On June 26th, the legislature appropriated $96,000,000 to support the economic recovery of Vermont’s business sector through bill H.966
A chart summarizing all of the bills can be found here. The column marked “Senate” represents the final language. Note this chart also includes the proposals from the House and the Governor, which were not enacted into law.
For the purposes of H.966, the economic hardship suffered by a business has been reduced to a threshold of 50%. In that a business must show that they have experienced a 50% or greater loss in a one month period between March 1st, 2020 and August 31st, 2020 to be eligible. If your business files Rooms and Meals or Sales and Use taxes, your grant will be administered by the Department of Tax. If your business does not file Rooms and Meals or Sales and Use, your grant will be administered through the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
The amount of Economic Recovery Grants administered by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and the Department of Taxes will be derived by the following formula:
- Indicated/reported gross annual revenue (or annual combined total sales as reported on meals and rooms or sales and use tax returns) multiplied by 10 percent
- The maximum grant ceiling amount is $50,000
More information can be found at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) website.
Applications will be available starting on Monday, July 6th, 2020.
Here are the following allocations of H.966:
- $56,000,000 was appropriated to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and $26,000,000 Department of Taxes to further support businesses who have suffered due to COVID-19 as was enacted in Act 115 on July 19th.
- $2.5 Million was appropriated to ACCD to administer grants for the Working Lands Enterprise Fund. These businesses are within the agricultural, food and forest, and wood products industries and can be used for economic loss or to assist a business in adapting its products to changes in available markets or supply chains that are caused by the COVID-19, provided that such assistance is clearly necessary to ensure the continued viability of the business due to COVID-19.
- $5 Million has been appropriated to ACCD to grant to the Vermont Community Loan Fund, working in collaboration with the Vermont Commission on Women. This program will provide grants to businesses that have from zero to five employees and are at least 51% woman-owned or at least 51% minority-owned.
$1.5 Million was appropriated to the Agency of Natural Resources for grants to outdoor recreation businesses for costs or expenses necessary to comply with or implement COVID-19 public health precautions, including:
- cleaning, disinfection, and personal protection services and equipment;
- symptom monitoring or diagnosis for customers or participants;
- signage or informational material concerning public health precautions;
- temporary staff housing necessary to maintain public health precautions; and
- maintenance or repair of trails where damage is caused by increased usage during the declared COVID-19 public health emergency
- $5 Million has been appropriated to ACCD to grant to the Vermont Arts Council for grants to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.
$2,500,000 to the Department of Tourism and Marketing to create a Restart Vermont marketing program to encourage visitation and consumer spending in Vermont to support businesses that have suffered economic harm due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. This program will be tasked with developing the following:
- Marketing activities to promote travel to and within Vermont to increase consumer spending at tourism, hospitality, retail, and related businesses
- A statewide or regional consumer stimulus programs or consumer purchasing incentives that maximize the effect of local consumer spending, including at restaurants, lodging establishments, retail stores, and tourism attractions.
- The Department shall investigate the feasibility of establishing a consumer incentive program to provide to front-line workers who receive hazard pay through the Front-Line Employees Hazard Pay Grant Program with meaningful discounts or other incentives by and at participating Vermont restaurants and to promote restaurants participating in the program through distinctive signage and other means
$2,500,000.00 to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to create a Restart Vermont business assistance program, through which the Agency shall make available to businesses, professional and technical assistance through qualified Recovery Navigators, whose services will include:
- business operations, financial management, and grant writing;
- digital strategies;
- architecture and physical space design;
- reconfiguring manufacturing equipment and processes and incorporating safety measures;
- technology and software consulting; and
- legal and other professional services.
- $5,000,000.00 to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to grant to Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA)to act as fiscal agent for a statewide program: Restaurants and Farmers Feeding the Hungry. This program is to provide assistance to Vermonters who are food insecure due to the COVID-19 public health emergency by engaging Vermont restaurants that have suffered economic harm due to the COVID-19 public health emergency to prepare meals using foodstuffs purchased from Vermont farms and food producers.
FYI: It is important to note that there is a prohibition on multiple sources of funding. A business may not receive a grant of Coronavirus Relief Fund monies from more than one source, except that a business in the dairy sector may apply for a grant under the Working Lands Enterprise Fund provided that the award is not for the same purpose covered under other assistance from the Fund. The Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the Department of Taxes, and entities that administer funds appropriated will provide businesses with guidance and support to help identify the appropriate programs for which the business may be eligible for a grant and other assistance.
On Tuesday, members of Main Street Alliance of Vermont had the opportunity to speak with Congressman, Peter Welch. After outlining the packages that have been created in Washington, the Congressman answered questions from our members and heard stories of the enormous impact that this pandemic is taking on businesses and what our needs continue to be. We thank Congressman Welch for this time and for all that he is doing on behalf of our state in Washington.
To listen to the call - CLICK HERE
On March 16th, over 100 businesses came together to discuss COVID-19 with legislators from Lamoille and Washington County.
Watch a recording of this session here.
We will continue to bring you the best information that we can from the state and share your stories and experience with those in the legislature.
A few resources that are helpful during this time:
As shared in our membership email - Main Street Alliance is working to advocate at a national level on behalf of small businesses. Stories are being collected here at https://www.smallbizcovid19.com/ We will have access to all of the stories collected and be sure that our lawmakers have access to all Vermont stories so that your voice is represented in Montpelier.
The Department of Labor Website with FAQ's related to COVID-19: https://labor.vermont.gov/covid19/covid-19-frequently-asked-questions
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development is asking businesses effected by COVID-19 to share their stories with them at firstname.lastname@example.org and their website is: https://accd.vermont.gov/about-us/disaster-planning/covid-19-guidance-vermont-businesses
Additionally, as it relates to unemployment insurance. We are hearing that it's is important to just keep calling in order to get through. Once you are able to connect, the support staff is incredibly helpful to walk you through the process. Additionally, we have learned that if you are a business owner and must layoff more than 10 employees during this experience, that you must go through a mass layoff process as outlined here: https://labor.vermont.gov/unemployment-insurance/ui-employers/mass-layoff
Statement in Response to Governor Scott’s Call for Opt-In Paid Family & Medical Leave
“A strong, universal paid family and medical leave insurance program is a key part of building a Vermont that works for all of us.
“Governor Phil Scott’s proposed opt-in program is not a viable approach. Without a universal insurance pool, the program will become cost-prohibitive for Vermonters and small businesses. Thankfully, the Vermont House and Senate are committed to moving forward a strong bill this year that guarantees every Vermonter will have access to paid family and medical leave.
“Our broad coalition representing Vermonters of all ages, small businesses, labor, public health professionals, and many others, is committed to working with the legislature to pass a strong bill that provides all Vermonters up to 12 weeks of paid leave to welcome a new child, recover from illness or injury, or care for a family member.
“A strong, universal paid family and medical leave insurance program will help ensure that our families and communities are healthy. Providing Vermonters with the ability to take time to care for themselves and their loved ones will support people when they need it most and build a foundation for future generations to thrive.
“A strong, universal paid family and medical leave insurance program is part of building a stronger small business economy and a healthy workforce. This program will help attract more young professionals to the state, encourage young people and families to stay in Vermont, and level the playing field for small businesses.
“We are looking forward to working with the Vermont Legislature this year to pass a strong bill that provides access to paid family and medical leave for every Vermonter.
American Association of Retired Persons - Vermont (AARP-VT)
American Federation of Teachers - Vermont (AFT)
Community of Vermont Elders (COVE)
Justice for All
Main Street Alliance of Vermont (MSA-VT)
Parent Child Center Network
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE)
Public Assets Institute
Rights & Democracy (RAD)
Voices for Vermont’s Children
Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance (VECAA)
Vermont Interfaith Action (VIA)
Vermont Legal Aid
Vermont National Association of Educators (VT-NEA)
Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA)
Sivan Cotel is the Co-Founder of Stonecutter Spirits in Middlebury and Highball Social in Burlington. He is on the Board of Main Street Alliance of Vermont, a statewide network of small business owners.
*Originally published in the Addison Independent
This upcoming legislation session, Vermont lawmakers will again have the opportunity to create statewide policy that will benefit everyday, working Vermonters, as well as the many small businesses who employ them. Thanks to the strong work of the House and Senate this past legislative session, paid family and medical leave insurance nearly became law. Over the summer and fall, the call for this policy from workers and businesses alike has only grown stronger, and the legislature is primed to move forward.
As a small business owner in Vermont, the passage of a strong paid family leave bill is my priority this year. A statewide paid family leave program will allow all small businesses in Vermont to offer this important benefit, and increase the competitiveness of the state’s small businesses to attract and retain talented workers. I know from experience: we’ve offered paid family leave at Stonecutter Spirits since day one, and we’ve found it to be an important benefit and a strong recruiting tool. By passing paid family leave statewide, we can differentiate Vermont while growing in thoughtful and meaningful ways.
Over 90% of working Vermonters are employed by small businesses. We are proud to be a small-business state, we will likely always be a small-business state, and that can be a unique strength. It also comes with challenges in how we think about the nature of employment, and we need to address these challenges with smart policies that help workers and small businesses thrive together. We need policies like paid family and medical leave insurance to lead the way.
Vermont is also leading the charge, nationally, in reforming healthcare with forward-looking payment models that emphasize successful health outcomes rather than the amount of health services performed. Paid family leave benefits have been shown to improve short-term and long-term health outcomes for newborns. By introduced a statewide benefit, we’ll be improving the lives of everyday Vermonters while also positioning them for longer-term success.
All of us in Vermont, regardless of political affiliation, generally share the same goals: we want to grow our local economy and keep our families and communities healthy and thriving. Many small business owners want to offer paid family leave to their employees, but can’t on their own. A statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program will eliminate this dilemma across Vermont, protecting our citizens and improving our local economy.
We can’t solve these issues if we fail to act, or if we act with half measures like New Hampshire’s proposed opt-in system. These so called “voluntary” proposals are doomed to fail from the start, and therefore don’t offer what small businesses and working families need.
The statewide creation of a family leave program will support workers, while helping level the playing field for small businesses and entrepreneurs as we start and grow our businesses. We all have a stake in ensuring that our next generation has a bright future. This policy will help us achieve our common goals and ensure future generations can thrive.
In 2017, MSA-VT brought together small business owners throughout the state to support and help pass Act 69, which directed the state to create the Green Mountain Secure Retirement Program, an initiative spearheaded by Treasurer Pearce. The implementation date for this program is set for January 15, 2019.
This voluntary program will provide employees of small businesses - and small business owners themselves - with access to a secure statewide public retirement plan. It will be available to small employers (those who employ 50 or fewer employees) who don’t currently offer a retirement plan.Read more
Moving Healthcare Forward for Everyone
Terry Culver is the owner of Last Time Around Antiques in Barre.
I have been selling antiques for 29 years, and my wife and I opened our own shop, Last Time Around Antiques, in downtown Barre in 2004. I also worked at the granite quarry for many years which provided me with health insurance during this time. After retiring from the quarry, I began working full-time at the shop and now have insurance through my wife’s employer.
Many small business owners in Vermont find themselves in a similar situation, accessing health insurance through a spouse’s plan with a larger employer or through Medicaid, Medicare or the healthcare exchange. Some do not have insurance at all. They cannot afford to provide healthcare benefits as a small business owner which puts them at a disadvantage when hiring and retaining employees.
Small business owners are invested in their employees and care about the health and wellbeing of people in their communities. We need to find a way to improve our healthcare system and move toward a universal plan that supports our small businesses and provides quality, equitable care to everyone.
Like many people who have insurance, my wife and I have a high deductible plan and pay a significant amount in out-of-pocket expenses each year. My medication was unaffordable at $10.50 for one pill at the time it was prescribed, which would have cost me $1,280 for a 122 pill prescription. And if the Trump Administration succeeds in removing the protection for people with pre-existing conditions, my wife could be one of the more than 260,000 Vermonters to be affected by this change.
My wife had breast cancer two years ago. Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could deny coverage for many illnesses including cancer, diabetes and arthritis and also conditions that we wouldn’t consider to be illnesses like pregnancy. If we were uninsured when my wife was diagnosed with cancer, we wouldn’t have been able to afford the $100,000 treatment costs each year.
I agree that improvements need to be made to our current healthcare system to make premiums more affordable, but the protections that the ACA provides to many people are a step in the right direction. The Trump Administration’s recent attempt to remove the protection for people with pre-existing conditions alone would directly affect more than 130 million people in the United States who suffer from an ongoing or recent illness or condition.
Do we want to go back to a time when people were uninsured and insurance companies could deny coverage or increase premiums and deductibles for those who are sick and need care? With more money going to insurance companies and less money in our local economies, all of us will be affected. I know healthcare costs are high right now, but what if everyone in your family was denied coverage for a pre-existing condition? Imagine how much that would cost. For me, even though it is difficult to pay $5,000 each year toward a deductible, I wouldn’t be able to pay $100,000 for cancer treatment. It’s not perfect, but I don’t want to go back. We must build on what’s working, and continue to progress for the health of future generations.
The Main Street Alliance of Vermont (MSA-VT) announced today that Ashley Moore has been named State Director.
MSA-VT was founded in 2014 to elevate the voices of small business owners on important public policy issues in Vermont. Moore has been with MSA-VT since its founding, and during that time was responsible for managing the organization’s policy initiatives and conducting outreach to the small business community statewide. She has been serving as the organization’s Interim State Director since March. Moore succeeds MSA-VT founder and former State Director, Lindsay DesLauriers, who stepped down from the position to take a leadership role at her family's business, Bolton Valley Resort.Read more