Vermont gets ‘C’ grade for slow economic recovery and high unemployment

Michael Bielawski/TNR

CURE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM?: States that have eased their economic restrictions on businesses faster are seeing substantially lower unemployment rates.

A new study gives Vermont a “C” grade for its efforts to reopen the economy as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to decline.

The study, titled “Reopening America: A Report Card on Reopening States’ Economies,” was written by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity and Freedom Works, both of which are free-market think tanks.

In the study, some states with rural settings similar to Vermont saw close to two-thirds fewer unemployment filings due to their more lenient economic restrictions.

While the report takes into account the severity of the outbreak in each state, it focuses on the economic policies of each state.

“We assess how measured or damaging their actions have been with respect to safeguarding the economic well-being of their citizens,” the report states. “We examine lockdown orders, business closures, hospital and outdoor activity orders, and the degree of punitive actions on enforcing these measures.”

Target dates for reopening are very important in the report, as states with later re-openings will face “more severe recessions” than the states that get going sooner.

“With a few exceptions in some metropolitan areas, and in accordance with guidelines from health professionals, the time is long past for every state to reopen safely, smartly, and judiciously so as to end the economic destruction and despair from lockdowns,” said Steve Moore, President of Committee to Unleash Prosperity. “Millions more Americans will be pushed into unemployment lines, plunged into poverty, and lose their businesses, forever.”

State revenues are going to be dramatically lower, and the results will be substantial cuts to public services, the study notes. In Vermont, the Legislature’s economist is estimating that state revenues will be down $143.6 million for this fiscal year finishing at the end of June, and then another $427 million in revenue could be lost for the next fiscal year. Vermont is already facing dramatic cuts to its state college system.

The report adds that the shutdown is also very costly from a public health perspective. It lists depression, suicides, heart attacks, domestic abuse, drug abuse, and more as consequences of job losses, business closures, and social isolation. In the UK, some estimates for cancer deaths caused by COVID-restricted hospital access could eclipse the death toll from the virus.

Vermont has seen more than 80,000 Vermonters apply for unemployment benefits since the shutdown began in March. On the national scene, more than 30 million Americans have been put out of work, and $4 trillion in tax dollars have been spent to uphold the economy.

“The latest estimates are predicting a decline in American output will be between 25 and 30 percent of our GDP when all is said and done,” the study states. “Even the Great Depression didn’t cause this rapid meltdown in the American economy.”

For the nation, the pro-business leaning states in the South and Midwest have been more aggressive in reopening their economies. The more liberal-leaning states of the Northeast and West Coast have been slower to turn back on their economies.

Nine states got an “A” rating in the study, including Wyoming. With an estimated 2019 population of 578,759 and a rural landscape, Wyoming has a similar setting to Vermont, with its estimated 623,000 population. Wyoming, with seven coronavirus deaths, has one of the lowest death tolls in the nation. Vermont, with 52 deaths, also ranks among the lowest.

Wyoming’s Republican Gov. Mark Gordon allowed gyms, barbershops, hair salons, and other close-contact services to reopen with special conditions to minimize health risks. Gordon also allowed for daycares to ease their restrictions and hospitals to resume elective surgeries. In Vermont, Republican Gov. Phil Scott continues to have these businesses closed, although elective surgeries did resume at hospitals this week.

South Dakota is another state that got an “A” in the study. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem had a surprise parade thrown for her last week to celebrate that she did not issue a stay-at-home order nor mandate business closings. The state currently has 21 deaths from the virus. Noem said her decision to resist ordering business closures already put the state at Phase 1 of the White House plan to reopen state economies.

The less stringent economic shutdowns have led to fewer job losses compared to Vermont. Through the first six weeks of the shutdown, Wyoming saw just over 30,000 unemployment claims filed. South Dakota, with an estimated 884,659 2019 population, has seen just over 32,000 claims up to this point. In both cases, the state’s unemployment filings were just about one-third of Vermont’s 80,000-plus filings.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

8 thoughts on “Vermont gets ‘C’ grade for slow economic recovery and high unemployment

  1. Hey, is anyone payin attention to the news??? In case you haven’t, please be informed that there’s a virus goin on out there and folks across the country are out of work. It ain’t no fun, but it is what it is and won’t get any better until things settle down. At this stage can’t help but wonder how one can grade any state’s rate of recovery. Way too early!!!

  2. Michael, another excellent job of reporting. Thank you so much. Notice nobody is hearing anything about South Dakota and Governor Kristi Noem, from what I’ve read she and her medical team used the anti malaria drug/cocktail as a prophylactical and it’s done wonders.

    This same reporting from the main stream folks could have been done every previous year with the flu, posting of every death.

    What amazes me, is anyone asking….hey, can you pass on the flu from a meat packing plant via meat? We’ve had the flu every year but have we EVER closed a plant because of the flu? Can the flu survive cooking your meat? Just say no steak tartar for 2020. Are they closing every vegetable plant? We generally don’t heat our lettuce for salads.

    So many things do not add up.

  3. Well it’s better than our D- in Ethics…..

    Guess we’ve all got room for improvement.

  4. Come on guys, you can’t have it both ways. If we had ignored the virus, the employment numbers and the economy would be fine, BUT once the virus hit more people would hae died (they would be UNEMPLOYED) and the economy would have come to a screeching halt anyway. Seems it was far more prudent to take the safe and sane route we did and proceed to get back to as near normal as possible by taking the gradual route which we are doing.

    • In 1968, we had the Hong Kong flu. This eventually killed an estimated one million worldwide, and it’s estimated that it killed 100,000 in the US. However, if you take the proportion dead in 1968 and apply it to today’s population, that means we’d have 160,000 dead due to Hong Kong flu if it came today.

      That’s a big number. Note, in 1968 they didn’t close anything, not even Disneyland, which had 9.2 million visitors that year.

      What happened between 1968 and 2020 that we’re so frightened of a virus that we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, leaves most people with mild or even no symptoms and largely leaves children alone? Sweden left grade schools open; we’re not hearing any reports of children dropping like flies. This media circus is nothing else but outrageous and uncalled-for fear mongering.

      What happens if you have the cameras focused 24/7 on a disease? Yes, you’re going to be afraid because it seems like it’s everywhere and it’s going to kill everyone. That the authorities are stoking this fear and encouraging it is shameful, and that voices of reason and calm are being silenced or outright censored is disgraceful for a (supposedly) free country.

  5. Vermont gets ‘C’ grade for slow economic recovery and high unemployment,
    it should have been an ” F “, yes a failure !!

    So the turmoil within the state with no economic growth, unemployment that
    has been hoovering for years, unfunded liabilities in the billions, so I guess
    now, the ” brain trust ” we have running the state will try and blame all of
    Vermont’s problems on this ” Wuhan Virus “……and not there inept liberal
    thinking process…………….

    Don’t worry Working Vermonter’s, your taxes are needed and more of them,
    wake up, people.

  6. Vermont chose the socialist plan SD WY et all chose the capitalist free market plan, theirs worked
    ours hasn’t stopped hemorrhaging.. on top of it we failed to protect the most vulnerable instead
    making them the most prone to die from it.. I’d say its a total failure on our esteemed clueless
    governing body..

  7. South Dakota’s Governor gets a parade – Phil Scott deserves a party too, complete with tar, feathers and a rail.

    He catered to the caterwauling extremists of the progressive persuasion and shut the entire State down, with absolutely no consideration given to the rural counties. Collective punishment rules the day in Vermont – when Chittenden county suffers, we all must suffer. When Chittenden county recovers, we’ll all suffer some more to fill the budget gaps for Montpelier’s pet projects.

    Baruth, Ashe, Johnson and the rest of the liberal moles will crawl out from under their protective rocks and resume business as usual, with no regard to the pain inflicted on people in counties they simply don’t care about.

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