PAI: More federal pandemic relief, $2.5 billion for Vermont

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PAI: More federal pandemic relief, $2.5 billion for Vermont

Sat, 01/16/2021 - 11:50am -- tim
Public Assets Institute As the legislature gets into full swing this month, dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 on Vermonters will be at the top of the list. At the end of 2020, Washington approved another round of pandemic relief, adding more funds and extending the spending deadline for the federal aid sent last spring.

Vermont expects up to $2.5 billion from this new round of aid, with $1.8 billion accounted for so far.1

The aid includes funds for businesses, broadband investments, food, COVID-19 response, and other priorities.

The new money extends a number of programs slated to expire including federal unemployment insurance and food programs, as well as additional health care support to test, trace and vaccinate Vermonters. About $650 million of that will be subject to legislative oversight.

Individuals

Most Vermonters with incomes under $75,000 a year are expected to receive $600 in one-time stimulus payments, and the same amount for each child. An estimated $470 million in additional unemployment insurance (UI) benefits will support Vermonters out of work or who lost their jobs. The bill extends UI benefits through mid-March, adds a supplemental benefit of $300 a week, and covers workers who are not traditionally eligible for UI: the self-employed and independent contractors.

Public Services

Agencies providing public services will receive over $500 million to support Vermonters. This includes $200 million to keep renters housed through 2021, $129 million to support K-12 schools, and up to $50 million in new COVID-specific health care dollars, with this number expected to increase.

The $84 million for transportation includes aid for highways, rural areas, and airports. And while the amount is not yet known, Vermont will get additional money for food support, for students to access broadband, and for building out rural broadband services.

Businesses

Hundreds of millions of dollars are available to eligible Vermont businesses through the new Paycheck Protection Program, providing forgivable loans to keep people on payroll, in addition to the $1.2 billion in PPP money received in 2020. New program qualifications limit recipients to businesses with fewer than 300 people and revenue losses of 25 percent or more in 2020. Vermont businesses will also receive support from new Economic Injury Disaster Loan Grants, and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants program.

The new money is good news for Vermonters as they deal with the economic fallout of COVID-19. For lawmakers, it adds more resources to support critical state services. It also adds one more piece to the puzzle of balancing the state budget. However, the governor and legislature can’t direct the relief as freely as they did with the first round of aid. And with a new administration in Washington, guidance on how to spend funds will likely change. Vermont lawmakers will have to continue to think creatively about how to best use this money to address the needs of all Vermonters.

While these funds help address Vermonters’ immediate needs, state policy makers also need to be thinking now about addressing Vermonters needs over the longer term as the federal funding recedes.

  1. This includes Public Assets Institute’s estimate of new Paycheck Protection Program funds, assuming that Vermont receives the same share of federal funding as it did in round 1. []
Source: Montpelier. 1.15.2021 Public Assets Institute