A message from VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns

We’re an organization proud of our defense of facts and good policy, and deeply committed to protecting the public interest.

So, what does that look like in these uncertain times?

When it comes to COVID-19, facts and good policy are evolving rapidly, but what is clear is that in order to protect the public interest, we share a responsibility to take immediate and significant measures to slow the spread of the virus. 

To protect the welfare of our staff, allies, and communities, we are:

  • Transitioning all staff to work from home;
  • Conducting meetings via telephone or video conferencing;
  • Prohibiting all business travel;
  • Reevaluating the ways in which we connect and communicate with our members and supporters; and
  • Considering the impacts this may have on our annual door-to-door summer canvass. We believe strongly in the value of face-to-face democracy, and we will be basing our decision-making around that on public health advice and with the safety of our canvassers, members and public as our number one priority.

While COVID-19 is changing the way we do work, rest assured that our work is not stopping.

Although the trajectory of the coming days, weeks, and months is uncertain, this outbreak will pass. And when it does, pressing problems like the climate crisis, plastic pollution, and the harmful impacts of big money in politics will still be with us.

Further – we’re all seeing how necessary and critical many of the policies we’ve fought for are in times like this – policies like universal, affordable health care, paid family and medical leave, energy and telecommunications resiliency measures and affordable high-speed internet for all. And while we wish we’d made even more progress on many of these policies, this current crisis demonstrates the necessity for a government that puts public health and safety ahead of big money special interests.

We entered this legislative session with a long and ambitious list of priorities. Although Vermont legislative leaders announced today that they have made the wise choice to recess temporarily, we remain hopeful that the legislative session will be able to resume — and when it does, we’ll be ready and waiting to continue fighting for bold legislation to better protect Vermont’s people and natural environment. 

And though upcoming rallies, lobby days, and community events will be impacted, we are committed to finding new opportunities for our members and supporters to continue to take action on the many pressing issues facing Vermonters today. In the days ahead, we will be exploring a range of possibilities, including:

  • More frequent webinars and online trainings for our members and supporters;
  • Opportunities for virtual lobbying, including recording video testimony; and
  • Remote volunteer opportunities, including virtual phone banking on key issues.

It’s fair to say that we’re entering uncharted territory, and creativity and outside-the-box thinking will be required. With that in mind, we’d love to hear from you on how we can best continue to advance our work. So, if you have any great ideas, please hit “reply” to share them with us!

I’ll also note that we want to be a resource during this time. We are not public health officials. We do, of course, recommend that our members listen to public health officials and follow the guidance of experts as that information is made available. The Vermont Department of Health and the World Health Organization are good places to start.

But VPIRG can offer a network of 50,000+ Vermonters who are deeply committed to the health and well-being of our communities. If there are efforts underway to help those impacted by this crisis, VPIRG has the potential to be a conduit for that information, especially during what may be a time of extended isolation. We welcome you to share information about any resources being developed in your communities.

I’ll end by saying that the uncertainty that so many people, businesses and organizations face right now is frightening. Here at VPIRG we’re not immune, but the incredible support of our large grassroots membership is what ensures we can keep fighting the good fight – even if it’s from behind a computer rather than in the State House.

So, thank you again from all of us here at VPIRG.

Stay healthy, and we’ll be in touch with more updates soon.

Paul Burns
Executive Director

UPDATE: Click here to learn about how our priorities are shifting in response to COVID-19.