Updates, COVID-19 and More

Our Work Continues
The work that Justice For All has always involved and continues to be dismantling the root causes of systemic racism, the elimination of poverty and addressing the impacts presented to black and brown and poor people on a daily basis.  Systemic racism and poverty are at the heart of the source of COVID-19 and unfortunately these vulnerable demographics are among the chief benefactors of the the most severe impact of the pandemic. Today all of the disparities associated with systemic racism and poverty are being simultaneously exacerbated.

The additional time and attention required for black and brown and poor people to ensure safety, security and basic needs leave little time to acquire vital information or engage community, organizations and far less government.  It stands to reason that from this position of preexisting disadvantage, impacted communities are struggling with employment, housing, education, health services access and the challenges with the justice system at much higher rates with exponentially more severe impact.   It is for this reason that the work that we do is more important than ever.  We are incredibly busy monitoring national, state and local developments on and responses to the pandemic, as well as the impact on constituent communities. 

Access to Government, Civic Duties and Public Meetings

One of the challenges that have been identified is the absence of information on ongoing government emergency operations, information on access to public meetings, and the political process. Being connected to, monitoring and participating in the democratic process are now more important than ever.  Emerging are facilities and protocols that are increasingly enabling community members visibility and in some cases the ability to provide input.  Here are some sources that you can use to stay informed and get engaged.

Vermont Governor’s Executive Orders and Press Releases

Vermont Legislature
House – https://www.vpr.org/#stream/5
Senate – https://www.vpr.org/#stream/6

Vermont Judiciary

Burlington City Council

Updates on the Statutes of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Here are some resources to provide the latest information, guidance and updates on the COVD-19 pandemic.
Latest CDC Guidance
Latest Vermont Department of Health Guidance
Burlington COVID-19 Update Page
Worldometer – A team of developers, researchers, and volunteers with the goal of making world statistics available around the world.
NY Times Updates
Vermont Digger Updates

What is the Government Doing?

The Vermont State legislature has been working on a series of actions that will address updating unemployment insurance, establishing emergency medical protocols, authorizing remote open meetings, providing temporary elections procedures and extending vehicle registration deadlines.  All of these and the Senate Committees remote voting authorization were passed by the Senate this morning. The House will convene tomorrow to take up this emergency package. You can find more on the ongoing work of the legislature at the site above.  The United States legislature has passed legislation that covers unemployment insurance, paid family leave, the SNAP program and Coronavirus testing.  Pending in the United Stets legislature is a 2T bill that would provide direct payments, loan deferrals and business tax relief and bailouts. All of this work is continues to unfold.

Action Corner

  1. Calls for the Release of the of Selected Individuals Incarcerated and Detained Pretrial 
    This week we signed off on a letter From the ACLU, regarding the release of selected individuals incarcerated and detained pre-trial, to ensure public health and safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  The letter states “Vermont has days, not weeks, to take meaningful preventive action.” Prisons across the country are releasing pretrial and vulnerable nonviolent folks to reduce the risk of mass outbreaks in our nation’s corrections system.  Our state could do the same with a simple Executive Order.  It is hugely important that we take immediate action here.  We have a problem that we see will indeed turn into a major issue and there are literally hundreds of both those who are incarcerated and those who work in the corrections system who’s health and safety are on the line.  Please call the the Governor now (828-3333) and ask him to sign the order and let them go.  Email the Governor here.
  2. Calls for Eviction Moratorium
    On Wednesday, March 18, the Trump administration announced a moratorium on evictions of single-family homeowners with federally backed mortgages. The moratorium does not apply to the vast majority of renters.  Though Vermont courts say that the “consensus” is that judges will not be taking up eviction cases as a priority, judges still retain discretion to take up evictions under “emergency” circumstances and there is no mechanism that otherwise stops any ongoing (or future) eviction.  Vermont Digger cited that for now, “the Scott administration is not calling for a statewide eviction moratorium, saying housing subsidies are more urgently needed as a measure to prevent homelessness during the outbreak.”  This is not good enough.  No one should ever have to worry about losing his or her home, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.  Now more than ever is a time to care for the most vulnerable.    Please call the the Governor now (828-3333) and ask him to sign an Executive Order placing a moratorium on all evictions. Email the Governor here
  3. Elections and Open Meetings Laws
    The Vermont Senate today passed Temporary Elections and Open Meeting Law emergency provisions.  The elections provisions waive signature collection process for placement onto the ballot, require mail-in ballots and provide for various extensions amongst other changes.  The open meetings provisions state that local  governments should meet electronically and provide public access, allow a quorum or more to attend electronically and states that information on how to access the meeting shall be made public.  It is incredibly important that all Vermonters are notified of these changes and of future on-line meetings.  This must be done accommodating technology and language accessibility disparities in communities of color and those who are underserved.  Please request that House amend the COVID-19 Emergency bill with language that states that Voters shall be notified of elections law changes and municipality on-line meetings through United States Postal Service (USPS) or other means and language translations shall be made available. Send the House Government Operations Committee (and leadership) a message at this address:  vermont-house-government-operations@googlegroups.com

Contact your legislator to express your thoughts on any of these issues.  Find your legislator here.

From the Director
Our analysis is complete and our demands are the same – dismantle systemic racism and eliminate poverty.  In everything that we do in moving forward we must create a permanent paradigm shift in beliefs and policy. We do not want a return to the malignant, violent system that through greed has oppressed so many for so long.   Nor do we care to replace it with a broken system that uses the remnants of white English colonialism to prop up an oppressive government. Now is an opportunity for us to change the heart and soul of this nation. This is a time when our civil liberties are art risk more than ever.  We must continue the work and challenge the system at all levels.  Stay busy, encouraged, healthy and connected.  This is not a time for retreat.  It is a time to stand!

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Mark Hughes,
Executive Director, Justice For All
t @Mark_A_Hughes
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