Legislative Update – March 16, 2020

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Mar 16, 2020 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

Photo of the Vermont State HouseWhile the State House is closed, Rep. Kari Dolan and I will be in touch with the administration and others to best protect Vermonters’ health and safety during these challenging times. The Joint House and Senate Rules Committee meets daily via conference call to get updates from the administration and ask specific questions. On Saturday, the Committee spoke with the Commissioner of Health. Yesterday the Secretary of Education updated us on school closings. Today the committee hopes to hear from the Department of Labor.

Below are updates from the House of Representatives, information from the Treasurer and other financial institutions as well as DMV and the Attorney General. Things are changing hourly as new information comes in. We will do our best to keep you informed. Please reach out: [email protected] and [email protected].

House Action

On Friday before closing, the House took action to lay the groundwork for our response to the impacts of COVID-19 on our people, businesses, and communities. Action included:

  • Adapted unemployment insurance eligibility to make it clear that COVID-19 affected businesses & individuals are eligible to receive unemployment.
  • Ensured employers’ unemployment insurance experience rating is not affected by COVID-19 related claims.
  • Passed a resolution calling on the federal government to refrain from detaining or arresting undocumented immigrants in health care settings during this health care crisis.
  • Passed a health care workforce bill that will allow retired medical professionals with valid licenses from other states to join the workforce, streamlines the process for the Agency of Human Services to fund providers in the state to sustain them through the health care crisis, and prohibits coronavirus-related copayments.
  • Approved an amendment to expand our paid sick days law to businesses with five or more employees that work 30 hours a week or more.

Passing these bills was a preparatory step to ensure that as federal responses are clarified, the Senate has the ability to act quickly on a COVID-19 package.

Vermont’s Financial Health

State Treasurer Pearce reported that Vermont is in good financial health. We have a strong cash position, fully funded reserves, and we are able to pay our obligations through disruptions.

Depending on the duration and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vermont is preparing to provide flexibility and support for businesses. The Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) outlined a proposed emergency, low-interest loan program for Vermont businesses to enable them to weather cash flow shortages caused in part by the COVID-19. While not available yet, VEDA has experience administering such loan programs and is gearing up their staff to help struggling businesses.

Access to loans and capital may become critical if COVID-19 is a prolonged event. Representatives of the Vermont Bankers Association and the Vermont Credit Union Association have stated that these institutions will remain open for business, with solid operational plans in place, even if affected by employee shortages. If constituents have difficulty meeting their loan payments, whether they are car loans, credit cards, mortgages, business loans or other obligations, encourage them to contact their lender immediately. VEDA, the Credit Unions and the Banks will work with borrowers to the maximum extent that they can.

Self-employed individuals

For self-employed individuals, Vermont does not have law granting unemployment benefits. Individuals should contact their insurance company to see if they have any applicable business interruption insurance.

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

DMV will be giving extensions for registration and license renewals.

Guidance from the Attorney General’s Office

COVID-19 guidance for small business on our small business help page here: https://ago.vermont.gov/cap/small-business-help/ There’s good info here for other folks, not just small businesses.

Importantly, remember that businesses are consumers, too, protected by the Consumer Protection Act when they are in the consumer role, i.e., buying hand sanitizers or bleach wipes for their business use (not for resale to others).

On Monday, we posted on FB a more general notice about price gouging, which linked to this post on CAP’s blog: http://blog.uvm.edu/cap/is-price-gouging-in-your-community/

If anyone has any concerns at all call CAP at 1-800-649-2424. If CAP can’t help, they can make a referral.

Please stay in touch: [email protected] and 828-2228.