Two weeks ago, the governor announced a $400 million package to help Vermonters recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. This package is now in the possession of the legislature. It is my hope that it can be worked on and passed in relatively short time. This package is designed to have two phases with $90 million and $310 million respectively.

Before outlining the proposed package, I want to address the federal relief packages that have passed thus far. I think these bi-partisan efforts were extremely well intended. However, they left those most impacted by the pandemic out in the cold. Many small businesses that were forced to shut down may never recover. They didn’t shut down on their own accord. Loans are not that helpful to Main Street businesses that lost months of revenue that they will never recapture. These businesses are owned by our neighbors and they employ our neighbors as well. These businesses are cornerstones of our community.

The first phase of the Governor’s economic recovery package requests $250 million for financial assistance such as Emergency Action Grants, Vermont Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Grand Program and Vermont Restart Loan and Grants. It further asks for $50 million in Housing Assistance in the form of a Rental Housing Stabilization Fund and a Re-Housing Recovery Fund. $5 million dollars would go toward Technical Assistance through Restart Vermont Recovery Guides and an Employee Assistance Program. Another $5 million would go toward Marketing in the form of a Restart, Respect, Rediscover Promotional Marketing Campaign and Regional Marketing and Consumer Stimulus Grants.

$100 million of this money would be part of a Restart Vermont Emergency Action Grants program for Food and Accommodations and Retail Entities that we severely impacted by closure or business disruptions. This would help pay fixed costs that existing federal and state programs so not cover. Payments would be based on a formula utilizing the past three years of revenue.  An additional $80 million would go toward a Vermont Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Grant Program for businesses and non-profits organizations that closed or had significant revenue declines due to Covid-19 including personal services businesses, manufacturers and creative economy businesses among others. Another $20 million would go to help Sole entrepreneurs, microbusinesses and other small businesses with annual gross revenue of less than $1 million and less than 5 employees.

The proposal includes $40 million for a Restart Vermont Dairy Farm Relief Program aimed at helping to cover market losses and extra expenses caused by Covid-19 related business disruptions. This would be done via cash payments based on loss of income and extra costs with maximum grant amounts for 4 size- based tiers- large, medium, certified and small. This would also provide $10 million for a Restart Vermont Dairy Value-Added Processing Program. This would help dairy processors to cover market losses and extra expenses caused by Covid-19 related business disruptions. These grants would be distributed with maximum grant sizes for 6 tiers based on the daily weight of processed milk and a 7th category for frozen desserts.

With many tenants and landlords seeing a reduction of income, the proposal provides $40 million in direct financial assistance to stabilize the rental housing industry and prevent tenants from experiencing eviction and potential homelessness. It would provide up to 3 months of emergency rental assistance and rental arrearage payments to property owners suffering non-payment of rent to eliminate rental arrearages and ensure tenants maintain current housing. Payments would be limited to a maximum of 20 units per owner. Another $8 million would go to help homeless and owners of substandard housing stock. This would be used to make about 250 units of housing available to rehouse families and individuals experiencing homelessness during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Senate and House of Representatives will be working on this proposal. As noted in a previous update, it is my hope that this proposal makes it through the legislative process in a timely manner and with funds being targeted toward those most affected by the pandemic and subsequent shut down.

It continues to be an honor to serve as state representative for the people of Bakersfield, Fairfield and Fletcher. Please contact me at jgregoire@leg.state.vt.us with any questions or concerns.

 

Rep. James Gregoire

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