Vermont Governor Phil Scott outlined a $400 million pandemic economic recovery program for businesses across the state during his COVID-19 briefing Wednesday.
The Vermont Economic Recovery Package is funded by federal CARES or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds. Republican Governor Phil Scott said the intention of the two phase plan is to provide immediate relief to businesses. “The first is a $310 million immediate relief initiative to get money out the door to help businesses survive right now. It includes grants and loans for those most impacted; funds to help stabilize rental housing and help renters, technical assistance for business owners trying to work their way through this crisis and in-state focus marketing campaign to jump-start local buying and exploring our state.”
Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lindsay Kurrle said the package helps insure the survival of Vermont’s business community. “The largest portion of this $400 million relief and recovery package is $250 million of financial assistance in the form of direct grants and loans to Vermont businesses. We’re proposing $150 million will be used to provide Restart Vermont Action Grants to those hardest hit sectors of food and accommodation services, retail and agriculture. These initiatives are intended to protect people now and help them find a path back to profitable operation.”
Vermont farms have experienced severe losses during the pandemic as markets collapsed. Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts said Vermont cheesemakers have reported sales losses between 50 and 95 percent in the wake of the pandemic. Prices to dairy farmers are at historic lows and five farms closed during the first week of May. Tebbetts expects more will shutter if they don’t get help. “Dairy needs immediate stimulus grants to maintain farms and continued food production. At risk are many businesses who also rely on dairy for a paycheck. Those are the feed and seed dealers, the veterinarians, and those who sell to and supply our farmers. Under the proposal the total package is $50 million. Forty million dollars would be allocated to dairy farmers. The remaining $10 million would be allocated to dairy processors, including those who make cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and milk, who have sustained losses under COVID-19. This is about survival.”
The recovery package will be presented to the legislature within a week and Governor Scott is hoping for quick action. “This is our proposal to the Legislature so none of this has passed yet. We’ve done it a little bit different here in Vermont. It’s not under just the control of the governor as it is in other states. So they’re still in session. But for the most part we think it’s a solid package.”
Vermont is getting a total of $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding.