MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The state of Vermont is getting $12 million in COVID-19 relief funds so communities can strengthen substance abuse programs, officials announced Thursday.

In announcing the funds on the Statehouse steps in Montpelier, Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy said the funding is coming at a critical time.

“The isolation and financial hardships brought on by COVID are challenging enough for anyone, but think for a moment about what this has meant for people in treatment and recovery for Substance Use Disorder, particularly those living in our most rural communities,” Leahy said in a statement.

The funding includes a two-year, $6 million block grant for the Vermont Department of Health. The money will support prevention, treatment and recovery programs across the state.

In March, the Health Department reported that opioid deaths in Vermont increased 38% in 2020 over the previous year.

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NUMBERS

On Thursday the Health Department reported 44 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19. bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to just under 23,300.

There were 19 people hospitalized, including five in intensive care.

The state reported one new fatality, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to 249.

The Associated Press 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 seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 107.14 new cases per day on April 20 to 74.86 new cases per day on May 4.

The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 0.86 deaths per day on April 20 to 0.29 deaths per day on May 4.