A new stimulus proposal working its way through the U.S. Senate this week would net Vermont $1.3 billion, about $400 million more than what the state could expect from a House-passed version of the bill, according to Sen. Patrick Leahy's office.
The potential windfall comes after Leahy — who chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee — successfully tweaked the $1.9 trillion relief proposal to beef up aid to small states and ensure they take in at least the same share they received under the initial COVID relief bill passed last March known as the CARES Act.
"Vermonters can be confident that our state is getting its fair share in this package," said Leahy, who noted that the rest of Vermont's congressional delegation also pushed for the changes.
Though the full financial impact of the Senate proposal is still being tallied, initial estimates show that the $400 million hike would largely come in the form of additional state aid.
The House's version of the bill would send Vermont a total of $960 million, about $200 million of which would go to local communities, with the rest heading to the state. The Senate proposal would keep local aid the same but increase state aid to roughly $1 billion. It also would send an additional $10 million for homeowner assistance— for a total of $50 million — and $27 million to fund vaccination efforts.
Other notable aspects of the bill include a funding for rural hospitals and broadband expansion; a $400 weekly bump for unemployment recipients; and another round of targeted stimulus checks, with latter phasing out for single filers at $80,000 and joint filers at $160,000 under a deal between Senate Democrats and President Joe Biden.
Senators are expected to debate the proposal in the coming days and hope to pass it prior to a looming March 14 deadline, at which time unemployment benefits would otherwise expire for millions of Americans.
The bill would then head back to the House, where lawmakers can either accept the changes or call for a conference committee to hash out the differences.
Leahy implored his colleagues to pass the bill without delay.
"Dilatory tactics have no place here, not when the country continues to struggle, and when we are on the cusp of truly getting a handle on this pandemic," he said. "It’s time to pass it, and do for the American people what we were sent here to do — lead, and govern."