It is disappointing that the Vermont Legislature failed to put forth the entire $150 million in grants to provide relief for Vermont businesses that was proposed by Governor Phil Scott in May.
Instead, the Legislature advanced a bill that provides $73 million in grants for hospitality businesses. It’s beyond disappointing in fact. It’s dangerous and perilous for our local hospitality businesses and for all such businesses in Vermont.
The Legislature’s reasoning for not putting all of the proposed funds on the table at this time doesn’t hold up. To suggest that holding back some funds to backfill deficits in the state budget – when federal guidelines specifically prohibit using this first batch of federal funding for that purpose – is inane. Vermont businesses need access to those funds now, not in August or September.
There are other specific state and federal funding sources that either exist or are pending that will address issues such as funding for child care, the state college system, broadband and the other programs and issues for which the Legislature is apparently saving these funds.
A divided and generally acrimonious Congress passed the federal CARES act, which netted Vermont $1.2 billion, with incredible alacrity and those funds were specifically to support the economy.
When Governor Scott announced his $400 million state stimulus plan, local businesses owners dared to hope that help might be on the way, especially when former Barre mayor Thomas Lauzon said that help was on the way for every business sector in Vermont.
Now, it’s clear that help is only on the way for some and that it’s very limited help indeed. The Vermont House is currently considering a bill to get another $90,000 out to Vermont businesses, but that may not happen until August. That will be too late for many Vermont small businesses, especially those in the hospitality businesses.
The Vermont and Valley economy are driven by tourism and small businesses. Getting all of that funding out as soon as possible was critical. That’s not going to happen now. The House’s initial bill is a betrayal of all Vermonters.