That’s a wrap! Lawmakers closed out the year last Thursday, May 12th, after settling a more than $8 Billion budget. While the legislature may have completed their work (for now), we still await the Governor’s response on many bills. There is not a veto session scheduled, but in a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Scott clearly indicated that we should expect to see additional vetoes from him as the 70+ outstanding bills make their way to his desk.
Here at Common Good Vermont, we were focused on Unemployment Insurance (UI) for the first half of the session. Proposed legislation would have eliminated the UI exemption for nonprofit employers with fewer than four employers and created a bonding requirement for reimbursable employers (see our overview of the bill here). Common Good VT raised concerns about the financial impact this bill would have on nonprofits, especially small and midsize organizations, as well as the need for more information about those impacted in order to identify the scope of the problem and to provide necessary outreach and education to support any changes. While H. 29 did not wind up advancing this session, we do anticipate that it will resurface next year. Please stay tuned for an action alert next session and reach out if you are interested on engaging on this issue.
The other major focus for us this year was on workforce and economic relief for the nonprofit sector. Read on to learn about how things shook out and the resulting impact for nonprofits.
Economic & Workforce Development Bill – Pandemic Relief for Nonprofits
Throughout the session, we’ve shared updates on the numerous economic and workforce development proposals that were brought to the table this year, many of which would support the nonprofit sector. S.11 – An act relating to economic and workforce development, wound up being the primary vehicle used to move many of these initiatives forward. The two chambers settled their differences in conference committee, though the bill awaits the Governor’s seal of approval as of 5/13.
Wondering what the $84.5 million appropriated in this bill will do for nonprofits? Here is a breakdown of the most relevant sections (see full bill text here):
These programs will likely open on or after July 1.
- Community Recovery and Revitalization Grant Program – Section 46 describes this new relief program, formerly titled the Capital Investment Grant Program. $10M in Section 53(c) (plus $30M in the budget) is appropriated to fund projects that “make investments to retain and expand existing businesses and nonprofit organizations, attract new businesses and nonprofit organizations, and create new jobs with a preference for projects located in regions and communities with declining or stagnant grand list value.”
- IMPORTANT NOTE: The new eligibility guidelines qualify nonprofits which either a) have documented financial impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic OR b) intend to use funds for an enumerated use as defined in the US Treasury Final Rule for Coronavirus State and Fiscal Recovery Funds. This is an exciting change – read this report from National Council to learn about how nonprofits can utilize ARPA funds under final guidance and read more about the program on page 72 of the bill.
- COVID-19 Related Paid Leave Grant Program: Section 51a appropriates $15.8M for DFR to reimburse employers for the cost of providing COVID-19 related paid and unpaid leave to employees during FY23 & FY24.
- Unemployment Insurance Benefits: Section 52b increases the maximum weekly benefit by $60 as of July 1, 2022 until 2025, unless $8M is paid out before then or unless the modernized IT system can pay out the additional $25/week before then. Beginning July 1, 2025, all Unemployment Insurance benefits will increase by $25/week. These additional costs will be be paid out of the UI Trust Fund.
- VEDA Short-term Forgivable Loan Program: Section 53(b) appropriates $19M for the forgivable loan program described in Section 47. Businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees, located in VT, that were in operation as of March 13, 2020 and that can identify “economic harm” (see page 82 for details) caused by or exacerbated by the pandemic are eligible to apply for grants of up to $350K through this program.
- Creative Economy Grants: Section 53(b) also appropriates $9M for the Vermont Arts Council to provide grants for monthly operating costs to creative businesses and nonprofits that have sustained substantial losses due to the pandemic.
- New Relocating Employee Incentives: Section 53(d) appropriates over $3M for the amended New Relocating Employee Incentives program described in Section 47a. Relocating employees may be eligible for a grant for qualifying expenses up to $5000 (or in some cases $7500). The employee no longer needs to be employed in one of the “Occupations with the Most Openings.”
- Section 2 appropriates $2.5M for a statewide forgivable loan program of $5000/graduate who commits to work in Vermont for two years after graduation. It also appropriates $500K to the State Refugee Office to administer grants to support in-migration and retention of refugee and New-American populations.
- Section 4 appropriates $250K to be regranted to the Vermont Professionals of Color Network for business coaching and other training for BIPOC business owners; networking; and career fairs, workshops and paid internships.
- Section 5a appropriates $1.5M for a two-year pilot program to create a coordinated regional system, beginning in three regions of the State, to increase local labor participation rates; decrease the number of open positions; increase worker wages as they transition to new jobs; and collect, organize, develop, and share information related to local career pathways with workforce development partners.
- Section 6 appropriates $420K to the Dept. of Corrections to address vocational enhancement needs and $300K for a pilot reentry program to provide continuity of services for justice-involved individuals.
- Section 12 appropriates $1.5M to VDOL to implement the work-based training program outlined in Section 11 of the bill (see page 17), which includes establishing “a statewide platform available to all employers to list their internships, returnships, pre-apprenticeships, and registered apprenticeship opportunities and for jobseekers to view and access information about specific opportunities.”
- Sections 19-29 appropriate millions to support the healthcare workforce, especially nursing and mental health professionals.
- Section 39 appropriates $150K to support Advance Vermont’s work to increase awareness of postsecondary education and training and the value of the State’s goal for 70% of VT’s working-age population to hold a credential of value by 2024.
These bills may not be directly applicable to the nonprofit sector as a whole, but they do support Vermont’s workforce and economy:
- Refundable Child Tax Credit (and Other Tax Relief): H. 510 would provide Vermonters with household incomes under $125K with a $1000 tax credit per child under 5 (for each $1000 over the income limit, the credit is decreased by $20). See this VT Digger article for more details about the Child Tax Credit and other tax relief programs.
- S.210 – An act relating to rental housing health and safety: In addition to addressing rental housing safety, this bill includes a $20M appropriation to passed through nonprofit housing organizations as grants or forgivable loans to rental unit owners for rehab and weatherization expenses.
- S.226 – An act relating to expanding access to safe and affordable housing: This bill appropriates $20.4M for programs aiming to increase housing stock and affordability. Here is a summary of what’s included in the bill.
- The budget also appropriates $50M to VHCB for affordable housing projects.
- Read more about all three major housing bills in this VT Digger article.
- Healthcare: H. 489 allows large and small group insurance markets to remain unmerged so small businesses and nonprofits can continue to take advantage of ARPA premium subsides – assuming the Advanced Premium Tax Credit is continued by Congress.