by Kesha Ram, March 3rd, 2021.
As some of you have heard, I grew up in my family's Irish pub, so March 17 had special meaning in our multicultural household, and I hope you have a festive, safe St. Patrick's Day. It also helps us to contextualize the year that we have spent dealing with the greatest collective crisis of our generation. Thankfully, spring is emerging and pandemic recovery is on the horizon, but we must remain vigilant.
As of now, over a quarter of Vermont adults have received the COVID-19 vaccine and appointments are available for anyone 16 and older with certain high-risk health conditions. BIPOC Vermonters who meet the current eligibility requirements for the vaccine may bring the members of their household with them to receive the vaccination, but I am hearing this offering lacks clarity. Black adults have half the vaccination rate as White adults in Vermont and our prisons are full of coronavirus cases. This is unacceptable and, as co-chair of the Equity Caucus, we are seeking answers and action.
Vaccine appointments can be made on the Vermont Health, CVS, Kinney Drugs, and Walgreens websites. Appointments can also be scheduled through a call center at (855) 722-7878 - press 1 for interpretation services. English language learners can also call the Association of Africans Living in Vermont at (802) 985-3106 or USCRI VT at (802) 655-1963.
The committee I serve on, Senate Economic Development, recently passed S.110, a landmark unemployment bill that provides rate relief to small businesses and additional support to unemployed Vermonters. With women making up over two thirds of those seeking unemployment, it is clear many families are in crisis. I am proud my amendment passed to permanently provide an additional $50 per week to unemployment recipients who have child dependents, though the legislation still has a long way to go until passage in both chambers.
Additionally, several bills I introduced are moving through the Senate this week. S.16 would create a council to propose alternatives to suspension, expulsion, and criminalized truancy for our children and families. S.115 includes my language from S.27, which honors the life-saving role of our multilingual liaisons and allows municipalities and school districts to share the cost so these liaisons can deliver vital information about emergencies to those in need. S.24 is a bill that eliminates the sale of flavored tobacco and e-liquid products. We have seen the disastrous effects of vaping and menthol cigarettes on lung function exacerbated by the pandemic, and these lethal products are disproportionately marketed to youth and BIPOC Vermonters.
Finally, many have reached out to share your thoughts and concerns about educator and state employee pensions, school employee health care bargaining, and advancement of early childhood education. Thank you for reaching out regarding these critical issues and sharing your very poignant and personal stories. Please know that I will always seek to support the dignity and well-being of our workers, retirees, and growing Vermont families, and I am fighting for you in the Senate.
All the best,