|R-L: Governor Madeleine Kunin and Sascha Mayer, Co-founder and CEO of Mamava, spoke at the VT FaMLI Launch|
MONTPELIER, VT -- A coalition of statewide organizations launched a campaign for a statewide family and medical leave insurance program. The push is for an insurance program to which working Vermonters would contribute and benefit from. This program would allow Vermonters to have access to paid, job-protected leave to bond with or care for a new child, recover from a serious long-term illness or injury, or care for a family member with a serious long-term illness or injury.
Together with the UVM Center for Rural Studies, the Vermont Commission on Women is exploring the feasibility of a family and medical leave insurance program in the state of Vermont. The study is part of a grant by the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Paid family and medical leave is a step toward pay equity, and central to that is the powerful support it brings to families – mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, and everyone who needs to balance caring for themselves and their loved ones with making a living,” said Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women.Read more
Jen Kimmich, Chair and Sue Bette, Vice Chair; Matt Birong named to board
BURLINGTON - During Main Street Alliance of Vermont’s June board meeting, Jen Kimmich of The Alchemist was named as chair of the board and Sue Bette of Bluebird Barbecue was named as Vice Chair. MSA-VT also welcomed Matt Birong of 3 Squares Café in Vergennes as a new board member. The organization is entering its third year in Vermont.
“Our outgoing board chair, Stephanie Hainley, helped get us to where we are. As we round out our second year, we have reason to celebrate -- Vermont’s small businesses have made serious impact on state policies,” said Main Street Alliance of Vermont Director Lindsay DesLauriers. “We are so excited to have these inspiring business owners at the helm of our organization. They each bring their own unique strengths to the table, and their continued involvement and leadership will help us build upon our success as an organization.”
During its first two years, MSA-VT involved Vermont’s small businesses in the legislative process and celebrated some important wins, including ‘Ban The Box’, Automatic Voter Registration, increased market rates for child care, financing for the Dr. Dynasaur expansion study, and, most notably, the new paid sick leave law.
“Main Street Alliance gives small business owners the opportunity to weigh in on important policy discussions. I am excited to help direct this organization as we continue to build on its success,” said Jen Kimmich. “I know firsthand the positive impact policies like paid time off can have on businesses and their employees, and I look forward to continuing to voice this perspective in the legislature and across Vermont.”
Stephanie Hainley, COO of White + Burke and founding board member of MSA-VT, stepped down as chair after serving for two years. She will continue to serve on the board at large.
The legislative session is over, and what a year it has been for Main Street Alliance of Vermont! MSA businesses joined coalitions, testified in the statehouse, and wrote opinion pieces for their local papers - all of these actions helped inform the conversations our legislators were having. You put your name behind issues, and together we moved them forward. The voice of small business was heard in Montpelier this year!
Thank you for your participation this legislative session. Please support MSA today so we can continue this work in the next biennium.
Please find a summary of the issues we worked on and tracked this legislative session below.
MONTPELIER, VT - After days of negotiation, the budget conference committee decided to include financing for a study to explore expanding Vermont’s successful Dr. Dynasaur program to include everyone up through age 26 regardless of family income. The House and Senate approved the budget bill late Friday night.
“This is an important step toward addressing the out of control costs of health care in our state,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, Director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “We believe this study will show a way to find real health care savings for Vermonters and appreciate the work of the legislature and especially the leadership of Speaker Shap Smith and Representative Johnson.”
As Vermonters and Vermont businesses continue to struggle with the rising costs of health coverage in our state, the Dr. Dynasaur 2.0 plan offers a solution: eliminate the need for costly family insurance plans. By expanding upon Vermont's highly acclaimed and widely accepted Dr. Dynasaur program, Dr. Dynasaur 2.0 aims to provide provide health, dental, vision, and mental health care to an additional 120,000 young Vermonters and relieve employers and families of the high costs associated with most family health plans.
“In the decades I have been doing business in Vermont, I have witnessed health care costs skyrocket. For businesses like Main Street Landing that offer insurance, the high cost is taking a huge toll, and for people who don’t have employer sponsored health insurance, that toll is becoming a roadblock,” Melinda Moulton, founder and CEO of Main Street Landing, penned in an opinion editorial earlier this year.
The results of the study will examine the tax and public health implications of expanding Dr. Dynasaur, so that legislators may decide whether to move forward with the plan in the next legislative session.Read more
MONTPELIER, VT – This afternoon, Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill to ‘Ban the Box’ on employment applications. This new law will require employers to delay inquiring about criminal history until after their other qualifications have been assessed. Banning the box that asks about criminal history on an initial application form gives those with a criminal conviction a fair shot at employment.
“When the legislature began considering a bill to ‘Ban the Box,’ there was no shortage of interest and involvement from small
business owners,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, Director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “We were happy to work with a great coalition of organizations on this issue, including Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility and the Governor’s Council on Pathways from Poverty.”
Sue Bette, owner of Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington, testified during committee hearings and gave a voice to business owners who support fair chance hiring practices.
“During my seven years of owning a business in Vermont, I have employed community members who have a criminal record. In working with these individuals, I have witnessed the difficulties of recovering from this past. I have seen the challenges of balancing a healthy recovery, managing work, life, finances, and family obligations,” said Bette during her testimony to the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs. “I believe that this policy change will assist in creating a path to success for those who have served their sentence and have earned an opportunity for recovery and to pursue new dreams.”Read more
MONTPELIER, VT - Today, Vermont became the fourth state with a secure automatic voter registration process on its books. The new law modernizes Vermont’s current voter registration system by automatically registering eligible Vermonters when they apply for or renew their driver’s license or other state-issued I.D.
Jaquelyn Reike, owner of Nutty Steph’s in Middlesex and member of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont, spoke at the bill signing. She said, “This new law will protect the right of every eligible voter in Vermont – be they Democrat, Republican, Progressive, or Independent – to have their voice heard and their vote counted.”
BAN THE BOX
On Thursday, the House voted to concur with Senate amendments to H. 261, the "Ban the Box" bill. It is now headed to the Governor's desk, where he is expected to sign it into law. The bill delays when employers are able to request criminal conviction history information from job applicants. Employers will not be permitted to ask the applicant on an initial application but can ask, if they choose, on subsequent applications or in an interview. The goal of this bill is to allow all Vermonters equal access to employment regardless of criminal history.
Several MSA-VT members testified and shared stories about why they supported this legislation. Big thank you to Sue Bette from Bluebird Barbecue, Jason Aprea from BBetter Inc, Matt Birong from 3 Squares Cafe, and Angela Earle-Gray from Chroma Technology. If you'd like to read their testimonies, click here.
On Friday, the Senate Committee on Appropriations voted the FY 2017 Budget out of committee without appropriating funding for the study to expand Dr. Dynasaur. However, the study was added to Sec. 20 of H.812, which passed out of the Senate Committee on Health & Welfare and has been committed to Senate Appropriations. Financing the Dr. Dynasaur study is a modest first step toward addressing the health care affordability crisis in our state. We will continue to advocate for inclusion of this important analysis as the session draws to a close over the next couple weeks.
Main Street Alliance of Vermont applauds the legislature for passing H.261, legislation that will require employers to delay inquiring about criminal history until after their other qualifications have been assessed. Banning the box that asks about criminal history on an initial application form gives those with a criminal conviction a fair shot at employment.
“Once a sentence has been served, there is no need to create a ‘life sentence’ that prevents future growth and opportunity,” said Sue Bette, owner of Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington and a member of the Main Street Alliance Board. “I believe that in order to create a strong, vibrant, and healthy Vermont community it is necessary to create a path toward success for this population so they can again contribute to our economy and rebuild their lives in a healthy and constructive way.”
Other MSA-VT members who voiced their support for the legislation include, Matt Birong, Owner of 3 Squares Café in Vergennes, Angela Earle-Gray, HR Director at Chroma Technology in Bellows Falls, and Jason Aprea,Co-Owner of BBetter Inc. in Brattleboro.
“The support for this legislation in Vermont has been inspiring,” said Ashley Moore, Business Outreach Manager for MSA-VT. “One member in particular shared a story about his decision to start a business with his wife because his criminal record prevented him from getting a job post-incarceration.”
The bill passed the Senate by unanimous voice vote, and it passed the House on a voice vote. It will now go on to Governor Peter Shumlin. He is expected to sign the bill into law.
Main Street Alliance of Vermont is a statewide non profit organization that works with small business owners on public policy issues that are good for business, their employees, and the communities they serve.
BURLINGTON, VT - The Main Street Alliance of Vermont is thrilled to welcome business owner Nicole Grenier of Stowe Street Cafe in Waterbury to our State Board.
Nicole Grenier has worked in mental health for over 18 years and recently embarked on a new adventure as the owner of Stowe Street Cafe in Waterbury, where she continues her commitment to building community and advocating for issues affecting Vermont children and families.
“I am thrilled to be joining MSA-VT’s board. As a new business owner, it’s great to be a part of an organization that gives small business owners a voice on issues I cared about before entering this new role,” said Grenier.
“Nicole is a natural fit for our board. She has experience engaging in many of the issues we care about and we are excited to add her wealth of knowledge and experience to our team,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, State Director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont.
Main Street Alliance Releases Paid Sick Days Implementation Resources for Vermont Businesses
MONTPELIER, VT - With Governor Peter Shumlin’s signature on the Healthy Workplaces bill today, The Main Street Alliance of Vermont launched an informational webpage for businesses to use as a resource and to ensure they are in compliance with the new law. The page includes pertinent information for businesses, a series of frequently asked questions, links to research on paid leave laws in other states, and contact information for businesses to use should they have additional questions.
“We want this page to be a go-to for Vermont businesses as they consider their own leave policies, and we hope it will help bring businesses into compliance with the new law,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, Director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “We welcome additional questions from business owners and plan to update and add to our page as the new law rolls out.”
The page, which can be found at vermont.mainstreetalliance.org/psd, primarily contains information for employers. However, it will also link to information that will be useful for employees.
“Offering paid time off to our employees was one of the best business decisions we’ve ever made,” said Eliza Cain, owner of Red Hen Baking Co. and longtime supporter of the legislation. “I believe that businesses who have remaining concerns about this new law will begin to see its benefits.”
Over the past few years, Main Street Alliance has worked to engage businesses across the state in conversation around earned leave, and in the years of debate and compromise, business owners have come around in support of the bill. One such business owner, Caleb Magoon, owner of PowerPlay Sports in Morrisville and Waterbury Sports, spoke at the bill signing.
“Initially, I was not a supporter of mandating paid sick leave, but today, I truly believe it’s one of the best benefits you can give,” said Magoon. “Because businesses were invited to the table to engage on this issue, we ended up with a policy that is good for employees and addresses the needs and concerns of Vermont’s small business owners.”
“This morning, the building is filled with early childhood educators who are ecstatic about the paid sick days bill because they know that without paid sick days parents will be forced send their kids to childcare and school sick,” said Representative Helen Head, who chairs the House committee that worked on the bill and who was the original sponsor of the first paid sick days bill introduced in Vermont roughly a decade ago.
Vermont is the fifth state to pass an earned leave law.