Legislative Update 2/15/22

With crossover deadlines fast approaching next month, pressure to make progress on bills is mounting. We are starting to see a clearer picture of what’s on the table, but there is plenty still up in there air. Here are some highlights from the past couple weeks, and what’s still on the horizon:

H. 29 – Unemployment Insurance Bill Impacting Nonprofits

House Commerce heard from VDOL on H. 29 last week, the unemployment insurance (UI) bill that would require small nonprofits currently exempt from providing UI law to provide UI coverage for employees, and establish a bonding requirement for reimbursable employers. VDOL seems to share some of Common Good VT’s concerns regarding the implementation timeline, undetermined scope of impact, and need to include funding for outreach and technical assistance. Common Good VT followed up on this conversation via email to echo these concerns, express our interest in partnering with the state on any outreach efforts as a sector representative, and to propose the creation of a Nonprofit Workforce/Economic Data Study Committee to address ongoing sector-specific data challenges.

For more on this issue or to take action, view our blog post, here.

Budget Adjustment Act

The Budget Adjustment Act (BAA) was voted out of the Senate, and the House will consider the Senate’s proposal of amendment on Tuesday. You can see a summary of the bill as passed by the Senate here. The bill includes some notable workforce investments including $60M in recruitment and retention grants for health care and social service employers, $6M for retention payments to childcare staff, and assorted career advancement assistance programs.

Omnibus Economic Development Bill

Draft language for the Omnibus Economic Development Bill came out last week, inserted into S. 263. The Bridge Recovery Grants Program is looking like it will be replaced by a VEDA forgivable loan program for businesses and nonprofits experiencing pandemic related “working capital shortfall”, which is expected to allow for greater flexibility in determining eligibility. VEDA’s summary of the program suggests eligibility would be determined as follows:

Applicants must demonstrate a 25% or greater decline in “Adjusted Net Operating Income” between their fiscal years 2019 and 2021 due to negative impacts from the pandemic. (Adjusted Net Operating Income will take into consideration reasonable owner’s salaries and other COVID 19 relief grants / SBA PPP forgivable loans and non-cash expenses.)

Action: If your organization is in need of pandemic relief, we want to hear from you! Please email [email protected] with any feedback on this proposal.

Nonprofits will also benefit from provisions such as the a $17.5M creative economy grant program, additional funding for Capital Investment Grants, and workforce relief from the worker relocation program.

Lastly, the bill includes a placeholder for a Vermont COVID Worker Relief Fund. Advocacy efforts led by VBSR and Main Street Alliance are calling on lawmakers to consider a program similar to the the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act. They are asking for a program to include:

• Wage replacement that is commensurate with the need of every day Vermonters
• We support looking at how we could retroactively provide wage replacement to cover losses incurred at the height of the Omicron surge
• In light of the urgent needs of Vermonters, implement this program UPON Passage, or within 30 days, instead of starting at the beginning of the new fiscal year.
• Mirroring the FFCRA program, wage replacement for workers who need to care for themselves or a family member or care for a child who has lost child care or school for COVID-related reasons
• Monthly reimbursement to employers rather than quarterly reimbursement puts an undue burden on the employer and the employee
• Inclusive Family Definition to include one’s chosen family
• Eligibility for sole-proprietors – With over 60,000 sole-proprietors in Vermont, we know that throughout the pandemic, this group of small business owners were often delayed or completely left out of receiving COVID relief

Action: Read the full proposal and sign on to the letter – support nonprofit employers and employees!

Omnibus Workforce Development Bill

House Commerce is compiling an Omnibus Workforce Development Bill which includes $12M to address health care workforce shortages, more than $11M towards retaining, reskilling and expanding Vermont’s workforce, $6 funding for workforce supports, and Career and Technical Education (CTE) investments.

Other News & Info

  • Vermont Senate preparing to come back in person March 8
  • Crossover Dates: March 11 (policy bills) and March 18 (money bills)
  • The House passed H. 510 – the child tax credit bill – last week, which is now headed to Senate Finance.
  • Common Good Vermont attended the LCC Legislative Breakfast on Monday to learn about benefits cliffs and how they relate to the workforce. Benefits cliffs occur when an individual receiving public benefits (such as 3Squares or Reach Up) loses net resources (income + benefits) as a result of taking a wage increase or advancing their career. This has a detrimental affect not only on the individual’s professional and financial wellbeing, but also on taxpayers (paying for those benefits) and employers (who benefit from skilled employees advancing in their careers). Watch this video to learn more about the benefits cliff and why it matters.
  • Level funded? Common Good Vermont wants to hear from you! We’ve heard from many organizations that expenses are growing but state funding isn’t. If you are interested in being part of a cross-sector strategy discussion, please email [email protected].

Take Action to Help End the Workforce Shortage

Federally, we are partnering with the National Council of Nonprofits to help end the nonprofit workforce shortage!  We encourage national nonprofits and local to learn more about the issue and take action today