate%20Appropriations/Bills/H.965/H.965~Stephanie%20Barrett~Total%20Economic%20Stabilization%20and%20Recovery%20-%20UPDATED~6-26-2020.pdf

It has been nothing short of a true honor to serve the people of St. Albans these last two years. As most of the work has yet to come, I’m proud to say I’ve served during one of the most unique times in this state's history, and I wouldn’t change it for a second. Thank you for allowing me to represent you in the Legislature and please reach out to me anytime with any questions, comments or concerns going forward at my email: ctoof@leg.state.vt.us. Have a great Fourth of July Weekend! 

 

Rep. Casey J. Toof

Franklin 3-1 St. Albans 




June 15, 2020 Legislative Update

Dear Friends

It continues to be a busy time not only in the Vermont House, but working on the Planning Commission and on related Covid issues for my fellow constituents in St. Albans. As we attempt to finish up legislative business before June 30th we have passed some significant bills in an effort to assist Vermonters during Covid-19 and to restart the Vermont economy. 

On Friday, June 12th, the Vermont House passed its first phase of an economic recovery package titled S.350. This bill will provide resources to Vermont’s businesses hit the hardest during the first half of this year related to Covid-19 issues. Our local businesses have struggled to stay open after the pandemic hit the state and I feel it is our distinct responsibility to provide quick relief to those struggling the most. 

I’ve spoken with quite a few businesses in our downtown and they have all talked in detail about the hardships they have endured and the uncertainty of their future staying in business. These small businesses are the heart and soul of our downtowns, our communities and our economy for the State of Vermont, so providing relief to them is something I was happy to support. Unfortunately, I don’t believe we provided enough support in this first package.

Governor Phil Scott’s first proposal of the Vermont Economic Recovery Package that he introduced back on May 20th, was a $400 million package that included a Phase 1 of $150 million in grants and loans for our state’s businesses. S.350 was cut down to only $70 million in grants to Vermont businesses: 

  • $50 Million appropriated to Department of Taxes to provide grants in coordination with the Agency of Commerce and Economic Development to eligible businesses:
    • Business is registered to collect sales and use tax
    • Businesses is registered to collect rooms and meals tax 
    • Business experienced a 75% or greater reduction in total sales in any one-month period from March 1, 2020 to September 1, 2020 as compared to the same one-month period from March 1, 2019 - September 1, 2019.
  • $20 Million appropriated to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to provide grants in coordination with the Department of Taxes to eligible businesses:
    • Business experienced a 75% or greater reduction in revenue in any one-month period from March 1, 2020 to September 1, 2020 as compared to the same one-month period from March 1, 2019 - September 1, 2019.

There is still work to be done and hopefully we can distribute more funds quickly and effectively over the next week or two. For that I am hopeful. 

There were other bills passed this week that were important including a vote by mail bill. In March we passed H.681 (Act 92) “an act relating to government operations in response to the COVID-19 outbreak” which gave certain responsibilities to the Governor and the Secretary of State regarding election procedures. I personally support mail in voting and our current election process allows absentee voting. This is a great way for people to vote early and at the comfort of their own home. S.348 removes the governor from the decision process for the November election. I did sign onto an amendment that would ban ballot harvesting by candidates, political action committees (PACs), and special interest groups, but that amendment was defeated. 

In House Education we are quickly working on passing some legislation to provide funds to schools who have suffered during Covid-19 as well. These bills will be passed in two tiers. The first tier will provide K-12 schools $40 million and higher ed $10 million and the second tier will provide another $45 million to K-12 schools and $30 million to higher ed. I was told by my chair of Education to “buckle up” as we will be working very hard over the course of the next two weeks to get these bills out and passed before our June 30th deadline. 

As I continue to work for the people of St. Albans, I want to thank you all again for allowing me to represent you in the House of Representatives. As things begin to unfold, I will try my best to provide you with the best updates. Please check out my Facebook page for my Legislative Minute videos at www.facebook.com/caseytoofvt or my website at www.caseytoof.com to learn more. As always, you can reach me via email at ctoof@leg.state.vt.us if you have any questions, comments or concerns.

Best,

Casey 

 

Rep. Casey J. Toof

Franklin 3-1 St. Albans City & Town


June 9, 2020 Legislative Update

Dear Friends

Over the past few weeks our work in the Vermont House of Representatives has seen a steady incline of work as we prepare to finish for the session. Our money committees have been working tirelessly on passing a transitional budget that has changed drastically since we last gaveled out as a body on March 13th. Usually we have adjourned by mid-May, but Covid-19 has created issues with the State’s budget and revenues so we are expected to pass a budget by June 30th and return to work in August to pass another budget once we know the state of our economy.

On Friday, Governor Phil Scott eased more restrictions on businesses allowing for lodging to be open again across the state as well as the re-opening of restaurants for inside dining. On Monday, the Governor announced that lower contact sports will resume by June 15th with eventual playing of games in leagues could start by July 1st. This is a big announcement for me and my family. My kids have been cooped up and without organized sports since hockey ended this winter (my five year old is missing his first year of tee-ball). 

In House Education we began a conversation about how we can use the CARES Act funds allocated toward Covid-19 related expenses. We’ve also spent a considerable amount of time discussing the future of the Vermont State College System. Last week we passed a bill that will set up a committee to research what the future of the system will look like. I am encouraged by these steps.  

In some upbeat news, I was very fortunate and excited to be a part of the #FCStandingTogether campaign created by Senator Corey Parent. The first round of the fundraiser ended on May 31st and raised almost $5,000 to local charities across Franklin County. The second round of the fundraiser has begun and can be found here: https://fcstandingtogether.itemorder.com/sale. There is now a fifth charity with new colors and items to choose from. Please make sure to share your photos of your Standing Together gear with the hashtag #FCStandingTogether! 

I also want to take some time to say thank you to everyone who has reached out to me with your questions, comments or concerns, especially during these hard times. I am proud to represent the people of St. Albans as this is truly a great place to serve. If you ever need to get ahold of me please contact me at ctoof@leg.state.vt.us or you can visit my website www.caseytoof.com to learn more about what is going on in the Legislature. Be well.


Best,


Casey J. Toof

State Representative

Franklin 3-1 - St. Albans City & Town


May 14, 2020 Legislative Update

Vermont has flattened the curve significantly in our fight against Covid-19. It is no surprise that we have seen fewer cases and even fewer deaths over the last few weeks, and I attribute this to Governor Scott and his team’s hard work and precautions. Now we are ready as a state to open back up cautiously and responsibly. On Monday, Governor Scott announced opening up retail establishments across the state. It is a step in the right direction to get our economy back on track.  

The state unemployment claims are beginning to be resolved, however the process is still taking some time to complete. I have heard from many constituents that they are still waiting on a response from the Vermont Department of Labor. I am still making myself available to help my fellow neighbors with any issues with Unemployment Insurance claims. I have submitted over 100 claims for constituents having problems receiving their benefits. The system in place isn’t perfect, and some people are waiting longer than expected, but with the new Legislative Action Team more people are helping to resolve claims quicker. If you have any issues please reach out to me via email at ctoof@leg.state.vt.us

On Friday Senate Bill S.346 unanimously passed the Vermont State Senate. This bill is a $60 million relief bill to pay “essential workers” who have been on the frontlines of the Covid-19 crisis since it began in March. The bill would grant an additional $600-$1,000 a month to a long list of potential candidates including health care workers, trash collectors, grocery store staff, child care workers, and nursing home staff. This bill is currently in House Commerce and has yet to reach the House Floor. 

In House Education we have been concerned with nineteen school districts who haven’t passed their budgets. All school budgets must be passed by June 30th. Currently the state has a budget shortfall of $54 million in the Education Fund in FY2020 and an anticipated $113 million shortfall in FY2021. This is a decline of 12.5% in spending levels which causes concerns for property tax payers and school boards across the state. There are some federal funds available to help with Covid related issues, but those funds are limited. Vermont has been allocated $31.15 million that can go towards elementary and secondary schools, and $22.42 million allocated towards higher education. This money is marked to help schools with Covid-19 related problems and to help schools who transitioned to online learning. 

The Vermont State Colleges are working on keeping their campuses open. After public feedback proved the importance of our college system, they have hired an independent consultant to review the finances of each college. As a graduate of Castleton I realize the importance of our Vermont State College system, but we need to make sure we can make these colleges sustainable. These colleges are the states best attempts at workforce development; educating and retaining a workforce is vital to our states future. 

We are slowly getting back to work and beginning to cope with our new norm. There are still a lot of unanswered questions and uncertainty, specifically when we talk about tax revenues and unanticipated shortfalls. The Vermont Legislature is the most open it has ever been streaming online meetings that are accessible to everyone at any time on YouTube. I encourage everyone to take a watch and see how the state operates, especially during a pandemic. I want to say thank you again for allowing me to serve this community. We are in this together and together we will get through this. 

Best,

Casey 

 

Representative Casey J. Toof

Franklin 3-1 St. Albans

ctoof@leg.state.vt.us

www.caseytoof.com 

 


April 28, 2020 Legislative Update

Dear Friends,

What a whirlwind of a week for lawmakers in the Vermont State Legislature. In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis we received word that the Vermont State Colleges were planning on closing three campuses across the state, mostly in rural areas. After an outpouring of many emails, phone calls, and Facebook chats from many people across the state, Chancellor Spaulding decided to withdraw his proposal for closure. Even though we’re looking at a loss of nearly 500 jobs in just those three campuses, there are still many financial issues facing these institutions that started even before the Covid-19 crisis. The State of Vermont has grossly underfunded the VSC system for years, combined with lower student enrollment that have left these institutions in trouble. 

I’m hoping that we can focus on solutions to this problem in the months to come because the students who access our State Colleges are our best means for economic development. These students become our workforce as they usually stay in Vermont upon graduating. They are our nurses, our teachers, our physical therapists, our dental hygienists, our graphic designers, our journalists, our cooks, our small business leaders, the list goes on and on. I know this because I am a product of the Vermont State College system and I know of its potential. 

The Legislature has also been working on helping Vermonters who have had trouble with their Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance filings. The long waits and frustration I’ve heard from constituents hasn’t gone unnoticed by leadership. State representatives now have access to a form that will go directly to the Vermont Department of Labor and someone will contact the person having issues. All you need to do is email me at ctoof@leg.state.vt.us or call me at (802) 309-3522 and provide me your full name, phone number, last four of your social security number, the date you filed and the issues you are having and I’ll be able to get someone to reach out to you in a timely  manner. 

These have been real hard times on many Vermonters and we are really working hard to fix these issues. As the great State of Vermont begins to open back up, please stay safe and contact your leaders with any questions, comments or concerns. I appreciate the ability to help my fellow neighbors and I thank you for allowing me to represent you during this time. 

 

Representative Casey J. Toof

Franklin 3-1 St. Albans City & Town


April 20, 2020 Legislative Update

Dear Friends,

Last week the state of Vermont, feeling the pressure of the stagnant economy and backlogs of unemployment claims, saw some progress in getting Vermonters back to work. On Friday at a press conference Governor Phil Scott announced that the state is ready to make “small steps” to reopening the state for business. Still feeling the weight of the Covid-19 pandemic the Governor cautiously reopened businesses in a few professions. These openings do not by any means mean “business as usual”, but rather just an attempt to get people back working and the economy to start seeing some movement. 

The professions opening back up include low contact professional services like realtors, appraisers, municipal clerks, and attorneys. Outdoor businesses like property management crews and construction worker firms with two person crews will also be allowed to go back to work as long as they follow some strict guidelines. Those guidelines include working six feet apart and wearing face masks in public. The Governor also alluded to an opening date of May 1st for farmers markets to begin to reopen.

Vermont is also making national headlines with Governor Phil Scott’s easing of restrictions and allowing certain businesses to head back to work. Our very own state senator, Senator Corey Parent, went on Fox and Friends, a national news outlet to discuss how Vermont was doing during this pandemic. Senator Parent did a great job outlining the steps the state has taken to become one of the least hit of the pandemic. As I’m writing this right now Vermont has only seen 35 deaths resulting in coronavirus, although unfortunate deaths are, the numbers are much lower than states surrounding us. Governor Phil Scott and his administration have done a phenomenal job protecting Vermonters during this crisis. 

On Friday we also received another major announcement from the Vermont State Colleges. They recommended closing three Vermont colleges - Northern Vermont University in Johnson and Lyndon as well as the Vermont Technical College Randolph campus. They cited financial problems that hit the system long before the Covid-19 outbreak as a reason for closure. This announcement seemed to shock the residents of this state and flooded our legislative emails, Facebook chats, and cell phones with messages and pleas to help save the colleges facing closure. There were two main concerns with the potential closings: loss of economic drivers in the rural communities and the loss of over 500 jobs. The large response prompted the VSC to delay their vote. 

The biggest issue I’ve heard about from constituents is regarding unemployment insurance. This past weekend, Governor Phil Scott working with State Treasurer Beth Pearce mailed over 8,300 $1200 checks to people having issues with unemployment insurance. There is still much work to be done as the Vermont Department of Labor and the Agency of Digital Services attempt to fix issues that have prevented tens of thousands across the state from collecting their benefits. 

The House Committee on Education will be meeting on Tuesday and Thursday of this week and the entire House is expected to vote on a proposal to vote remotely by the end of the week. The goal is to allow the Legislature to pass Covid-19 related legislation without having to meet in person and risk spreading the disease. Our work since mid-march has been done remotely from our home computers and leadership’s goal is to be able to conduct business from afar safely. 

We still have a long way to go as a state. Our financial problems are evolving and starting to show clear signs of issues ahead. Our Education funding is short while eighteen schools haven’t even passed a budget. We have a lot of work ahead of us as a legislature. If you ever have any questions, comments or concerns, please reach out to me at ctoof@leg.state.vt.us. Stay safe everyone.

Best,

Casey


Representative Casey J. Toof

Franklin 3-1 St. Albans


Update on Fiscal Note April 15th

Earlier this week the Vermont State Legislature received an updated fiscal note from our Joint Fiscal Office. This note updated the Legislature on our Fiscal Year 2020 budget, the upcoming 2021 budget, as well as some federal funds that should be coming to Vermont in the near future. 

The state’s budget is an evolving document. Currently, our expected revenues change weekly, and with all of the deferments on tax payments and the state of our economy, the budget is most uncertain. Right now we currently see a $61 million shortfall in our General Fund, an $89 million shortfall in our Education Fund, and a $40 million shortfall in our Transportation Fund. 

There is relief available in the form of the Federal CARES Act. The stimulus bill will be allotting $1.25 billion to the state of Vermont and is expected to arrive by April 24th. The money hopefully will be used to help ease the burden on our healthcare system, our K-12 education system, higher education and help fill the gap in other areas in our budget. 

We face an extremely hard uphill battle ahead of us as a state. People are still struggling to file unemployment insurance, with over 70,000 claims made thus far. We will get through this because we are Vermont Strong. If anyone has any questions please feel free to reach out to me via email at ctoof@leg.state.vt.us. Stay safe and be well.

Best,

Casey

 


April 13, 2020 Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors, 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend and I hope you were able to enjoy the nice weather we had on Sunday. The Vermont State Legislature had another busy week working on bills related to COVID-19 relief as well as the state’s budget. On Tuesday, the House Committee on Education had a brief meeting about Senate Bill S.164 which is our Miscellaneous Ed Bill. We are currently only focusing on sections 10-14 which will help special education surrounding Act 173. You can follow along in any of our meetings by going to our committee website at https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2020/10

On Friday, Governor Phil Scott extended his State of Emergency in Vermont and all existing mitigation orders and closures until May 15th. The decision was made to help continue to flatten the curve and protect the public from seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases. Everyone is still being encouraged to practice safe social distancing, work from home if you’re able to, and stay home as much as you can. 

The Vermont Department of Labor has seen a significant increase in total claims, which has reached over 70,000 Vermonters claiming unemployment. I have received numerous complaints and issues from many of you during the last couple of weeks and I encourage anyone to continue to reach out to me and use me as a resource as needed. The VDOL has tried to fix these issues by increasing their staff, outsourcing their work, and they’ve also added a new voluntary system to help ease the number of people filing at one time. This will take some time, so please be patient. To learn more please go to the VT Department of Labor website: labor.vermont.gov

On Wednesday we met as a committee with State House Chief of Police Matt Romei to train on how we can vote remotely. We will be using an online voting app to vote from home, while we meet as a floor via Zoom. We are still a few weeks away from being able to get everyone comfortable with the voting app before we can meet as a floor of 150 members, so we are making sure to spend our time wisely focusing on committee work and our state budget. 

Friday we met with members from the higher education community, specifically from representatives of UVM, the Vermont State Colleges, and the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges. They gave us an update on the issues they were experiencing. Some of those issues were that some students were still on campus and couldn’t go home, specifically some international students who couldn’t return to their home country. Other concerns were financial issues with colleges and some even saying they might have to make some tough decisions on schools closing. 

We also met with Superintendents, Vermont Principals Association, the VTNEA, and other educational leaders informing us of issues that our local schools are facing during this very difficult time. The issue of online teaching has proved to be very difficult. There are still major inequities with online teaching and learning, mainly with the lack of broadband access across the state. Many teachers and students struggle with broadband access and the schools are concerned about the students' social emotional issues. I applaud everyone’s effort for working for the betterment of our students and I thank you all for your continued hard work.

We are in some really troubling times as a state. More and more people are claiming unemployment as the state has received over 70,000 people filing for unemployment insurance. I hope everyone can stay optimistic as we’re currently making history as a society. I know we’ll get through this because we are Vermont Strong. I hope everyone is being safe and practicing proper social distancing and staying home. 

If you ever need to reach me I am always available at ctoof@leg.state.vt.us

Best, 

Casey 

 

Representative Casey J. Toof

Franklin 3-1

St. Albans City & Town


April 6, 2020 Legislative Update

I hope everyone is staying safe during this state of emergency. Things have been really busy for the Vermont State Legislature while we work remotely from home. I have been receiving many questions and comments via phone calls, text messages, emails, and Facebook. I’ve been trying my best to share all the information I receive as quickly as I can, and I try to point people in the right direction to the best of my ability. I continue to encourage everyone to reach out to me with any inquiries. 

Our House Committee on Education has been working remotely over the last few weeks using Zoom. We are taking up only one bill at this time, and that is S.164 which is a miscellaneous Ed bill. This bill will help special education issues regarding Act 173 that passed in 2018. I will also encourage everyone to tune into our YouTube live stream by going to https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2020/10

Right now, the State of Vermont is focusing on how we can pass a budget during this pandemic. We received a fiscal note from our Joint Fiscal Office about the estimated revenue issues for the remainder of the fiscal year 2020. Currently, we are looking at a General Fund shortage of $202 million, a Transportation Fund shortage of $45 million, and an Education Fund shortage of $145 million. We have some big issues ahead of us as a state financially. 

I will continue to offer my contact information to anyone who is looking for answers. I can be reached at ctoof@leg.state.vt.us any time or you can follow my Facebook page to receive daily updates. I appreciate everyone’s patience and civility during this time. Please stay home and stay safe. 

 

Representative Casey J. Toof


2020 Town Meeting Report

Dear Friends,

As always, it is my honor to represent you in the Vermont House of Representatives. This session, I have continued my focus of making Vermont a friendlier place to live, work, raise a family, retire, and do business. These efforts closely mirror my desire to stimulate economic growth, reduce the cost of living, and protect the most vulnerable Vermonters.

The session got off to a fast start, with a number of gubernatorial vetoes for the House to consider overriding or sustaining. The most notable issues were paid family leave and raising the minimum wage. The paid family leave veto was sustained, while the minimum wage veto was overridden.

I’ve been hard at work as a member of the House Committee on Education, where we’ve focused on a Universal Prekindergarten program and improving literacy in the classroom. We’ve briefly spoken about proficiently based learning and grading, but we’re waiting on the Senate to send us their work.

I’ve also sponsored and co-sponsored a number of pieces of legislation, including H.817 which is a Universal Afterschool Program. This bill is very exciting for me as it focuses on giving children of every age access to afterschool programs across the state using the tax revenue from the sale of cannabis.

Throughout the remainder of the session, I look forward to continuing to advance pro-affordability and pro-growth priorities as we debate issues like the upcoming budget, tax policy, and more.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, I am always here to listen. Feel free to contact me at:

Representative Casey J. Toof

Email: ctoof@leg.state.vt.us

Phone: (802) 309-3522

 

Thank you for your continued support.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Representative Casey J. Toof

Franklin 3-1 St. Albans City & Town



Support Casey Join Casey Talk to Casey

connect