The Vermont House of Representatives voted unanimously Tuesday to spend state money on supporting Ukrainians who are suffering during Russia’s violent and damaging military invasion of their country.
“The plight of Ukrainians pulls at the heart of every one of us,” said Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Chittenden, discussing a House bill which directs a dollar for each and every Vermonter to be carved out of the state budget to spend on humanitarian aid for war-ravaged Ukraine.
After House passage, the issue will be taken up by the Vermont Senate later this week.
The proposal floated last week by Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, was met with broad support from his party as well as from Democrats and Progressives.
In addition to the $643,077 representing $1 for each Vermonter, the House bill includes funds from the sale of Russian-made liquors during the invasion before those were ordered pulled from state shelves.
The alcohol money and $1 per Vermonter add up to $644,826, according to the text of the House bill, seen below.
"What I think we did here today was send a strong message to Ukrainians that Vermonters have their back," said House Speaker Jill Krowinski, a Democrat from Burlington. "And I’m proud that we were able to each pitch in a dollar to provide them support as they get through this horrible time."
The state aid for Ukraine is also expected to pass the Vermont Senate with blazing speed.
"We want to make a really strong statement of support for Ukraine," said Sen. Becca Balint, D-Windham County, who serves as the influential senate president pro tempore.
Balint said she hopes Vermont’s move inspires larger states to take similar steps.
"I believe that that is the kind of movement that we need at the state level to say, 'We stand strongly with Ukraine,'" Balint said. "And I hope it does start a movement, absolutely."
Down the road from the Vermont State House, Barbara Felitti was at a rally Tuesday calling for peace in Ukraine.
Felitti lived in Ukraine from 2005-2008, she told NECN & NBC10 Boston, working on a democracy-building project. Felitti said she was glad to hear state lawmakers are acting so quickly on funding.
"I think it sends an important message of solidarity," Felitti said. “Anything that can be done that, even if it seems symbolic, is important because people know that they’re not alone."
A spokesperson for Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, said the governor’s office is poring over causes recommended by the U.S. State Department and White House. The administration will direct the money to where the office determines it’ll do the most good in Ukraine, the spokesperson said.