Monday, April 1, 2013

WVTK Local & State News April 1, 2013

Vermont health officials are looking for volunteers for a study of Eastern equine encephalitis.  The Vermont Department of Health says officials hope to learn more about how prevalent the mosquito-transmitted virus is in Vermont.  Last year, two men, one from Brandon and the other from Sudbury, died in Vermont's first human cases of EEE.  The plan is to draw blood from 150 to 200 volunteers at clinics in Brandon, Whiting and Sudbury.  The first clinic is April 23 in Brandon, with the Sudbury and Whiting clinics set for May 14.  Blood specimens will be sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control for testing, with the results coming back to Vermont for analysis.

The State of Vermont released the rates for the federally-mandated Health Benefits Exchange, Vermont Health Connect, today.  A press release says the plans were structured by levels set by the federal health care law which includes platinum, gold, silver and catastrophic plans.  All health plans offered through Vermont Health Connect will cover visits to the doctor and emergency room, prescriptions, maternity care, and preventive care like cancer screenings and immunizations.

Two regular monthly surveys by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics continue to send mixed signals about Vermont’s employment picture. The survey of employers shows a slow but steady rise in the number of non-farm payroll jobs over the last 12 months. But in the monthly survey of households, fewer Vermonters say they are employed; working either for themselves or someone else.  In February, employers added 1,300 jobs, but 1,000 fewer people said they were working.

The new state budget provides a substantial increase in money allocated for repairing deteriorating local roads and bridges in the Empire State.  Statewide, funding for the state’s 2013-14 CHIPS program is set to increase $75 million to a total of about $438 million.  Funding increases include over $723,000 more or about 24 percent additional for Essex County.  The average statewide increase is 20.7 percent.  The state Senate approved the transportation bill earlier today.

Congressman Peter Welch has announced legislation that he says will make it easier to pay for renewable energy projects in Vermont and around the country.  He says the proposal would expand a financing tool used by the energy sector called master limited partnerships to renewable energy projects.  Currently, those projects are not eligible for that business structure, which is taxed as a partnership but is traded like a corporate stock.

Fletcher Allen Health Care is looking to expand.  The hospital is looking to replace aging buildings on its campus with a new in-patient facility with private rooms.  The plan also calls for a new maternity ward and a research center.  Hospital officials say the plan is in the earliest stages, but initial estimates put the price tag at about $120 million.  The last major expansion at Fletcher Allen was the addition of an ambulatory care center and a parking garage that opened in 2005.