May COVID-19 Updates
Governor Scott’s Economic Recovery & Relief Proposal: Webinar Recordings Available
The Vermont Agency of Commerce hosted a series of webinars over the last week to explain the proposed $400 million economic recovery and relief package and answer questions from impacted sectors. Recordings of those webinars will be posted to the Agency of Commerce Recovery Resource Center as they are available, for anyone who may have missed them live.
New Grants for Food Producers
The Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets have launched Local Food in Your Community Program for projects that support and strengthen collaboration between communities and local producers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The application period for these grants closes on June 30, 2020. The Working Lands Enterprise Board has announced COVID-19 Response Business Development Grants for agriculture and forestry businesses to maintain operations while increasing the capacity to rebuild and/or recover. The application period closes on May 31, 2020.
USDA Direct Assistance to Farmers
The USDA announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Applications will be accepted through August 28, 2020. Producers of all eligible commodities can apply through their local FSA offices.
Additional Arts Recovery Funding
The Vermont Arts Council has opened an additional round of Artist Development Grants to help artists as they adapt and respond to the current COVID-19 crisis. The new application deadline is July 13, 2020.
Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center is offering a new course for those that have been appointed health officers at small- and medium-sized manufacturers. The course is intended to help these designated employees navigate this new role under current operation restrictions and as guidelines evolve going forward.
The Vermont Creative Network (VCN) is following up on the Creative Sector Response and Recovery Forum with a survey to learn what kinds of support VCN could offer to help the sector, both now and into the future.
Addison County Recovery Team Business Survey Results
The Addison County Recovery Team conducted a survey of local businesses to gather information on recovery and reopening. There were 275 respondents from all sectors. Read the survey narrative here and see the data here.
Latest Updates on Reopening the Economy
On May 22, Governor Scott announced hair salons and barbershops may reopen May 29, 2020, with limited operations. Religious facilities and places of worship may also reopen at 25% capacity. Mandatory health and safety requirements apply, as well as more specific guidance available in the ACCD Recovery Resource Center.
New guidance was also released on May 22 for healthcare providers from the Department of Health. See specific guidance for dental operations, inpatient, and outpatient procedures on the Department of Health website.
ACCD worked with VTrans to provide guidance on the use of public rights of way for restaurants and retail businesses. The guidance lays out considerations and steps to ensure social distancing to enable a wider restart of retail operations and restaurants, in a way that does not increase the risk of auto-related injuries, addresses pedestrian safety and accessibility, and shares items towns and businesses should consider when using the street during these times.
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reminds businesses that are reopening to check, and if needed, flush their water systems to ensure the best water quality for employees or patrons. DEC issued guidance to help businesses ensure their systems are functioning properly upon restart of operations.
For all reopening updates and WorkSafe guidance, click here.
Addison County Recovery Team Hosts Community Town Hall
Join members of the Addison County Recovery Team as we share survey results and talk about the next steps in the recovery process. We will be there to listen to your challenges, share your innovations, and hear what you need to move toward a successful recovery.
DATE: Tuesday, May 26th
TIME: 3:00 pm
LOCATION: Zoom Meeting (You must register to attend)
COST: No Cost
Meeting link will be emailed to you the morning of the meeting.
Fred Kenney, Executive Director, Addison County Economic Development Corporation
Rob Carter, President, Addison County Chamber of Commerce
Bill Cunningham, Regional Director, ACTR, a division of Tri-Valley Transit
Helena Van Voorst, Executive Director, United Way of Addison County
If you would like to submit a question prior to the meeting, please email it to Sarah. You will also be able to submit questions during the meeting.
Governor Announces $400 million Economic Relief and Recovery Package
On May 20, Governor Phil Scott announced a proposal for a $400 million economic relief and recovery package, using funds from the $1.25 billion the state received from the Federal CARES Act. The two-phase proposal will start with $310 million for immediate relief to the most impacted sectors and businesses to be followed by $90 million for long-term recovery efforts. The Agency of Commerce and Community Development and the Governor will now work with the Legislature towards passage of the package.
The Phase 1 relief package will involve four areas of distinct action to support businesses and Vermonters as they resume their operations. They include:
Financial assistance: Emergency Action Grants for food and accommodation services, retail, and agriculture, Vermont Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Grant program, and small business focused Vermont Restart loans and grants. ($250MM)
Housing assistance: Rental Housing Stabilization Fund for property owners and a Re-Housing Recovery Fund to address homeless need. ($50MM)
Technical assistance: Restart Vermont Recovery Guides created through a network of business and community assistance providers, and Employee Assistance Program to support the mental health and wellbeing of business owners and their families. ($5MM)
Marketing support: Promotional marketing campaign to promote Vermont to Vermonters and deliver a toolkit of creative assets to be used by local communities, and regional marketing and consumer stimulus grants to encourage local spending, with implementation strategies to be proposed by local entities. ($5MM)
New Guidance Released for Restaurants and Professional Services
On May 20, the Agency of Commerce issued guidance enabling restaurants to offer limited outdoor service starting May 22nd. The guidance allows dining to occur in accordance with mandatory health and safety practices outlined in the Work Safe guidelines.
On May 19, the Agency of Commerce released new sector specific guidance, effective immediately. Low contact professional services, including but not limited to attorneys, accountants, realtors, non-profit workers, and municipal workers, will be able to resume in-person business operations in settings of 10 or fewer people. Pools, beaches, and swimming facilities may open in accordance with previously issued outdoor recreation and fitness guidance. Vermonters may hold yard sales and garage sales with 10 or fewer people; hosts and visitors must practice social distancing and it is recommended that they wear cloth face coverings. Those coming to Vermont from out-of-state must quarantine in Vermont before utilizing a lodging property, campground or short-term rental.
Department of Labor Launches New Unemployment Program
An additional 13 weeks of benefits are available to individuals who have exhausted their regular state unemployment insurance claim with a benefit year that expired on or after July 1, 2019.The additional weeks of benefits are provided by the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. Individuals will also receive Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), an additional $600 to their weekly benefits through the week ending July 25, 2020. PEUC is for individuals who have exhausted 26-weeks of regular unemployment insurance benefits or had their benefit year expire without requalifying for a new benefit year. Individuals must remain able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work within the temporary flexibilities approved by the Department of Labor. PEUC, FPUC, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits are 100% federally funded and employers will not be charged for any benefits paid under a CARES Act program. Individuals may file for PEUC in the same manner of filing for regular unemployment insurance benefits. Please visit the Department’s website for more detailed instructions, at https://labor.vermont.gov/PEUC.
Important Note: None of the benefits described above, nor unemployment benefits of any kind, are available to employees who quit without good work-related cause, refuse to return to work, or refuse to receive full wage replacement from their employer. Refusing to return to work could result in a disqualification for benefit eligibility. The CARES Act specifically provides for serious consequences for fraudulent claims, including disqualification from future benefits, administrative penalties, and criminal prosecutions. Employers are encouraged to report suspected fraud, by visiting https://labor.vermont.gov/unemployment-insurance/refusal-return-work-covid-19.
Additional information for workers and employers affected by COVID-19, including frequently asked questions, can be found at https://labor.vermont.gov/.
On Friday, May 15, Governor Phil Scott signed Addendum 14, a Be Smart, Stay Safe order to extend the State of Emergency to June 15 and update previous emergency orders to reflect re-openings and eased restrictions announced in recent weeks. The new Be Smart, Stay Safe order extends the expiration of all previous addendums to June 15 and applies to the health and safety protocols implemented in restart addendums 10-13. It encourages continued vigilance in physical distancing, staying close to home, mask use in public settings where physical distancing is not possible, washing hands, and washing hands more. The addendum also asks adults 65 and older and those with underlying medical conditions to continue to shelter in place to avoid serious illness. As crucial metrics continue to support incremental openings, the Be Smart, Stay Safe order also allows the limited resumption of campgrounds, marinas, and lodging facilities. This includes hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, short term rentals, parks for recreational vehicles, and campgrounds, including those managed by the Vermont Department of Parks and Recreation. These facilities can open May 22 for Vermont residents only, or those who have met the 14-day quarantine requirement. They will be subject to strict health and safety standards and guidance from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. To view Addendum 14 (Be Smart, Stay Safe), visit https://governor.vermont.gov/content/addendum-14-executive-order-01-20.
Over the weekend, U.S. Treasury/SBA issued a PPP Forgiveness Application. Click here to view the application and instructions. The form and instructions will help answer some of the many questions borrowers have about the program. Also, SBA expects additional guidance to be issued soon, and the Vermont District SBA Office plans to do a webinar series on PPP. You should look it over and maintain records with the data needed to complete the forms, but there is no rush to apply. The additional guidance that will be issued may help you maximize forgiveness. The forgiveness forms will be filed with your lender.
The Working Lands Enterprise Board has launched a one-time grant program called COVID-19 Response Business Development Grants. Funding is available for agriculture and forestry businesses to maintain operations while increasing the capacity to rebuild and/or recover during an unprecedented time of need. Available funds total $180,000, and eligible grants will be awarded within the range of $5,000 to $25,000. The application period closes on May 31, 2020. The Northeast Organic Farmer's Association (NOFA) also has financial assistance for farmers. Click here for information.
- Addison County Recovery Team Community Town Hall: Please join the Addison County Recovery Team for a virtual Town Hall on May 26. We will share survey results and talk about the next steps in the recovery process. We will be there to listen to your challenges, share your innovations, and hear what you need to move toward a successful recovery. The meeting is open to anyone in Addison County. Tuesday, May 26, 2020, 3:00–4:00 pm, Zoom webinar. No cost. Cap of 100 participants. REGISTER: https://www.addisoncounty.com/events/details/community-recovery-town-hall-5934 (Note: You must register to attend. Zoom link sent after you register). CONTACT: Sara Audet firstname.lastname@example.org
- SBA PPP, EIDL Daily Webinar: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SBA Vermont District Office is hosting a free daily webinar from 9 to 10 am. Monday to Friday to discuss the Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Advance, and any pertinent updates. To join the webinar, visit https://meet.lync.com/sba123/sbmazza/6F6N4YK6.To participate by phone, call (202) 765-1264 and when prompted, enter the code 470177937#. Upon joining the call, mute the phone to cut down on the background noise, and please do not place the call on hold as the hold music will be heard over the presenter. For more information, email email@example.com.
- Lake Champlain Chamber webinar: "Adapting Vermont Hospitality to COVID-19" on Thursday, May 21 at 9:00 am to address the unique challenges the hospitality industry has faced and to discuss a path forward as the economy begins to reopen. This webinar is free, but registration is capped to 90 people.
VMEC Restarting Your Operations Check-In Forum: Wednesday, May 20, 2020, 1:30–2:30 pm Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center hosts a live panel discussion, including guidance available and the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of agency and company leaders. To register, click here.
Ensure Vermont Gets Our Share of Federal Funding - Complete the Census
Completing the census is critical to federal funding for Vermont. Our state is currently among the lower responding states in the nation. The average response rate for Vermont is 49.5% and 58.5% for the country. We are among only a handful of states that have not yet achieved a 50% average response. You can help ensure Vermont gets our fair share of the federal taxes we all pay - complete the 2020 census.
Addison County Recovery Team Survey and Virtual Community Town Hall
The Addison County Recovery Team wants to hear from you! If you're a for-profit business, complete a brief survey here if you're a non-profit, complete this survey. Both surveys will close at the end of the day, Friday, May 15.
Please join the Addison County Recovery Team for a virtual Town Hall on May 26 as we share survey results and talk about the next steps in the recovery process. We will be there to listen to your challenges, share your innovations, and hear what you need to move toward a successful recovery. The meeting is open to anyone in Addison County.
DATE: Tuesday, May 26
TIME: 3:00-4:00 pm
LOCATION: Zoom webinar
REGISTER: https://www.addisoncounty.com/events/details/community-recovery-town-hall-5934 (Note: You must register to attend. Zoom link sent after you register)
COST: No Cost
CONTACT: Sara Audet firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional Business Reopening Guidelines Issued
On Tuesday, May 12, the Vermont Agency of Commerce released additional guidance for lodging reservations between May 15 and June 15, 2020, at hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, short term rentals, and all public and private camping facilities and RV parks.
On Wednesday, May 13, the Agency released updated guidance for the reopening of non-essential retail and drive-in operations. This guidance, developed with the Department of Health and Department of Public Safety, is in line with Governor Phil Scott's Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order, and goes into effect on May 18, 2020.
On May 8, 2020, the Governor announced that Childcare providers may reopen on June 1, and can begin bringing back staff and preparing sites on May 18, according to CDC and Department of Health guidelines. Education, Childcare, and related businesses must comply with previously issued Agency of Education guidance issued here: https://education.vermont.gov/news/covid-19-guidance-vermont-schools. The Vermont Department of Health, Agency of Education, and Department for Children and Families issued new guidance on May 13, which involved the reopening of childcare programs, summer programs, and after-school programs.
See the links below for all the latest updates to sector guidance information on the Governor's Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order. The newest updates are marked in red.
Vermont Offers Free COVID-19 Testing at Pop-up Sites
The Vermont Department of Health announced the availability of free COVID-19 testing at pop-up sites around the State, even for those without symptoms.
Tax Department Update
The Vermont Department of Taxes issued an update on May 14 with tips and COVID-19 related tax information.
ACCD/SBDC Offers Free Town Hall to Introduce a Business Recovery Roadmap Tool
On Friday, May 15, from 9:30-11:00 amVtSBDC State Director, Linda Rossi and Area Business Advisor and Disaster Recovery Specialist Debra Boudrieau will walk you, step-by-step, through a Recovery Roadmap. By the end of the session, you will know how to use the Roadmap to create your business's response to COVID-19. And, have specific action steps and the order in which to take them. Click here to join the session. You can view the Recovery Roadmap on the VtSBDC website.
Business Input Requested Locally and on State Level
The Addison County Recovery Team seeks your input through a survey that closes this Friday, May 15. Please take a few minutes to complete this brief survey to give us a clearer indication of countywide business needs and concerns. Responses will only be shared in an aggregated format. Click here to access the survey.
Vermont's Local Support and Community Action Team of the Economic Mitigation and Recovery Task Force needs your help prioritizing high-impact actions for local, regional, and statewide recovery. Please share your priorities in this quick survey on or before Tuesday, May 12, via this survey here.
Governor Announces Next Phases of Opening the Economy
Today, Governor Phil Scott announced that Vermont retailers would be able to reopen next Monday, May 18, as long as they follow strict new guidelines. Administration officials are still working out details of the state's retail reopening, but say that it will come with restrictions, including limits on the number of customers -- no more than 25% of the maximum legal capacity, required mask-wearing, and social distancing.
On May 8, Governor Scott announced that childcare providers may reopen on June 1, and can begin bringing back staff and preparing sites on May 18, according to CDC and Department of Health guidelines. Childcare provider supplemental funding will cease but will be replaced by restart grants to assist centers in the costs of preparing to reopen, with details still to come. Summer day camps that can meet the CDC and Department of Health guidelines may open this summer at their discretion as will overnight summer camps—further guidance will be forthcoming. The Agency of Education released new guidance regarding in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year, as well as the end of school year gatherings and graduations.
VMEC Offers Return to Work Live Zoom Meeting
As part of their efforts to bring you expert, practical guidance on the reopening of Vermont workplaces in a safe manner in the current COVID-19 environment, VMEC has invited professionals who will discuss "situations" from their own experiences. Be prepared to engage and ask questions of the panelists during the simulated scenarios. Learn how they may have addressed the same issue or concern so you can prepare to resolve your problems/ issues when they arise. Wednesday, May 13, 1:30-2:30 pm. Register here.
With the Legislature operating virtually, most non-COVID work is on hold. Between now and June, expect the Legislature to pass a budget adjustment for the remainder of this fiscal year (FY20, which ends June 30. 2020) and a budget for the first three months of fiscal 2021 (July -September). Then they will virtually return in August for the heavy lifting: 1) Determine how to spend more than $1 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds within the restrictive (but vague) confines of the law, and 2) Close a massive state budget deficit (without using much of #1).
Governor Announces Further Loosening of Restrictions
On Wednesday, Governor Phil Scott announced that outdoor recreation and limited social interactions might resume under strict health and safety precautions, as state modeling continues to indicate a slow in the spread of COVID-19.
Gatherings of 10 or fewer. Vermonters may now leave home for outdoor recreation and fitness activities with low or no direct physical contact and to resume limited social interactions and gatherings of 10 or fewer, preferably in outdoor settings that allow for greater physical distancing protocols.
Inter-household socializing. Members of one household may gather – and allow children to play – with members of another trusted family, provided health and safety precautions are followed as much as possible.
The Governor's order, Addendum 13, includes additional health and safety guidelines for these interactions, including following safety and hygiene protocols, limiting non-essential travel, and protecting those in at-risk categories, which should continue to stay home. It also directs the Commissioner of Health to provide additional recommendations.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program Update
The SBA has announced that, with the exception of applications from agricultural enterprises, no further EIDL applications will be taken. Agricultural enterprises can apply here. Further, the SBA has announced that loan amounts will be much smaller than earlier anticipated due to the number of applications submitted. If you already filed an EIDL application, what should you expect now? Read a column by ACEDC Executive Director Fred Kenney published in the Addison Independent on May 7 (also available here).
Congressional Delegation Advocates for Changes to the PPP to Benefit Small Businesses
Senators Leahy and Sanders and Congressman Welch sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and SBA Director Carranza asking for an extension of the period during which employees can be brought back to work and for flexibility in the loan forgiveness terms. Read their letter here.
Agency of Commerce Launches "Restart Vermont" website
Need information about restarting and reopening in compliance with state and federal guidelines, including how to develop a mandatory reopening plan? Check out the Restart Vermont Resource website here. Also, the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center (VMEC) is offering weekly webinars about reopening, with information that is valuable for all businesses, not just manufacturers. To receive notifications go to their RECOVERY- Daily Operations and Restart FORUM, and click on "BECOME A MEMBER" (left grey box)
Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) Update
- SBA is utilizing the funding approved by Congress last week to process EIDL applications that were in the queue prior to funds running out.
- The loan application portal re-opened today for Agricultural enterprises only. Agricultural entities should apply promptly, but ensure accuracy with EIN, bank information, and email address.
- There is no news yet on when or if the EIDL portal will be able to re-open for other applicants.
- If applicants that applied in March with a confirmation number starting with a “2” did not reapply when they were notified to do so, there may be an opportunity to use the portal to get into the queue.
- EIDL customer service is open daily from 8am-8pm. 800-659-2955 or email@example.com .
Addison County Recovery Team Needs Business Input
Several Addison County business organizations, including ACEDC, are participating in an Addison County Recovery Team to coordinate and collaborate during the COVID-19 response and work toward recovery and the post-COVID-19 economy. We are also coordinating with the state-level task forces established by the Governor. Please take a few minutes to complete this brief survey to give us a more specific indication of countywide business needs and concerns. We will share responses in an aggregated format. You may receive a request to complete this survey from more than one member of the Addison County Recovery Team. Each business or organization need only complete the survey once. We will add the collected responses to survey results conducted by other countywide organizations such as the United Way. Click here to access the survey.
Governor Announces Next Phase of Re-opening
As modeling indicates continued progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19, on Friday, Governor Scott announced a third incremental, evidence-based step forward to put Vermonters back to work.
- Crews of 10 or fewer employees per location/job to perform outdoor work and construction work in unoccupied job sites. (Effective May 4)
- Manufacturing and distribution operations may resume with a maximum of 10 employees in any location if they are low-density and ensure employees are always six feet apart. (Effective May 4)
- Manufacturing, construction, and distribution operations may restart with as few employees as necessary to permit full operations if they can meet all health and safety requirements, comply with ACCD guidance and develop enhanced training programs that expand on the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Agency (VOSHA) training. (Effective May 11)
This latest restart phase includes additional health and safety requirements that build on those in previous addendums, including:
- Required pre-screening before each work shift, including temperature checks and surveys, to verify each employee has no symptoms of respiratory illness.
- On April 27, VOSHA developed a minimum level of health and safety training to be completed no later than May 4 by all employees and documented by businesses and non-profit and government entities in operation.
- Employers operating with ten or more employees must now adopt a training program – developed independently, or through industries, trade associations, chambers of commerce, or other representative organizations – which must be made available upon request. In most cases, these plans should augment the VOSHA training standards to reflect the unique nature of various workplaces.
- Businesses and non-profit and government entities may require customers or clients to wear masks, and all commuters are required to wear a mask while using mass transit.
For a full list of health and safety requirements for all businesses and specifications for each newly opened operation, click here to view Addendum 12.
Vermont Agency of Commerce Adds Restart Vermont Resources
Part of Addendum 12, announced that as businesses work toward reopening, each employer will need to develop a reopening and training plan to ensure the health and well-being of Vermonters as they return to work. ACCD is creating a new Restart Vermont Resources page to help businesses navigate this process in the lead up to opening any additional sectors in the weeks ahead. Resources include posters, templates, and sample reopening, and training plans.
Vermont Department of Labor Issues Warning to Employees Regarding Refusal to Return to Work
The Department of Labor issued a reminder to unemployment claimants placed on temporary layoff or furlough related to COVID-19 that they must return to work if called back by their employer. Refusal to return to work, when being offered the regular rate of pay and number of hours per week, may result in the termination of unemployment benefits and the need to repay certain benefits. If you are an employer that has offered regular work, at the same number of hours and rate of pay that they were working prior to COVID-19, to an employee that was temporarily laid-off or furloughed, and the employee has refused to return to work, you MUST report this activity to the Department of Labor. Employers can submit a report of refusal to work by completing this online form.