Good afternoon all
Last week featured lots of state announcements and new programs kicking off. You will find information for landlords and tenants, businesses, and on food, schools and the Vermont’s Ethics Commission soliciting public input. This was also my first week back working at my year round job at BDCC in person – a bit surreal, but good to see my regional economic development colleagues in person.
The legislature is adjourned until the end of August when we will go back to pass the remaining 3/4 of the FY 21 budget.
Food Scrap Ban as of July 1st
Vermont state law bans disposal of food scraps in the trash or landfills. Food scraps include pre- and post-consumer food waste that is derived from processing or discarding of food and that is able to be used through one of the following options: food donation for people in need, animal feed, composting, or anaerobic digestion. On July 1, 2020, trash haulers must offer food scrap collection services to non-residential customers and apartments with 4 units or more, unless another hauler is willing to provide that service.
Why? Keeping food scraps out of the trash saves landfill space and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing food waste saves resources. Food donation has nearly tripled since the law was passed.
Residents are separating their food scraps into buckets or bins and either using local food waste drop-offs (like transfer stations), curbside food scrap haulers, or composting in their backyards. Vermont state law allows residents who compost in their backyards to dispose of meat and bones in the trash even after July 1, 2020. Residents are NOT required to compost in their backyards and can choose to bring food scraps to drop-off facilities or use curbside food scrap haulers. Residents can ask their trash hauler if they provide food scrap collection. Residents can find drop-off facilities and food scrap haulers at VTrecycles.com or by contacting their local solid waste management entity at 802recycles.com. To learn how to prevent food waste and manage your food scraps, visit VTrecycles.com.
Act 46 and Supreme Court
This week the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the Act 46 mandated district mergers. Act 46 was an attempt to reduce educational inequities across the state by requiring local districts to assess if working with their neighbors could increase opportunities for students. For the two supervisory unions I represent, the measure of success in the Act 46 experiences has been different. Even with optimal success achieved and positive results from many mergers – Vermont still has not addressed the imprecise way we count students which has created huge inequities for our students and an ability for taxpayers. This remains a focal point of my service as the representative from the Windham-Bennington district, though ensuring appropriate educational supports for quarantining families will clearly take precedence in the coming months. To that end, I have been invited to hear the Windham Southwest Supervisory Unions plans for education in the 20/21 school year. You can also listen in this Wednesday evening at 7 pm.
Employment, unemployment insurance and PUA for self employed
I have heard from several employers who are looking for full time general laborers including WB Management in Dover (802) 464-5749. Year round employment may be available.
There are still Vermonters who have not gotten their unemployment insurance payments – if you are one of them, please contact me at 802-384-0233. Vermonters who worked an adequate number of hours in the last four quarters are eligible to receive not only state unemployment, but also the federal unemployment boost of $600.
The $600 federal unemployment boost will be ending the week of July 31st. There is discussion at the federal level about either a return to work incentive or a lower federal unemployment boost. The $600 amount has had the effect of providing a disincentive to return to work for some as many workers normally receive compensation for their work that is less then the state and federal amounts combined.
A reminder that if you were laid off due to the pandemic, but your employer has called you back to work, you are probably no longer eligible to receive federal or state unemployment benefits. Please be cautious here as the state and federal government are likely to require the payback of benefits if it is found your job was available to you.
For those whose jobs are still not back, or who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, there are other forms of public assistance that may be available to you.
Many of you have reached out to me about absentee primary ballots and why my name is not on any of the party ballots and asking me if I am running this year. Yes, I am running, and I’d like your vote.
All voters should have received a postcard they could send in to request absentee ballots for the August 11th Primary election and the November 3rd general election. When you return that postcard you will receive your absentee ballots. You do not have to return the card, and you do not have to vote absentee
The absentee ballots currently available are for the Primary Election. The Primaries are elections for the parties to determine who their candidates will be on the November 3rd General Election ballot. Because I am not affiliated with a party, my name does not appear on the Primary ballots – you can write it in on the Republican, Progressive or Democratic ballot, but it is not necessary. Independent candidates are automatically included on the General Election ballot.
Dover mask resolution – individual rights vs. public health
Like many of you, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking and talking with people in our district and our neighbors about the civil unrest we have seen in our state and to a larger extent, in our country. Linked below you will see a story about locals fighting with each other over a businesses request to wear a mask. The Dover selectboard subsequently has voted to support a town resolution requesting wearing of masks in businesses.
We must keep our ability to hear and see each other even when we strongly disagree and we can remember that every person we encounter has people who love them and who they love. While we are all freedom loving Americans, there actually are limits to our individual rights as they begin to encroach on public safety. The courts, who are the determiner of constitutionality in our country and state, decide where those limits are in court findings when citizens or the government bring forward a complaint on consitutionality. Here is an article from a NH paper that talks about how individual rights are viewed relative to public safety.
Vermont COVID Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program
Applications open on Monday, July 13, 2020.
- The Vermont COVID Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program was established using coronavirus relief funds allocated to the State of Vermont to provide financial assistance to stabilize low- and moderate-income homeowners in Vermont. VHFA is the administrator of funds dedicated to mortgage assistance.
- This program is for persons who are behind on their home mortgages. If you are a renter, or if you own a mobile home in a mobile home park, please contact the Vermont State Housing Authority by phone at 802-828-2040 or 802-828-1650 or 802-828-5596, to discuss obtaining help with your rental payments.
- VHFA intends to prioritize applicants with lower incomes, but given the limited amount of funds and the limited time to review applications and distribute awards there is no assurance that any individual application will be funded.
- Applications will be accepted between July 13 and August 31 (this period may be shortened with little to no notice if application volume exceeds expectations).
- VHFA will review and verify applications between September 1 and September 30, and have all awards issued by October 2. If funds remain available after the initial round of eligible applications are funded, VHFA will open up a separate round of funding.
Terms of Grant
- Funds are provided as a grant paid directly to the mortgage servicer
- Mortgagor is not responsible for repaying the grant provided
- Because these funds are disaster relief funds, it is VHFA’s understanding that the amount received is not taxable and mortgagor will not receive a 1099. VHFA does not provide tax advice, however, and suggests that if you have questions about the taxable nature of a grant you discuss it with your tax adviser.
Application of Grant
- Payment directly to the servicer for the benefit of the mortgagor
- Grant will be applied for UP TO three months of delinquent mortgage payments.
- Servicer must confirm balances and agree that upon receipt of the payment, Mortgagor will no longer have any obligation for the amounts paid by the grant. Servicer confirmation is required before a grant award will be finalized. THE GRANT AMOUNT MAY NOT BE ENOUGH TO BRING THE LOAN CURRENT. THE MORTGAGOR IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL REMAINING PAST DUE AMOUNTS.
Vermont Economic Recovery Grant info page:
Business grants are still available – ACCD: https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/economic-recovery-grants Tax: https://tax.vermont.gov/coronavirus#relief
An eligible business will be a nonpublic, private organization that:
- Is domiciled or has its primary place of business in Vermont
- Has one or more non-owner employees in Vermont, with the exception that Women- and Minority-Owned businesses with zero employees are eligible for grants through ACCD.
- Was open and active before February 15, 2020
- Is open at the time of application, or is required to have closed due to COVID-19 restrictions but can certify to its intention to re-open when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted
- Is not a business or organization, nor a subsidiary of a business or organization, nor owned by a business or organization, that reported more than $20,000,000 in total revenue
- Has experienced a 50% or greater drop in total revenue in any one-month period from March 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020, when compared with the same month in 2019
- Is not currently in Chapter 7 bankruptcy
- Is in good standing with the Vermont Department of Taxes
- Is in good standing with the Vermont Secretary of State
- Has not received a Vermont Emergency Economic Recovery Grant from another State of Vermont Agency or Department
Where and How Do I Apply?
The following businesses and nonprofits are able now to apply for Economic Recovery Grants:
- If you are a business that is primarily a Restaurant, Bar, or Lodging Property that collects the Rooms and Meals Tax, or a Retail, Entertainment or Recreation Operation that collects the Sales and Use Tax and report to the Vermont Department of Taxes on a monthly or quarterly basis, you should apply for a grant with the Department of Taxes.
EXAMPLES: restaurant, bar, hotel, inn, retail store, online retail, golf course, movie theater
- All Other Businesses that do not collect the Rooms and Meals Tax and/or Sales and Use Tax, OR if your business reports to the Department of Taxes on these taxes for a minimal amount of your overall revenues, should apply for a grant with ACCD. APPLY HERE.
EXAMPLES: manufacturer, property management, construction, realtor
Businesses and nonprofits for sectors and the business types listed below should refer to the identified Agency or Department for more details on eligibility, timing and process to apply for funding:
- Agricultural producers and processors may apply for funding through the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (AAFM). AAFM will be providing $25 million to dairy producers and processors, $5 million to non-dairy agricultural producers, $500,000 to agricultural fairs, and at least $2 million to agricultural organizations through the Working Lands Enterprise Board. Information about applying for these grants is available at https://agriculture.vermont.gov/vermont-covid-agriculture-assistance-program.
- Forestry businesses, including those primarily engaged in managing, harvesting, trucking, processing, manufacturing, crafting, or distributing forest or wood products derived from Vermont forests, including consulting forestry services and secondary manufacturers of wood products, should apply for the $5 million Forest Economy Stabilization Program administered by the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. Information about applying for these grants is available at https://fpr.vermont.gov/FESGrantProgram.
- Healthcare Providers should apply for funding through the Agency of Human Services (AHS). AHS is administering a $275 million Health Care Provider Stabilization Grant Program for a broad array of healthcare providers including: hospitals, private medical practices, dentists, health centers, laboratory and imaging centers, mental health providers, substance abuse disorder treatment providers, emergency medical service and ambulance providers, physical therapists, podiatrist, optometrists, chiropractors, and other health care providers licensed by the Board of Medical Practice or the Office of Professional Regulation. This also includes home health and hospice agencies, pharmacy services, and long-term care providers. AHS is targeting the week of July 13th to open its application portal. Providers will have until August 15, 2020 to submit applications for funding. Funding will be allocated based on need, to the extent that funds are available. Organizations can learn more about this program online at https://humanservices.vermont.gov/.
- Childcare Providers, Summer Camps, and After School Programs should apply for funding through the Agency of Human Services (AHS). AHS received $12 million to provide additional restart grants and other costs to childcare providers, summer camps and after school programs. Organizations should apply online at https://dcf.vermont.gov/cdd.
- Cities, towns, villages, and other government entities should apply for funding through the Agency of Administration, which will administer a special grant fund and issue grants to units of local government to reimburse eligible COVID-19 expenses incurred on or before December 30, 2020, including hazard pay, supplies and equipment, sanitation, facility alterations, overtime compensation, redirection of staff for first-response needs, and any other eligible COVID-19 expenses not covered by other funding sources, including funding provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. More information is available at https://aoa.vermont.gov/.
Please note that there will be only one grant allowed per applicant. A business cannot qualify for grants with multiple agencies. Contact the agency that applies to your business to understand your options.
BDCC’s Micro-entrepreneur Loan Program is available for businesses suffering economic injury. Use this form to learn more.
PPP Forgiveness Webinar
A daily webinar hosted by the SBA Vermont District Office to discuss Paycheck Protection Program forgiveness
- Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 10:00am
- Join online
- Join by phone: (202) 765-1264; Code: 237511921#
PPP & EIDL Webinar
A twice-weekly webinar hosted by the SBA Vermont District Office to discuss the Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Advance, and information about updates to these programs
- Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:00am – 10:00am
- Join online
- Join by phone: (202) 765-1264; Code: 470177937#
“PPP: There’s Still Money Available” Archived Webinar
The Department of Economic Development hosted a virtual town hall to share updates about the Paycheck Protection Program.
- Archived webinar (from June 5th at 2:00pm)
- Download presentation (“PPP Loans for Self Employed Individuals”)
Vermont State Ethics Commission seeking public input
Does meaningful government ethics oversight in Vermont require an Ethics Code in statute? The Vermont State Ethics Commission concluded last year that the answer to that question is most definitely yes.
The Commission is not alone. All current state-wide office holders, Gov. Phil Scott, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Secretary of State Jim Condos, Attorney General T.J. Donovan, Treasurer Beth Pearce, and Auditor of Accounts Doug Hoffer publicly expressed support for adoption of a statutory Code of Ethics. In a joint letter to the Chairs of the House and Senate Government Operations Committees on February 10, 2020 they wrote, “As you know, in our public service, we must account for and address issues such as: conflicts of interest, preferential treatment, abuses of power, outside gifts, and protections for whistleblowers. A Code of Ethics embedded in Vermont law will provide public servants with direction and clarity on numerous issues they regularly face.”
Two bills introduced this last session (H.634 and S.198) asked the Ethics Commission to submit to the General Assembly a draft Code of Ethics which it will consider for adoption into law. While the arrival of COVID-19 preempted full consideration of those bills, the Ethics Commission has been asked and will send a draft Code of Ethics to the legislature this coming fall – but not before seeking public input.
Public Input Needed: Commission Chair Julie Hulburd explained, “It is essential that this draft code of ethics be thoroughly scrutinized. We want the legislature to be confident that issues the code raises have been fully addressed with the benefit of stakeholder and public input. We want to hear everyone’s thoughts.” Hulburd added, “Please send your comments and suggestions to the Commission.” The Commission’s website https://ethicscommission.vermont.gov/contains the current draft code and an explanation of why statutory adoption is necessary.
Enforcement: The Ethics Commission has been asked, “How will this code be enforced?” The Commission believes adopting a statutory code of ethics setting ethics standards for public servants should come first – before enforcement discussions. Once a code of ethics is adopted, the immediate and most effective way to ensure code compliance will be through ethics education and ethics awareness. The Ethics Commission is a willing partner and resource for public servants.
Comments: The Ethics Commission strongly urges written comments. It will, however, offer an opportunity for oral comments. At 10:00 a.m. on August 12, 2020, the Ethics Commission will hold a virtual public hearing regarding its draft proposal. Details will be posted on the Ethics Commission website soon. The Commission will continue to accept written comments through August 26, 2020. It will then consider all comments and suggestions, finalize the draft, and submit it to the House and Senate Government Operations Committees where its journey into statute can begin.
The Commission is grateful for all comments it receives.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Laura Sibilia Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham