By Rep. Stephanie Zak Jerome
Vermont House of Representatives
(Brandon, Pittsford, Sudbury) Rutland-6
This is a critical moment in the COVID-19 emergency. Earlier this week, the state released information that projects a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations later this month. Even with all of the social distancing measures we’ve taken as a community, we know that the hardest part lies ahead. This is difficult news at a time when many of us are juggling unimaginable stress.
We’re all in this together, and each of us plays an important role to slow the spread of the virus so that our healthcare workforce and first responders can provide care to those in need. The health commissioner has recommended that Vermonters wear cloth face masks if you need to leave your home for essential tasks. Ultimately, the best way to slow this virus is to stay at home, practice social distancing, and exercise caution when you have to travel to buy essential goods, like groceries, and WASH YOUR HANDS. I am hopeful that our communities will come out of the crisis intact. One of the best ways that I can be of value to you is to relay information. It is my intent that you are well informed and have the most up-to-date information possible.
The federal stimulus package, which was recently signed into law, includes direct one-time payments to most Americans. The direct payment will provide $1,200 payments to adults with annual incomes up to $75,000, plus another $500 per child. For most Americans, the money is likely to arrive in April via the direct deposit information on your 2019 tax return, or by check through the mail if no direct deposit information was provided.
If you are not working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, please apply for Unemployment Insurance (UI) at the Vermont Department of Lab,or https://labor.vermont.gov/
I have been getting many constituent inquiries from small businesses, self-employed and independent contractors. Our communities are made up of only small businesses – as the Federal definition is 500 employees or less. When the CARES Act was passed in late March, there were provisions for relief for small businesses and the details are now slowly being released. I would recommend that all small businesses, including sole-proprietors and independent contractors, take advantage of these opportunities available from the Department of Labor and Small Business Administration:
• Payment Protection Program (PPP) – Loans to provide cash-flow assistance to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency,
www.sba.gov/document/sba-form – paycheck-protection-program-borrower-application-form
• Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Emergency Economic Injury Grants – Provide an emergency advance of up to $10,000 to small businesses and private non-profits harmed by COVID-19 within three days of applying for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/economic-injury-disaster-loan-emergency-advance
• Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) – The agreement provides an additional $600 for each weekly claim to all Unemployment Insurance claimants, including those not previously eligible, such as the self-employed. This will be in effect for claims beginning the week of March 29, 2020 and is not retroactive. www.labor.vermont.gov/CARESact_Vermont/SelfEmployed
• Sign up for the Vermont Department of Labor CARES Act – Self-Employed Information Newsletter to stay informed mailchi.mp/vermont/cares_selfemployed. Submit an Initial Claims Form at vermont.force.com/DOLClaim/s/
In addition, I would encourage business owners to reach out to the following advisors:
• Vermont Small Business Development Center, https://www.vtsbdc.org/region/rutland-county/
Nancy Shuttleworth. firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Small Business Administration
Disaster Assistance Customer Service email@example.com
Chris Herriman, Economic Development Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org
tel. 802-828-4422 Ext. 206, https://www.sba.gov/offices/district/vt/montpelier/about-us
• Rutland Economic Development Corporation, https://www.rutlandeconomy.com/covid19 email@example.com, 773-9147
REDC has a long list of additional resources for all types of businesses including farms and women-owned businesses.
• Brandon Area Response to COVID-19 is a comprehensive list of resources available to the residents of Brandon and surrounding towns www.townofbrandon.com
Contact your financial institution to discuss accommodations on your current loans.
For additional information, check out this summary of the CARES Act: labor.vermont.gov/CARESact_Vermont. Please contact me if you have questions about the issues that surround COVID-19, including grants, unemployment insurance, essential businesses, health, safety and more. I recognize this is a stressful time for our community, families, and businesses. I will continue to post updates on information on Facebook and Front Porch Forum. Please be in touch – I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-683-8209.