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Numerous questions posed during webinar on Vermont’s business emergency flood assistance program

 Flooding in Montpelier July 2023
Vermont Agency of Agriculture
Vermont Agency of Agriculture
Flooding in Montpelier July 2023 (file)

After Governor Phil Scott announced that Vermont would create an emergency grant program to help flooded businesses, the online application portal goes live today. The state Agency of Commerce and Community Development held a webinar Wednesday to explain the process and take questions.

Nearly 200 people joined the webinar on the state’s $20 million Business Emergency Gap Assistance Program for an overview of guidelines, the application process and eligibility requirements.

Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lindsay Kurrle began the webinar acknowledging how difficult flood recovery has been for businesses.

“We know that this isn’t enough and that it’s just a piece of the puzzle to get you all back on your feet and get you what you need. Some of you are dealing with impacts to your home as well as your businesses and I want you to know that we are here for you and that we’re going to keep working to bring you everything we can to keep trying to fill the voids and fill the gaps. And I apologize for my emotion. I have been on the ground. I know that it is overwhelming and it is daunting and it feels like it is not enough in so many ways. We want your doors back open. Your customers miss you. Your communities miss you. So if this can bring you one step closer to getting your doors open, we want to help you do that.”

Vermont Department of Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein explained that the emergency assistance program is for businesses and nonprofits that suffered physical damage, not individuals or municipalities.

“FEMA is on the ground and working with individuals. They will also work with municipalities. The only thing left for business were loans. And we put this together to recognize that businesses need more than loans. Many of you cannot take out loans. We understand that. We understand that you’re coming out of the pandemic. So it’s been a really rough time and that’s the purpose of this program. We understand that there’s usually fear with, you know, what does the state want and what are all the strings? So we’re here to take you through that in full transparency to see what will be required to actually submit an application.”

A breakdown of eligibility, needed documentation and a step-by-step run through of the application process was provided. Commissioner Goldstein then fielded numerous questions submitted via chat.

"Ryan asks,” notes the moderator, “if the business structure is declared substantially damaged by municipal government and no longer eligible for rebuilding, can a business owner still submit an application for BGAP?”

“I would say yes if they’re planning to reopen at a different address,” replies Goldstein. “So as long as that address is within the state of Vermont, they’re eligible.

The next question from the moderator asks, “How will the value of used capital equipment be appraised?”

“We were getting that question a lot,” noted Goldstein. “I guess when there’s doubt the overarching theme here is what is it going to cost you, or what has it cost you, to reopen and we’re paying a percentage of that. So we’re not going to pay you for old equipment. It’ll be like what is it going to cost you to get back up and running?”

“My home-based business is located in an addition to our house with its own entrance,” read the moderator. “As a home-based business owner am I eligible?”

“Did it ruin any business assets,” asks Goldstein. ”That’s what we would have to answer.”

“Then there’s a question here about first-come, first-served,” noted the moderator. “Is this still first-come, first-served to get the money?”

Goldstein was concise. “Yes, it is first-come, first-serve.”

“Now there’s a question about deadline,” added the moderator. “What is the deadline for applications? We are still getting estimates and working with insurance adjustors.”

“There’s no deadline, replied Goldstein. “We recognize that this is a rolling disaster and as a result it’s a rolling application, right. We don’t have a deadline but we have funding until the funding runs out. Enrolling also means as applications come in, we start reviewing them.”

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