Letter to Gov. Scott regarding H.196

Dear Governor Scott,

We, the undersigned, serve on the State Board, Leadership Committee, and Advisory Council of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont. We are writing to express our support for H.196, Vermont’s family leave insurance program, and to ask you to approve our state legislature’s passage of this bill, which will help grow a healthy Vermont economy.

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Sivan Cotel joins the Main Street Alliance of Vermont State Board

Stonecutter Spirits co-founder becomes organization's ninth board member

SivanCotel.jpgMain Street Alliance of Vermont (MSA-VT) announced the appointment of Sivan Cotel, Co-Founder and Director of Operations of Stonecutter Spirits in Middlebury, to the organization’s State Board.

Cotel previously served on MSA-VT’s Leadership Committee and has testified at the Statehouse in support of family and medical leave insurance and Green Mountain Secure Retirement. He brings a breadth of experience in business and financial planning to the board, where he will continue to support the organization’s focus on building Vermont’s small business economy.

“Small businesses are part of Vermont’s fabric,” Cotel said. “Working together helps all of us, and Main Street Alliance is connecting Vermont’s small business owners into conversations that will help our communities and economy flourish. Creating an environment where small businesses and their employees can thrive together is critical to the future of our state.”

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Main Street Alliance of Vermont hires new communications associate

Main Street Alliance of Vermont (MSA-VT) announced Wednesday that Kyle Martel has joined the organization as they continue to elevate the voices of small business owners on important public policy issues in Vermont.

Martel steps into the communications associate role at MSA-VT with nearly a decade of experience working in the Vermont media and political landscape. His background is in public affairs, journalism, graphic design and web development. 

“I’m incredibly excited to become part of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont team,” Martel said. “This organization has done impressive work over the last few years, working with small business owners to support the Paid Sick Days Bill and Green Mountain Secure Retirement as well as Ban the Box, Automatic Voter Registration and Pregnancy Accommodation. I look forward to working with Vermont’s small business owners on issues like family and medical leave insurance, which will help grow the Vermont economy and build healthier communities across the state.”

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House Passes Family Leave Insurance Proposal, Support for Vermont Small Businesses and Families

“Vermont is a small business state. With its final approval of H.196, the Vermont House is making a strong statement about their commitment to supporting small businesses and their employees.

“Main Street Alliance of Vermont represents some of Vermont’s smallest employers, many of whom cannot afford to provide paid family leave on their own. A statewide family leave insurance program will make it possible for all Vermont employers to provide a paid family leave benefit, regardless of their size. The vote today is a positive first step toward stronger small businesses, healthier families, and a better future for our state.

“The bill, as passed by the House, covers 80 percent wage replacement for up to six weeks of caregiving leave, which will allow new parents to welcome a child and ensure Vermonters are able to take the time they need to care for a sick or injured family member. The Vermont House decided to delay consideration of the Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) component of the original bill that would have provided wage replacement for one’s own seriously illness or injury.

“By comparison, the four other states that have existing family leave insurance programs also cover between between 26 and 52 weeks of leave for one’s own personal illness or injury.  While we strongly support the bill as it passed in the House, we also look forward to continued consideration of TDI next year in the House and Senate.  

“Ninety percent of Vermont employers have fewer than 20 employees. A statewide family and medical leave insurance program will help small businesses be more competitive employers, which will grow and strengthen Vermont’s economy and attract more young people and families to move to and stay in Vermont.

“Vermont’s family leave insurance proposal passed the House with tri-partisan support and was the result of a positive collaborative process. Main Street Alliance of Vermont appreciates the work of the House this year and looks forward the Senate’s consideration of the issue in January.”



Matt Birong: Why Does Tax Day Feel Like Groundhog Day?

Who doesn't love the Bill Murray classic “Groundhog Day”?  The movie portrays the irreverent shenanigans of a man bumbling his way through the same life event stuck on repeat.  He tries desperately over and over, but no matter what he does to change the outcome, he awakes the following morning to the frustration that he must do it again.  So, in vain he attempts to change the ludicrous outcome time and time again. Sounds like tax day to me!

Today, only $1 out of $9 of federal revenue comes from corporate taxes. Sixty-five years ago, it was $1 out of $3.  This is especially troubling given Donald Trump’s proposal to slash corporate tax rates by nearly 60 percent -- a move that would cost $2.6 trillion over 10 years in lost revenue.  And now, with the failed Affordable Care Act repeal at their feet, Republicans will try harder than ever to push through “tax reform” and “deliver,” as promised, relief for primarily the wealthiest Americans.  Trump and his allies, with their questionable motives and self-serving goals, have made their intentions clear, and this Tax Day, we need to make sure we are all paying attention.

As a small business owner, I recognize that paying my fair share of taxes to local, state and federal governments is my responsibility and a part of doing business.  I know that my tax dollars fund important investments at the local, state, and federal level.  Many small business owners across the country proudly pay their fair share of taxes, while large and multinational corporations use tax loopholes to shelter their profits outside the US, depressing the very system and economy they benefit from. But the absurdity doesn’t end there: most of what they're doing is actually legal.

Last year, around Tax Day, the “Panama Papers” exposed international off-shoring and tax avoidance at a scale few believed existed and with political figures at the highest levels of government.  Some of the same institutions involved in this scandal were also major players in the U.S. financial collapse of 2008.  Yet, since then, conversation has faded, and little has changed.

We need a tax code that levels the playing field between small and large employers and ensures that businesses of all sizes pay their fair share.  However, I have little to no hope that this Congress and President will enact meaningful reform that will benefit small business and the working class.  So, in the meantime, I look to my state legislature to move smart, state-level policies forward.

One such proposal moving in Vermont’s legislature that would help level the playing field for small businesses is family and medical leave insurance.

I own a small business, and my modest bottom line doesn’t allow me to make choices about whether to provide paid family and medical leave.  I am pleased to see the House taking the proposal to create a family and medical leave insurance pool seriously.

Vermont is a small business state, and without smart public policy, like family and medical leave insurance, it is next to impossible for small businesses to compete with larger businesses for employees that are committed and hardworking.  It’s no secret that, as a state, we are having difficulties attracting and retaining talented workers.  I’ve had conversations with many people who want to stay or come here to build their lives, but one of the biggest challenges for them is finding a job with generous enough benefits packages to sustain their families.  With 80 percent of Vermont’s employers having 10 or less employees and many of these businesses operating with razor thin margins, it's impossible for them to offer a benefit like paid family and medical leave on their own.  I see the implementation of this program as a vital tool for the cultivation and success of Vermont's future economy.

It’s time to consider: “What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was the same, and nothing you did mattered?”

Even Bill Murray's character knew that in order to solve the problem he needed to become more creative in his approach.  We must realize that the status quo is not working, and we, as a society, need to rethink our approach.  While we wait for a shake up at the the federal level that will allow our leaders to take tax reform seriously, we must continue driving proposals like family and medical leave insurance forward in our state.  It will not be an easy task, but desperation spawns ingenuity, and I know we are up to the challenge.

Statement on Employee-Default Funding for Vermont's Family and Medical Leave Insurance Proposal

"Main Street Alliance of Vermont strongly supports the creation of a statewide family and medical leave insurance program. Without a statewide insurance pool, most of Vermont’s small businesses will remain unable to provide paid family or medical leave to their employees. Similarly, few working Vermonters can afford to take sufficient unpaid leave to welcome a new child, care for a loved one, or respond to their own health emergencies without severe financial consequences.

"As originally proposed by H.196, Main Street Alliance of Vermont supports 12 weeks of 100 percent wage replacement up to a cap of $1,040 per week, financed through a .93 percent payroll deduction shared between the employer and the employee. The House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs amended the financing mechanism before moving the bill so that the full deduction would come from the employee by default, with an option for the employer to cover all or part of the deduction.

"This year, the House Appropriations Committee was tasked with closing a $72 million budget gap, without the ability to raise revenue. As a result, many programs that serve the most vulnerable Vermonters are exposed to cuts and underfunding. Because Vermont State Employees do not currently have access to paid family and medical leave, the original shared financing proposal would have cost the state approximately $2.7 million annually. While Main Street Alliance of Vermont strongly supports a shared financing model, we believe that working families cannot wait for the security and support that a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program will ensure.

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Main Street Alliance of Vermont and Rights and Democracy Release Report Detailing the High Cost of ACA Repeal for Vermont

BURLINGTON, VT – Main Street Alliance of Vermont (MSA-VT) and Rights and Democracy (RAD) announce the release of a new Health Care for America Now (HCAN) report that details the impact of dismantling the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on individuals, small businesses and Vermont’s economy. A Cost Too High: The Financial Harm of the Republican Plan to Eliminate Health Care is evidence that proposals to repeal the ACA put Vermonters’ health and economic security at risk.

In Vermont, 35,000 people depend on the ACA for their health care. Repeal takes away coverage from these people and does away with provisions that protect patients with pre-existing conditions from being denied or charged more for coverage. Repeal could also end coverage for young adults who elect to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26 and eliminate no-cost preventive care for people of all ages.

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In wake of Trump’s promise to repeal ACA and cut Medicaid dollars, MSA-VT small business owners call for a health care system that works for all

Republicans in Congress and President-elect Trump have declared a plan to rush through legislation that would take away health care from more than 30 million people. If the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed without a replacement, it is estimated that 35,000 Vermonters will lose their health insurance.

“Our current health care system isn’t perfect, but rather than focus on strengthening the coverage, the Republican plan would do just the opposite: it rolls back the most important protections,” said Jen Kimmich, co-owner of The Alchemist and chair of the Board of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “The Republican plan returns us to the bad old days when small business owners paid more for less coverage, got charged twice as much in administrative costs as larger groups, and small businesses had no leverage and no real choices. Small businesses will be vulnerable to continued price gouging by health insurers, and retain no bargaining power, risk pooling, or benefits of economies of scale.”

Vermont has demonstrated, through the success of programs like Dr. Dynasaur and Catamount, that putting the health of families and individuals first has serious positive impacts on overall health of our communities and the strength of our state.

“We’ve done this by working together, across party lines, to do what is right,” said Kimmich.

In Vermont, nearly 13,300 people have enrolled in Medicaid since 2013. This increased coverage for lower-income adults is largely due to dollars made available through medicaid expansion. Trump and his Republican allies in Congress plan to eliminate Medicaid expansion that has made this coverage possible.

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Nutty Steph’s and Main Street Alliance of Vermont Raise a Family (Bar)

Chocolate-Bars_family.jpg Chocolate-Bar_Case-Family.jpg


MIDDLESEX, VT -- Nutty Steph's, the Vermont chocolate and granola company that brought you the “Bernie Bar” and the “Pride Bar,” is partnering with Main Street Alliance of Vermont to offer the “Family Bar.” This chocolate bar is meant to raise awareness about the need for protected, paid family and medical leave so working Americans have the means to balance their jobs and lives.

A portion of the proceeds from sales of the chocolate bar will support MSA-VT's work on the Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance (VT FaMLI) Campaign – which launched in October. VT FaMLI is calling for 12 weeks of paid, job protected leave for all working Vermonters through the creation of a statewide family and medical leave insurance program – like those in RI, NJ, CA, and soon NY. A family and medical leave insurance program is a support for small business as much as it is for employees.

“On a moral level, this initiative is just something that I support – new mothers should be able to bond with their babies, we should be encouraging breastfeeding and promoting the health of Vermont’s future generations and new parents. It is absurd that we, as a country, are so far behind the rest of the world,” said Jaquelyn Rieke, owner of Nutty Steph’s. “As a small business owner, though, there is another layer to this for me. This is a benefit that I would love to be able to offer to my employees, but I just can’t cover the costs associated with private plans. If Vermont implements a statewide insurance plan, it will be an enormous support to me and other small employers like me who have to compete with bigger businesses for employees.”


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MSA-VT Recognizes Business and Legislators of the Year


Stowe, VT – Main Street Alliance of Vermont held their year end celebration at the Alchemist Brewery on Sunday night where they awarded, Stephanie Hainely, COO of White + Burke, its 2016 Business of the Year award, and Speaker Shap Smith and Senator Philip Baruth were recognized as Legislators of the Year in a Year-End Celebration hosted by The Alchemist.

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