Vermont Legislative Leaders Pledge Support Of Furloughed Workers

Jan 18, 2019

The Democratic leaders of the Vermont House and Senate brought representatives of the state’s financial institutions and business leaders to Montpelier Thursday to discuss the ramifications of the federal shutdown on the state and what is being done to help furloughed workers.

The federal government entered the partial shutdown on December 22 and there is no indication it will end in the near future.
Vermont Speaker of the House Democrat Mitzi Johnson says Vermonters help each other and the legislature is engaging across government, community service providers and financial institutions to assist the roughly 1,500 furloughed federal workers in the state who are not being paid.  “The Legislature is committed to look at all the different ways that the dysfunction at the federal level is affecting our state. We want to work cooperatively with partners in the financial industry, banks and credit agencies, to help Vermonters. As for Vermonters whose pay or whose businesses are in question due to federal temper tantrums we want you to know that we’re here for you and we’re open to doing whatever we can to help weather this with you.”

Vermont Bankers Association President Chris D’Elia said financial institutions may waive fees, offer free overdraft protection, provide short-term loans with interest only or no payments, or modify existing loans to help furloughed workers. He urged affected federal employees to work with their financial institution.  “If you are a federal employee that is experiencing economic challenges or about to don’t hide, don’t put your head in the sand. Engage your bank. Engage your financial service provider to deal with these issues sooner rather than later. You don’t want them to become so big over time that it’s much more difficult to address them.”

Legislative leaders noted that the shutdown is now affecting businesses across the state. Vermont Brewers Association President Avery Schwenk said that includes breweries across Vermont.  “With the shutdown for the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau we’re unable to get new labels approved for our new and creative beers. We’re unable to exercise the right to begin distributing our own products in state and we’re unable to move forward with our plans for growth.  At my own brewery, at Hermit Thrush Brewery, we have a new beer that’s sitting in our tanks waiting for label approval we submitted last year.  Tim from Whetstone Station Brewery in Brattleboro: ‘Our federal permit for our brewery expansion has been on hold due to the shutdown. We have finished construction and have equipment in delivery. We were due to have the permit issued by the end of the year 2018 and now it’s in limbo.’ Delays caused by the shutdown are doing serious damage to our small businesses and to our industry.”

Again House Speaker Mitzi Johnson.  “The beer industry is one example. Farming. There are a lot of contractors that rely on federal funds who are not getting paid.  This has been a huge change for families that are used to a steady paycheck. And so they’re now experiencing what many many low income Vermonters experience on a regular basis and it’s not easy.”

In a conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock on the Congressional Corner, Vermont Democratic Congressman Peter Welch said he too has heard from Vermont businesses affected by the shutdown.  “There’s a construction company up in the Northeast Kingdom they’ve got a $2 million project set to go and they’ve got a lot of employees all set to go to work but they have to get sign off on permits from some federal employees who have furloughed. So that project is in limbo. Other folks who are trying to close on a transaction on a house but they can’t get furloughed employees to sign the loan paperwork.  All routine stuff but if the federal workers aren’t there it’s really hurting their business and a lot of employees.”

Audio from the legislative leaders’ press conference is courtesy of VT Digger.

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