State Leaders Listened
In Case You Missed It
State Leaders Listened
Vermont business leaders across all industries have demonstrated their ability to creatively adapt over the last several months to conditions no one could have foreseen. However, it was evident from the start of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis that state and federal resources were needed to begin mitigating the staggering economic harm caused by this health crisis. During the 2020 legislative session, Vermont Chamber members and staff, through formal testimony and thousands of individual correspondences, communicated to state leaders the unprecedented circumstances faced by our business community.
Upon adjournment last week, the Vermont Legislature and Scott Administration showed the business community they were listening.
Nearly $300 million in direct economic aid was appropriated to state agencies that administered and will continue to administer distribution to Vermont businesses. This process, though imperfect, was the result of a Herculean effort by state officials who depended on the business community to provide input that shaped key decisions along the way. A combination of this input and close partnerships between the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and economic development committees in the House and Senate was essential to ensuring resources were generated and made accessible. While we applaud our public servants for their important work over the last year and particularly the last seven months, there is no doubt that additional resources are still needed, especially in some of our hardest hit sectors, like lodging and restaurant entities.
In the interim between the Legislature’s adjournment last week and the start of the 2021 session in January, the Vermont Chamber will maintain a constant dialogue with the business community so that we can ensure state leaders are well informed of your developing needs. We will also swiftly update our membership when new information is available related to relief funds. As always, do not hesitate to contact Vermont Chamber staff with any questions or concerns. We look forward to hearing from you!
September Economic Relief
As part of the budget negotiations, the House and Senate resolved their differences and appropriated the remaining $100 million in economic relief funding. Once signed into law by the Governor, an additional $80 million will be disbursed to businesses by the Agency of Commerce in a similar manner as the first round of grants, nearly doubling the first round of funding. In this tranche of grants, there will be fewer restrictions and a higher cap of $300,000. The 50% loss threshold in one month was also removed and replaced with language that requires businesses to demonstrate need from March 1 through December 31, 2020. This should allow more businesses to access more funds and help them survive the pandemic. The budget also includes $17 million in additional relief for recipients of unemployment benefits.
Additionally, the budget appropriates $4 million to the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing to publicize the resumption of activities and steps taken to ensure a safe experience and to encourage visitation and consumer spending. This effort will be coordinated with regional partners to develop and implement marketing strategies that ensure regional and statewide benefits. Ski areas will also receive $2.5 million to make physical improvements to mitigate public health and safety risks due to COVID-19.
The Vermont Chamber called for removing eligibility restrictions and increasing grant funding for businesses that were most severely impacted by mandated operating restrictions related to COVID-19.
June Economic Relief (funds expiring or expired)
S.350, the Legislature’s initial relief bill, provided $70 million to businesses that experienced 75 percent or greater reduction in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Using the framework established in that bill, the Legislature advanced an additional round of funding that directs another $82 million in grants to businesses that suffered a 50 percent or greater reduction in revenue in a monthly or quarterly period from March 1, 2020 to September 1, 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019. The bill further provides $24 million in funding for various business sectors, bringing the total relief in the second round of funding to $106 million as displayed in the table below.
As drafted, the $82 million provided directly to ACCD/DOT for additional emergency economic recovery grants would not be accessible to sole proprietors. Sole proprietors will be able to access some of the remaining funds and programs provided by the bill.
Other notable relief advanced by the Legislature out of the federal CARES Act includes an additional $23 million in S.350 for housing stabilization, $43 million for broadband connectivity and other related initiatives as part of H.966, $52 million in housing and rental assistance (also part of the latest economic relief bill), $327 million for healthcare and human services in H.965 and $35 million in S.351 for the agricultural and forestry industries. Information related to applying for economic relief grant funds can be found here or by visiting the ACCD website.
Of the initial $1.25 billion allocated to the State of Vermont from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, $140 million remains in reserve for undeclared purposes. The Vermont Chamber has advocated for the expeditious advancement of additional, widely accessible relief resources for businesses. In the last two weeks, the Legislature has done just that, however, more relief is needed. In the coming weeks, the Vermont Chamber will continue to advocate for additional funding for businesses to aid in their recovery.
FAQs on Spending Grant Funds
With multiple rounds of State funding for business grants through both the Department of Taxes and the Agency of Commerce, many businesses have reached out to the Vermont Chamber for clarity on the rules for spending these funds. Our President, Betsy Bishop, had a clarifying conversation with the Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Administration who answered the most frequently asked questions regarding spending timelines, tracking, and coordination with federal grants.
- Q: Do I need to spend my grant funds prior to December 31, 2020?
A: No. The application that you submitted proved your loss. The grant is designed to defray that business cost.
- Q: Do I need to track my expenditures from the grant funds?
A: No. The application you submitted proves your loss and is the only documentation needed.
- Q: Am I eligible for state funds if I have received EIDL, PPP, or other federal programs?
A: Yes, but you can’t receive more grant funds, state and federal combined, than your proven loss. The Tax FAQ states, “Your business will be at risk of duplication of benefits if, at the end of 2020, your business’s COVID-19 related total sales losses from March-December of 2020, when compared to March-December of 2019, are less than the total amount of aid your business has received from COVID-19 related federal aid and insurance. This aid includes the Vermont Economic Recovery Grants, forgiven PPP loans, EIDL Advance Grants, business interruption insurance, and any other federal grants or credits grant your business has received related to COVID-19.”
Here are FAQs from the Department of Taxes for even more answers, including how to apply for supplemental grant awards.
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