As a member of Governor Scott’s Economic Mitigation and Recovery ReStart Task Force, I’ve spent the last five months working alongside volunteers to connect with businesses across the state. From manufacturing to education to hospitality and the arts (and every sector in between), we saw firsthand the extreme sacrifices businesses and institutions have made to keep Vermonters safe. With the guidance of Governor Scott and Health Department Commissioner Dr. Levine, these sacrifices have paid off as Vermont continues to have the lowest rates of COVID-19 infection (and the lowest rate per capita) in the country. As a result of our collective efforts to slower the spread, Vermont has focused on the cautious reopening of our schools and businesses ahead of other states who have failed to contain the virus or moved to quickly and had to reverse course. I have never been prouder of Vermont and how our brave little state has embodied our motto of “Freedom and Unity” as we navigate the pandemic.
Even though there is much to celebrate, there is also much to do to recover. Businesses and families were hard hit and many still lack the resources needed to get back on their feet. We cannot forget that this recovery will be long and hard fought, and it will take the same grit and resolve we employed to keep ourselves safe, in order for us to build back stronger.
Our state leaders from the governor and his administration to lawmakers from every corner have done great work building plans to distribute relief funds where they are needed most. I know there are many competing interests at play but I want to address one idea head on and talk about why I think it’s worthy of passage. I fully support the proposal of a $150 gift card for all Vermont households—to spend at Vermont businesses—included in Governor Scott’s latest $133 million economic recovery package. The gift card puts buying power directly in the hands of Vermonters while injecting $50 million into our local economy. During the course of the pandemic many have had to cut back on spending or become more reliant on online retailers like Amazon sending dollars out of state. Once new habits like these are established they can be difficult to change.
The gift cards are worth so much more than the $150 value. They will reconnect Vermonters with local businesses, provide a community-centric morale boost and infuse a much needed sense of optimism back into our communities as we ride out this difficult time together.
I hope the legislature will support this proposal, as well as other features of Governor Scott’s latest economic recovery package for both the tangible and intangible benefits that come from the proposed use of these funds.
Sascha Mayer is CEO and co-founder of Mamava and a member of Governor Phil Scott’s Economic Mitigation and Recovery Task Force. She resides in Williston.