By Rep. Stephanie Jerome (D- Brandon, Pittsford, Sudbury)
On my last day at the State House, I reported on H.681, a bill to adapt unemployment insurance eligibility so that COVID-19 affected businesses’ employees are eligible for unemployment benefits. This includes individuals who need to self-quarantine; are infected; need to care for people who are infected; and businesses that need to shut down. The bill ensures employers’ unemployment insurance experience rating will not be affected by COVID-19 related claims. Employees will receive up to eight weeks of Unemployment Insurance benefits. The Vermont Department of Labor has expanded unemployment insurance benefits for individuals who have been temporarily laid off, removed work-search requirements for those with a return-to-work date, and shortened the time it takes for benefits to be issued. Full-Service Filing of Claims: 1-877-214-3330 and Supplemental Initial Claim Intake: 1-888-807-707 or https://labor.vermont.gov/ COVID-19 FAQs for employers and employees is available at https://labor.vermont.gov/covid19/covid-19-frequently-asked-questions. If you have questions, contact Employer Services at 802 828-4344.
Our world has changed dramatically in the past few weeks. My heart goes out to our communities and to those suffering through this crisis. Our lives have been turned upside down and we are quickly getting used to a new normal. As your state representative, I want you to know that I am taking the COVID-19 situation very seriously and am in regular communication with legislative leaders and administration. Over a week ago, the Vermont House voted unanimously to advance a package of bills to put us on a strong footing, as we meet this public health challenge, particularly relating to unemployment insurance and health care. Before the bills become law, the Senate must pass them, and then the Governor must sign or let the bills become law without his signature. We are closely monitoring what the Federal government is doing and how their legislation will impact us. Below is an update of resources and areas that are of concern to our communities:
Small Business Assistance
Because the Federal government approved Gov. Scott’s request for a disaster declaration, Vermont businesses that have had adverse impacts due to COVID-19 are eligible to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/ There is discussion that these loans may be converted into grants in the future. The Agency of Commerce and Community Development continues to respond to the business impacts of COVID-19. https://accd.vermont.gov/about-us/disaster-planning/covid-19-guidance-vermont-businesses Businesses should call to report impacts and be directed to resources for assistance: (802) 461-5143. Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Vermont Small Business Development Center is providing resources to help support small businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak. https://www.vtsbdc.org/coronavirus/
Businesses who owe Meals and Rooms Tax or Sales and Use Tax will not need to pay these taxes until further notice. Taxpayers who are unable to meet the 3/25 and 4/25 deadlines will not be charged any penalty or interest on these taxes for late submissions. Income tax filing due dates for the following taxes have been extended from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020: Vermont personal income tax; Vermont Homestead Declaration and Property Tax Claims; Corporate income tax, and Fiduciary income tax. https://tax.vermont.gov/coronavirus
If you are having difficulty with payments, whether car loans, credit cards, mortgages, business loans or other obligations, contact your lender immediately. The Vermont Economic Development Authority, credit unions, and banks will work with borrowers to the maximum extent possible to alleviate financial pressure. http://vtbanker.com/ http://vermontcreditunions.coop/
Child Care & Essential Persons Coverage
Essential persons eligible for child care coverage include: providers of healthcare, criminal justice personnel, public health employees; firefighters; Vermont National Guard personnel called to duty; first responders and state employees determined to be essential for response to this crisis; staff and providers of childcare and education services (including custodial, kitchen and support staff). The administration will continue to update the list. Essential workers who need help finding child care should visit: https://webportalapp.com/webform/essentialworkers. Families can call 2-1-1 ext.6, or 877-705-9008 Homeless Vermonters
The Department of Children and Families’ Economic Services Division is extending housing supports for homeless individuals who are over age 60, or have underlying health conditions. Benefits Service Center at 800-479-6151, M-F 8 a.m.-6:15 p.m. https://dcf.vermont.gov/dcf-blog/covid19-housing-supports Prescriptions
Pharmacists may disregard individual fill quantities, up to the total prescribed quantity or 90 days, whichever first occurs. Fill quantities may not be extended for controlled drugs. https://dfr.vermont.gov/reg-bul-ord/covid-19-prescription-drug-refills
The Public Utility Commission ordered a temporary moratorium on involuntary natural gas, electric, and telecommunications service disconnections, effective immediately through April 30. https://publicservice.vermont.gov/content/covid-19-vermont-utility-response
VT Food Bank https://www.vtfoodbank.org/coronavirus-services-for-individuals Brandon Area Emergency Food Shelf – 74 Park Street, Brandon, Open on Mondays from 8:30-9 a.m. Pittsford Food Shelf – 4181 US Route 7 South, Pittsford Monday 9-11a.m., Thursday 4-6 p.m.
Information on student loan repayment options is available at vsac.org and borrowers can talk to a counselor by calling 877-253-6485, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., M-F and online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Department of Public Service is collecting information on the availability of Internet and telecommunications services, including discounted services. https://publicservice.vermont.gov/content/new-connectivity-resources-support-you-during-covid-19-stateemergency-vermont
Creative Sector Resources
Vermont Arts Council has a list of resources to assist artists and creative businesses https://www.vermontartscouncil.org/covid-19
Rutland Northeast school administrators, educators, and staff have a difficult job in this transition to teaching and learning remotely. They are to be commended for their great work, so far! I encourage you to follow their COVID-19 updates. Check out these resources for families and students: http://www.rnesu.org/district_information/coronavirus_information https://sites.google.com/rnesu.org/rnesu-covid-info/home The legislature is continuing to work remotely with committees meeting via teleconferencing. Rules are being assessed as to how we will come together to vote on budget bills and legislation that must pass this session. COVID-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on our everyday lives, with changes daily.
As your state representative, I will continue to keep you informed and to serve you during this difficult time. Wash your hands and stay healthy,
Rep. Stephanie Jerome
us healthvermont.gov/covid19 , dial 2-1-1