[Re "Vermont's Defensive Line," March 18]: Serving as board president of the Howard Center, Vermont's designated agency for Chittenden County, and as a board member of Middlebury's Porter Medical Center, a member of the University of Vermont Health Network, I have the privilege of working with the dedicated, innovative and self-sacrificing staff of these two august organizations. They truly live the mission and are the lifeblood of the communities they serve.
Both organizations have been and will be proactive in their respective approaches to COVID-19 readiness and action. We are expanding protocols, revamping guidelines and optimizing staffing models, all the while maintaining client safety and managing apprehensions. A special shout-out to the personnel of both places as they work to sustain high-quality services in the face of the hardships produced by the uncertainty of this pandemic.
As a board member and a member of the community, I salute you. Thank you!
'Thank Your Bagger'
Thank you for profiling those defending Vermonters from COVID-19 ["Vermont's Defensive Line," March 18]. I thought I'd offer up another group that supports us: grocery store employees.
Grocery stores are now at the front line of a pandemic in Vermont. While the state has banned large gatherings, an exception remains for grocery stores and, thereby, their frontline employees: employees who are hourly, paid minimally and have constant contact with customers; employees who are often older or have disabilities; employees who now work with a level of danger that is unfathomable for the job. They aren't being paid for the extra work they're doing or the risk they've undertaken. They weren't trained to face a pandemic.
And yet they continue to work thoroughly, kindly, and with integrity and purpose. They're putting their health on the line to make sure our communities are fed, all without the protections and guarantees allotted to other professions. I'm astonished by that courage and aware that many do not have the choice to stay home without a paycheck. In that, their personal risk becomes a mandate.
The corporations that own these grocery stores will make a profit from this crisis; the people you see while shopping — the ones offering you a smile as they restock your food and pack your groceries — will not. In fact, they may just get sick and die.
That's why I spent this week writing to grocery stores asking when their employees will receive hazard pay. Maybe now you will, too.
Be kind. Wash your hands. Thank your bagger.
[Re Feedback, "Marxist Messiah?," March 18]: Bernie Sanders a Stalinist?! This is the sort of divergent tactic that our "deranged" leader frequently indulges in. Socialized medicine a communist conspiracy? Suppose it came from Scandinavia; would they get the Red smear, too, and shoot down our possibility of getting a model that works?
Some fact-checking is in order. We have attempts at laissez-faire capitalism here. It is, of course, in name only, since there isn't a level playing field. Our Ayn Rand system favors those who "have" and some of those who make it up the ladder — then pull it away.
The Western Europeans, notably the Scandinavians, are very much capitalists, too, but by contrast the economic sector is regulated so that they don't have the unequal — and unhealthy — distribution of wealth that we have. With a progressive tax of up to 90 percent for the rich, these people can have a secure system in place with guaranteed health care for all, paid-for education, shelter as a right, and even subsidized arts programs.
Is 90 percent outrageous? This is the same figure that was in operation when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president. He was rich, too, but that 90 percent went into infrastructure, which involved millions of well-paying jobs.
We should stop our paint-ball shots at perceived Joe Stalins and be mindful of the very seductive look-alike Joe McCarthy cutouts.
Read a Book
Thank you, Dan Bolles and Seven Days, for reviewing five new books by Vermont authors, mine included ["Page 32: Five New Books by Vermont Authors," March 11]. Under normal circumstances, the release of a new book is an anxiety-creating situation for authors who aren't celebrities. We have a limited time to get our works known in order to generate sales and sustain "shelf life" in bookstores.
In this pandemic, book-reading events in some of the larger venues, such as conferences, are getting canceled, which restricts our ability to promote our books and share our ideas. It's like a horse race — the books that make an immediate splash get noticed, and the others lag behind and eventually die.
Most authors write — and often spend years researching — because we have to, even if it amounts to the equivalent of earning five cents an hour. In short, book writing is a precarious profession under normal circumstances. So reviews are crucial to spreading the word. I say this as the former chair of the Book Division of the National Writers Union, representing freelance writers in the U.S.
During this pandemic, please consider supporting authors, independent booksellers and small publishers who will be particularly hard hit in these times. And remember: If you are confined to your home, at least you will have time — at last — to read a book!
Business Size Matters
[Re Off Message: "Scott Orders More Businesses — Salons, Barbers, Gyms — to Close," March 21]: The Small Business Administration has declared a statewide disaster in Vermont, making loans available for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The loans offer up to $2 million with an interest rate of 3.75 percent per business. These loans might be helpful to some, but is incurring new debt during the current crisis a viable option?
Many Vermont villages and towns, as well as neighborhoods in larger cities, are anchored by truly small businesses. Even before the pandemic, the number of vacant storefronts in our towns shows how difficult it can be to sustain a successful business. What's the reality of a loan being effective and helpful that charges 3.75 percent interest to businesses reduced to little or no income due to the pandemic? For many small business owners, depending on their business ownership structure, unemployment benefits are not an option.
Providing positive and effective relief for truly small businesses will require thinking outside the box and breaking away from the Small Business Administration's definitions and regulations. The U.S. airlines are requesting nearly half their billions of bailout money in the form of grants. Why not offer grants for small businesses, as well?
These are challenging times, to say the least. Financial business assistance needs to be presented in a realistic manner that will allow for attainable solvency for the many Vermont-size businesses that anchor our communities and strengthen their fabric.