Actions taken by the AG Donovan during the week of May 18 – May 22
Contact: Charity R. Clark, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171
From expunging criminal records to advocating for increased home internet connectivity, the Vermont Attorney General’s Office continues its efforts to promote equal access to economic and educational opportunities. “As Vermont continues on its path to recovery from COVID-19, we must do all that we can to ensure Vermonters have access to jobs, educational opportunities, and sustainable housing,” said Attorney General T.J. Donovan. “I will continue to advocate for Vermonters.” Here are some of the actions taken by the Attorney General’s Office during the week of May 18 to May 22, 2020:
Expunging criminal records for a fresh start
On Friday, May 22, Attorney General Donovan partnered with Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett and Vermont Legal Aid to host a “virtual” expungement clinic. Expungements wipe from your record specific convictions and dismissed charges after a certain period of time has passed. Expungement is a vital tool that, in the face of COVID-19, is needed more than ever to increase access to jobs, housing, and education for Vermonters. Under Vermont law, many misdemeanors, 14 different felony offenses, and all dismissed charges can be expunged. The clinic focused on expunging criminal charges and convictions from Orleans County.
Advocating for increased access to internet connectivity
On Thursday, May 21, Attorney General Donovan joined 38 attorneys general in urging Congress to help ensure that everyone has access to the internet connectivity necessary to participate in telemedicine, online learning, and remote work as part of any additional legislation that provides relief and recovery resources related to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. In the coalition’s letter sent, the attorneys general urge Congress to:
- Provide state, territorial, and local governments with adequate funding to ensure that all students and patients, especially senior citizens who are at risk, have adequate internet-enabled technology to participate equally in online learning and telemedicine.
- Increase funding to the U.S. Federal Communication Commission Universal Service Fund, which provides vital funding to rural and low-income populations, healthcare providers, and educators with the goal of bridging the digital divide.
Supporting the passage of Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act
On Thursday, May 21, Vermont joined a bipartisan coalition of 52 states in sending a letter to Congress to pass S.3607, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act. The Act would permit the families of first responders, who die or are permanently and totally disabled as a result of COVID-19, to receive the same federal benefits extended to first responders, or their survivors, otherwise killed or injured in the line of duty.
Expanding access to federal banking for the cannabis industry
On Tuesday, May 19, Attorney General Donovan joined a bipartisan coalition urging Congress to pass, as part of upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation, the federal Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1595) or similar measures that would give legal cannabis-related businesses access to the federal banking system. Under existing law, federal regulators prohibit financial institutions from providing services to cannabis businesses in states where medical or retail cannabis sales are legal. In their letter to Congress, the coalition argues that the COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on problems that the SAFE Banking Act is intended to remediate, including health and safety concerns stemming from frequent and large cash exchanges.
Standing up for the rights of airline workers
On Tuesday, May 19, Vermont joined a multistate coalition of 19 state attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of paid sick leave for airline flight crew workers, a benefit that is particularly important to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The brief, filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, supports the State of Washington against a challenge by the Air Transport Association of America d/b/a Airlines for America to the state’s paid sick leave law that requires employers to allow workers to take sick leave without fear of discipline. The attorneys general write that Washington’s law advances important public health objectives by allowing flight crew workers who fall ill to fully recuperate before returning to work. This benefit is particularly important in the airline industry because commercial air travel can amplify the rapid spread of infectious disease.