Business owners urge Legislature to give them a fighting chance and quickly release state assistance

Business owners from the restaurant, construction, retail and agricultural sectors held a press conference on Tuesday, June 2, to urge the Vermont state Legislature to act quickly to release much needed state financial assistance in the form of flexible grants.

Various committees in the Legislature have been reviewing the Scott administration’s proposal for a $400 million stimulus package which uses federal CARES Act money. It includes emergency grants and loans for businesses impacted by the pandemic and subsequent closures. But many businesses across the state fear that the current legislative process will not get them the money they desperately need quickly enough.

“We appreciate the governor’s proposal and that the Legislature is working hard to get relief to Vermont’s restaurant sector. But we need them to understand that every day without it edges many restaurants closer to closing their doors for good,” said Jed Davis, owner of the Farmhouse Group. “Simply put, the checks need to go out now. Restaurants were some of the first to close and last to reopen. Restaurants need grants, not just more loans, to give us a shot at long term survival.”

Businesses are also concerned that the current proposal would reduce the state assistance they receive based on prior acceptance of federal aid.

“We are in a desperate situation – with cheesemakers seeing 25-75% sales losses across the state, they are concerned about closing their doors,” said Marty Mundy, executive director of the Vermont Cheese Council. “Most can’t take on any further loans at this point  — meaning this funding must be grant funding if the state is trying to help. This is the only way we will be able to keep businesses open in a crisis environment that will likely last well into 2021 and beyond.”

As the Scott administration begins easing restrictions across sectors, businesses are navigating a complex and sometimes impossible framework of debt and diminished capacity.

“By supporting immediate emergency grant assistance utilized in combination with federal relief, you will give our businesses and the communities they call home a fighting chance,” said Jim Bradley, president of Vermont Builders and Remodelers Association. “That’s what we are asking for today. A fighting chance,” he added.

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