VBSR State House Update & FY21 Budget

Thank you to Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility for continuing to be a resource for businesses and nonprofits. The following is an excerpt from VBSR’s September 28, 2020 State House Update:

Last Friday, the Vermont legislature adjourned what has been the longest legislative session in Vermont history. From fighting for livable wages, paid family leave, and climate action to ensuring a just, equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 session was marked by battles won and lost but just as importantly it showed us how lawmakers from all ends of the political spectrum can come together to improve the lives of their fellow Vermonters as well as how business leaders can be a force for positive change in even our most dire moments.

House and Senate Pass FY21 Budget

Last week, the legislature passed a $7.2 billion budget that will fund state government through the last nine months of the fiscal year and allocates the last chunk of the $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds Vermont received via the CARES Act. This comes after days of back and forth negotiations between House and Senate conferees. Below are just a few of the bill’s highlights:

$76.7 million in emergency economic recovery grants for Vermont businesses and nonprofits. As previously reported, the application process for these grants will look different this time around in that there will be.grace period of sorts before grants are awarded. Instead of launching the program and fielding applications on a first come first served basis, there will be a designated application period for businesses to provide information demonstrating that they experienced a revenue loss from March to September and that the aid that they have already received has not covered said loss. At the end of the application period, ACCD and Department of Taxes will aggregate all of the information they’ve received from businesses and begin to distribute relief based on need.

While the final bill did not include a set aside for the Women and Minority-owned Business Grant Program–something VBSR and our partners were actively pushing for–it does include language requiring ACCD and Department of Taxes to market the program to historically underserved communities and to publish reports, including demographic data, to ensure resources are being distributed equitably. This is a small step forward in ensuring a just, equitable recovery from COVID-19 for all Vermonters and VBSR will be working with the state to ensure they adhere to this language while helping to address some of the challenges women and BIPOC businesses have encountered in accessing financial support.

$22.5 million in hazard pay for Vermont’s frontline essential workers. These funds will be used to compensate essential workers in the food, retail, childcare, and distribution sectors who risked infection earlier this year but were left out of the initial grant program. VBSR was one of the first groups to push for hazard pay for Vermont’s essential workers–pointing out that hazard pay was long overdue for essential workers and citing livable wages, gender pay disparities, and support for our childcare providers
as driving reasons to support the Program.

$2.3 million for the COVID- Response Connected Community Resilience Program. This grant program will fund recovery planning efforts of communications union districts (CUDs) as they seek to provide high speed internet to rural Vermonters.

$17 million in additional stimulus for unemployed Vermonters. These funds will be used to provide direct grants of no more than $100 per week for up to five weeks to Vermonters receiving unemployment insurance benefits.

$800,000 in childcare provider stabilization grants. These funds will be used to bolster the capacity of our child care centers at a time when the critical role that childcare plays in creating a strong, equitable economy could not be more clear.

The passage of the FY21 budget marked the end of the legislative session and was the product of countless hours of work by House and Senate Appropriators and Committee leads. Here is a summary of the conference committee report and a summary of how the remaining $248 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds were allocated.

To learn more and receive State House Updates from VBSR visit their website!

About VBSR:

VBSR is a statewide, nonprofit business association with a mission to foster a business ethic in Vermont that recognizes the opportunity and responsibility of the business community to set a high standard for protecting the natural, human, and economic environments of our citizens. Learn More.