Vermont plans to expand options for summer programs for kids using federal COVID-19 relief funding following a tough school year amid the pandemic, Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday.
A top priority is making the programs affordable and accessible, officials said.
“With the end of the pandemic in sight, we want to do whatever we can to give our kids a great summer to replace some of what they lost,” Scott said during his virus briefing.
The American Rescue Plan tripled funding over the next three years for summer, after-school and enrichment programs, and Vermont will get about $71 million for such programs, on top of the normal funding, said U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who spoke at the briefing via video. He urged school districts to make the programs affordable or free.
“Every family in the state of Vermont, regardless of their income, should know that come this summer there are going to be really great programs available for their kids, and no matter what the income of that family is, those kids are going to be able to get into that program,” Sanders said.
Nonprofit organizations, community programs and school-community collaborative endeavors will be able to apply for grant funding to expand or create programs, with affordability and accessibility being priorities, said Deputy Education Secretary Heather Bouchey. More information is coming on how to apply for grants and who is eligible.
To help get the information out to students and families, the state has launched a website called Summer Matters with details about programs, summer jobs and a map showing where opportunities are available.
“We want every child and every adolescent to have access to something fun and engaging this summer,” Bouchey said, while encouraging school districts to collaborate with community groups in designing and offering enriching experiences.
“We know that everyone is tired and certainly needs a rest after navigating this year but this summer also presents a critical, critical opportunity for us to further assist students and their families in healing and well-being,” she said.
Vermont is starting its phased reopening plan as more people get vaccinated with a goal of having only health guidance, and not mandates, by July 4.
Outdoor businesses, low- or no-contact professional services, farmers' markets, retail operations and campgrounds moved to universal health guidance of masks and physical distancing on Friday.
Vermont’s travel guidance also changed, with a focus on COVID-19 testing instead of quarantining. Unvaccinated Vermonters returning to the state are now required to be tested within three days, and visitors can come to Vermont without quarantining as long as they have a negative test within three days of arriving. Vaccinated people can continue to travel without restrictions.
Vermont reported 145 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, for a statewide total of more than 20,800.
One additional death was reported, bringing the total to 231 to date.
The Health Department reported that 23 people were hospitalized, with seven in intensive care.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 138.29 on March 24 to 163.71 on April 7.
The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.
The AP is using data published by the Department of Health and Human Services to track COVID-19 testing across the United States.