New Economic Development Bill Introduces a Host of New Problems

The Senate economic development bill missed the crossover deadline for bills to move from one chamber to the other. Many of the bill’s proposals have been combined into H.159, which previously passed the House and is now in Senate. While the new language retains several key Vermont Chamber priorities, such as the new relocating employee incentives, the regional recruitment and relocation network, and project-based TIF, it made significant changes to the COVID-19-related paid leave grant program, as well as the VEDA forgivable loans. The COVID-19 paid leave grant program is intended to provide grants to reimburse employers who paid employees for COVID-19 related sick time taken beyond the employee’s accrued sick time. The legislation instructs the Secretary of Administration to adopt procedures and processes to allow employers to certify the amount of paid leave provided for COVID-19 related reasons, and a process to allow employers to report on their use of the grant funds awarded.

The Vermont Chamber has raised concerns about what this certification will entail and how onerous it will be to provide documentation on employee paid time off taken months ago. Certification and documentation have received heavy scrutiny in previous business grant programs and outlining those expectations in statute will be important to ensure business owners are able to easily and appropriately access funds without reprisal in the future.