Vermont businesses that have been hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic will be able to apply for up to $50,000 in emergency support on July 6, the Scott administration announced Wednesday.
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development and the Department of Taxes will oversee $76 million each in emergency aid to Vermont businesses. (A first tranche of $70 million has already been approved, while another for $82 million is still pending.)
Businesses that pay rooms and meals or sales and use tax should apply for grants through the tax department. All other businesses and nonprofits should apply through the ACCD. Both agencies are aiming to launch application portals by the start of next week. (ACCD will hold a webinar on the application process at 3 p.m. on July 2.)
Business owners must show at least 75% in losses from March to September this year, compared with revenue during that same month in 2019. Other criteria include: businesses must have been operating before Feb. 15, 2020, they must make less than $20 million in revenue a year, and must have at least one employee.
Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein said state officials have been scrambling to set up a system to vet applications based on this criteria, especially with the Legislature making some last-minute changes to the program until the end of last week.
One of those changes was decreasing the lost revenue threshold from 75% to 50%, which the Legislature did in H.966 (a bill now on the governor’s desk that deals mainly with housing and broadband internet funding).
Given the timeline, Goldstein said, “It’s virtually impossible to have that, you know, 100% ready right now as we speak, but we’re working towards having that ready in time for when the bill gets signed.”
She added similar programs would usually take months to set up, so “there may be a hiccup or two along the way.”
The two implementing agencies will aim to issue grants once a week on a first-come, first-serve basis. The calculation for eligibility is Revenue x 10%, with a cap at $50,000.
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Business leaders have said the initial round of grants won’t be nearly enough to offset their losses, and Gov. Phil Scott has joined them in criticizing the Legislature for acting too slowly and cautiously. Democrats in charge of the money committees have kept some of the first federal stimulus package in reserve, until there is a clearer financial picture for the rest of this year.
Scott has said he is optimistic, however, that the Legislature will work swiftly on additional relief when it returns from recess in August.
Goldstein said she is well aware that many businesses that need help will not qualify for this round of small business grants, and that the initiative won’t meet the needs of many who do qualify.
“We know going in we’re not going to be able to help everybody, which is a terrible position and feeling to go about doing this,” she said. “But this is what we have and we need to make the best from it.”
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