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Business leaders respond to coronavirus outbreak

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As members of the Vermont Business Roundtable, we recognize the opportunity and obligation we have, to do our share to alleviate the severity of disruption to our economic and social fabric.

We believe that limiting the impact of the COVID-19 health crisis is the most important step we should take at this time. Doing so will reduce the public health threat that must be addressed before our economy will be restored — at the state and national levels — to a new normal. Our extremely talented health care professionals and institutions are working in a coordinated fashion to serve the public. Their request of us is straightforward: 1) prepare for the long term, this won't disappear in two weeks; 2) stay home; and, 3) for those who can't stay home, to maximize healthy and sterile protocols. We urge all Vermonters to honor their requests. We can flatten the severity and duration of this outbreak to the benefit for everyone, if we respect the social distancing guidance of health care professionals.

We believe that our economic crisis will have a disproportionate impact on lower income wage earners. This will result in significant and disproportionate impacts on their health and vitality, in turn. A struggling economy also means that other systems are weakened as a result, including education, health care, and workforce pipelines. We respond by asking employers who are laying off workers to engage with the Roundtable's Vermont Talent Pipeline. Through this project, we can help match that talent with employers seeking to increase their seasonal workforces or respond to spikes in demand for products and services. In addition, Roundtable members are acting quickly and decisively to protect vulnerable Vermonters through efforts such as suspension of debt collection for consumers, ceasing utility disconnections, and deferring payments on agricultural loans. And, we will be holding member-wide calls on a regular basis to find more ways, within and outside our membership, to help those most impacted.

We believe that sharing our corporate and community successes will benefit the entire state. We will communicate through a variety of platforms the successful adjustments being made by our member companies, so that others might benefit as well. During our last state emergency — Tropical Storm Irene — Vermonters learned that we are stronger when we act together, Vermont Strong, in fact. We now find ourselves in a much more urgent situation, and our survival demands that we dig deep within ourselves again.

We believe that we can do this. We are Vermont Strong.

This commentary was presented by the CEO, members and staff of the Vermont Business Roundtable. Created in 1987 as a nonprofit, public interest organization, the Vermont Business Roundtable has a membership of more than 100 CEOs of Vermont businesses and employers.

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