News in Brief, August 2021: Pandemic UI ends, third vaccine, PI revenues down

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News in Brief, August 2021: Pandemic UI ends, third vaccine, PI revenues down

Sun, 09/12/2021 - 2:20pm -- tim

Expanded federal UI benefits to end September 6

The Vermont Department of Labor is reminding claimants the federal expansion of unemployment insurance benefits created under the CARES Act will end September 6, 2021. This includes Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). As of the week ending August 14, there were 14,850 people on regular UI benefits or one of the federal pandemic UI benefits plans. At $300 a week, the federal stipend goes to all claimants and comes to about $4.5 million a week for those Vermonters.  The VDOL helps workers and employers to find and fill jobs. Go to labor.vermont.gov.

 

CDC recommends those with weakened immune systems get third vaccination

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that people whose immune systems are moderately to severely weakened receive an additional dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

At this time, CDC recommends the third dose for people who have compromised immune systems and have received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. An additional dose is not currently recommended for those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. If you are eligible for the additional vaccination, you will be required to self-attest that you qualify.

To find one of the many vaccination sites, go to www.healthvermont.gov(link is external).

The CDC expects to open up third shots (and a second one for J&J) for the general public as soon as the end of September. A booster shot is also expected to be recommended for everyone by the end of the year for those who are eight months past their initial immunization.

 

July tax revenues up, but personal income slumps

Vermont’s tax revenues for July 2021 (General, Education, and Transportation Fund) have come in above target. However, the Personal Income tax, the state's most important General Fund revenue source, was below its target. The PI had been leading the way in Vermont’s revenue surplus over the last two years. Young indicated that while it’s too early to tell (July is the first month of the 2022 fiscal year), the PI is typically a reliable economic indicator.

Meanwhile, other sources, like the Corporate, tourism-related Rooms & Meals and secondary taxes picked up the slack. General Fund revenues for the month totaled $124.81 million, or $3.04 million above the monthly consensus revenue target.

Receipts for all three Funds were a combined $6.91 million, or 3.5% above monthly consensus expectations from the upgraded consensus revenue forecast adopted by the Emergency Board on July 30,2021.

The Transportation Fund was $470,000, or 2.16%, above consensus expectations for the month, bringing in $22.03 million. The Education Fund (excluding property taxes) was $3.4 million, or 5.97%, above the monthly consensus target, with $60.42 million in total receipts for the month.

 

Vermont’s unemployment rate falls to 3.0 percent in July

​The Vermont Department of Labor has reported that the seasonally-adjusted statewide unemployment rate for July was 3.0 percent. This reflects a decrease of one-tenth of one percentage point from the prior month’s revised estimate. The comparable United States rate in July was 5.4 percent, which was a decrease of five-tenths of one percentage point from the revised June estimate. Vermont has the fifth lowest rate in the US.

The Vermont civilian labor force increased by 1,501 from the prior month’s revised estimate. While this only chips away at the workforce shortage (Labor still down 8,542 from a year ago), the labor force and number of employed showed notable improvement from recent months.

The number of employed persons increased by 1,513 and the number of unemployed persons decreased by 12. Labor Commissioner Harrington said the report reflects generally good economic news, but some sectors, like accommodations and food service, are still struggling to fill jobs.

 

Vermont Guard assists Afghan evacuation

Vermont National Guard units deployed to US Central Command served in support of Operation Allies Refuge. A small contingent from the 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry (Mountain), 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan earlier this month to support security operations at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

 

Lawsuit alleges Shumlin administration perpetuated EB-5 fraud

State regulators and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office hid the EB-5/Jay Peak fraud from investors and the public for 13 months, vtdigger.org reported, before the SEC shut down the projects. Some of those filed a lawsuit against the state in federal court in late August. They allege that the officials hid the information to ensure that the construction projects already in process would be completed.

 

Maple Broadband and WCVT ink deal to expand broadband in Addison

Maple Broadband and Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom signed an agreement on August 26 to manage and deliver services to Maple Broadband’s fiber network in Addison County. The contract is for 10 years with two, 10-year options. WVCT will offer technical and management support. Maple Broadband will provide the financing and undertake the construction. It hopes to break ground as early as next year.

Maple Broadband is one of the state’s relatively new Communications Union Districts.

The governor signed a bill earlier this year that allocates $150 million and a new government entity to expand broadband, especially in outlying areas.

 

US Census 2020 shows Vermont is growing

The state gained 17,336 people in the last decade, according to the 2020 US Decennial Census. While Vermont’s 2.8 percent growth is lower than the 7.4 percent national increase, it is not the slight population drop suggested by estimates made yearly by the Census.

Census officials say the 10-year population data, like those released in 2010 and 2020, are more accurate because they are based on actual counts. The annual estimates, which are based on surveys and other random sampling data, have more room for error.

The 2020 count does not reflect any influx during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Census count is based on where people lived on April 1, 2020—a few weeks into the pandemic, before anyone had time to move.

 

VEDA approved $26.6 million in financing last quarter

During the most recent quarter ending June 30, The Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) approved over $26.6 million in new financing to support 408 farms and businesses throughout Vermont. VEDA surpassed its previous quarter with a near $13 million increase. Of the newly approved financing, a total of $9.7 million was approved through VEDA’s traditional loan programs and $17.7 million in Small Business Association (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program loans (PPP).

VEDA approved $5.2 million in its Commercial and Small Business Loan Programs, $1.7 million in its Agricultural Loan Program, and $596,000 in its Renewable Energy Loan Programs. In addition, $815,000 of Drinking Water Loans and $500,000 of Clean Water Loans were approved in programs administered by VEDA for the State of Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

 

AOT completes construction of taxiway at Morrisville-Stowe Airport

The Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) has announced the completion of two major projects at Morrisville-Stowe State Airport: construction of a parallel taxiway and improvements to the runway surface area. The goal of the projects is to provide a safer aviation operating environment by providing turnarounds at both ends of the runway and a new taxiway that meets Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards.

The project was constructed in phases from April through August 2021 to limit the impact to airport operations. The contractor was G.W. Tatro Construction, Inc. The cost of the projects was $2,903,913 for the taxiway and $1,247,168.50 for the runway safety areas.

 

Vermonters now have health care price transparency tools

Vermont State Auditor Doug Hoffer is encouraging all Vermonters to utilize the health care price transparency tools that enable them to seek medical care at the best price and announced that he has put every Vermont hospital’s price estimator tool in one location on his State Auditor website. The Legislature required commercial health insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP to provide detailed price information on their websites for their policyholders to utilize. Go to auditor.vermont.gov to find the tool.

 

Unions ratify Consolidated labor agreements in Northern New England

Union members from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Locals 2320, 2326 and 2327 and the Communication Workers of America (CWA), Local 1400 have ratified new, four-year agreements with Consolidated Communications, which cover approximately 900 workers in Northern New England. The new contracts will run through August 9, 2025.

The unions, representing workers in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, had authorized a strike in July and the contract expired August 7. But unlike 2015 there was no labor action.

 

Burlington Councilors reject plea to increase police

The Progressive caucus of Burlington’s City Council has defeated a second effort to reverse steep cuts to city police ranks despite warnings that their decision would doom the department, Seven Days reported. A resolution to increase the roster cap to 82 officers, up from the 74-officer limit enacted during historic protests and calls to “defund” the police, failed on a tie vote, with Councilor Zoraya Hightower (P-Ward 1) absent, Seven Days.

According to Seven Days, the citizen police commission had unanimously supported an increase to the roster cap. Downtown business groups also pushed for the change.

 

LL Bean to leave Burlington for Williston

Outdoor retailer LL Bean will leave its location in Burlington and open a store in Williston, according to WCAX News. The Finney Crossing developer has confirmed to that LL Bean will be going into a new building between Healthy Living and the Union Bank on Williston Road across from Shaw’s.

 

Worker relocation grant program application portal is now LIVE

The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) has officially launched a new relocation program that offers reimbursement grants, up to $7,500, to workers across the country who move to Vermont after July 1, 2021. The application portal has opened, and the program will be overseen by the Vermont Department of Economic Development. This new program builds upon Vermont’s previous successful recruitment initiatives and aims to attract new residents to the state, grow the workforce, and support employers facing workforce challenges due to low unemployment or finding qualified candidates.

 

Scott and officials commemorate 10th anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene

Governor Phil Scott and members of his administration came together in late August with local officials to recognize the 10-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene (which was Saturday, August 28) and highlight Vermont’s recovery from the storm. The press conference was held in the Town of Brandon, which the Administration noted is one example of a town that was impacted by Irene and has taken advantage of federal dollars earmarked to mitigate the impact of future storms. A media tour through town highlighted measures like better drainage through larger and more efficient culverts in its downtown, the purchase and removal of structures in areas of repetitive damage, and altered floodplains to better divert waters away from structures and public infrastructure.

 

UVM mandates masks indoors

The University of Vermont has reinstated an indoor mask requirement for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors on campus. “We will continue to monitor the rate of COVID-19 cases on campus, in Vermont, and across the region and will adjust this requirement if conditions warrant,” noted Patricia A Prelock, Provost and Senior Vice President and Gary Derr, Vice President for Operations and Public Safety, in a message to the campus community.

 

Vermont gets $21.5 million for military construction projects

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has announced more than $21.5 million for Vermont projects in the annual Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill advanced by the Committee in August. The funding would accelerate construction of a readiness center in Bennington and support a new family readiness center at Camp Johnson, on land formerly referred to as the Ethan Allen Air Force Base in Colchester.

 

State sued over refusal to protect endangered bats from insecticide

The Vermont Natural Resources Council and Center for Biological Diversity have sued Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources for refusing to require the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen-Pittsford Insect Control District to apply for permission to harm five threatened and endangered Vermont bat species. The Insect Control District sprays the toxic insecticides malathion and permethrin for mosquito control in the habitat of the Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, little brown bat, eastern small-footed bat and tricolored bat, all of which are protected by Vermont’s Protection of Endangered Species Act.

 

USDA invests $1.07 million in wastewater solution for Lindale Mobile Home Park

The United States Department of Agriculture - Rural Development (RD) has announced $1,079,000 in funding for the Addison County Community Trust (ACCT) to install a septic system in the Lindale Mobile Home Park in Middlebury, Vermont. The investment is packaged as a $203,000 loan and $876,000 grant through RD’s Water and Waste Disposal Loan & Grant program. Other contributions to the project include $111,072 from the ACCT, a $450,000 Vermont Community Development Block grant and $500,000 from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board. USDA and ACCT also worked closely with the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) to facilitate the project.

 

Extra back-to-school cash for children enrolled in Reach Up

The Department for Children and Families (DCF) has announced that over 5,300 children of families who are enrolled in the Reach Up program will receive extra back-to-school help this month thanks to federal Pandemic Emergency Assistance Funds. This one-time payment of $304 per child is in addition to monthly cash grants the families receive, and will help pay for costs related to going back to school and childcare.

 

Beth Robinson nominated to serve on 2nd circuit court of appeals

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), President Pro Tempore of the US Senate and Former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has praised President Biden’s historic nomination of longtime Vermonter and Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson to serve on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Robinson – a pioneer in the national movement for LBGTQ rights and the first openly gay Vermont Supreme Court Justice – would be the first ever openly LGBTQ woman to serve on a federal circuit court of appeals.  Robinson’s nomination follows the death of Judge Peter Hall

 

GMP urges customers to apply now for $55 million in grants for overdue utility bills

Green Mountain Power (GMP) is reminding customers that $55 million in free grant money is available for a limited time to help renters, homeowners, businesses and farms get caught up on overdue utility bills tied to the pandemic. Customers can apply for grants through the Vermont Department of Public Service through October 25, and qualified customers can use the money to pay past-due landline phone, electric, natural gas and water service bills. Up to $10,000 is available for residential customers, up to $50,000 is available for businesses, and a grant program specifically for Vermonters who rent their homes can help pay rent as well as utilities.

 

Nolato GW grows with Vermont expansion

In response to its growing medical injection molding business, advanced manufacturing company Nolato AB is finalizing two expansions in North America. Nolato GW and Nolato Contour, both leaders in plastic and silicone injection molding, have expanded to create space for multiple new programs Nolato is launching to support its steadily increasing medical business. Nolato GW, formerly GW Plastics, recently completed a 3,000 ft² expansion of Class 8 cleanroom space for their silicone molding division, Nolato GW Silicones, in Royalton, VT.

 

Sugarbush Resort raises minimum wage to $15

Sugarbush Resort is raising its minimum wage for all non-tipped positions to $15/hour, effective immediately. In addition, the resort will be making wage adjustments for other eligible staff members to maintain a differential in pay. The announcement was made to all staff at Sugarbush’s annual summer employee party in August.

 

Chase opens of three new branches, creating about 30 jobs

Chase has opened a state-of-the art bank location at 1 Church Street in Burlington. Current plans call for three branches in Vermont over the next two years including in South Burlington and Williston.  The expansion into Vermont adds retail and business banking to a market where the firm already serves nearly two hundred thousand consumers and local businesses, including clients through its Commercial Bank. Currently in Vermont, Chase serves 130,000 consumer and 6,300 businesses. The firm also has a large office in South Burlington supporting lockbox services delivered to wholesale public sector state government, and federal government clients.

 

Gifford’s Last Mile raises $165,000 for end of life care

Over the course of two weekends, Gifford’s 16th annual Last Mile event set a new fundraising and participation record for the medical center. A total of 519 people participated in the bike ride, walk, 5k and motorcycle ride. It has resulted in $165,000 going to Gifford’s palliative care program, assisting families whose loved ones are in life’s last mile.

 

1% for the Planet receives $60,000 from the Canaday Family Charitable Trust

1% for the Planet has received a grant of $60,000 from the Canaday Family Charitable Trust to support paid internships at 1% for the Planet’s Burlington, Vermont headquarters. The Canaday Family Charitable Trust is a foundation established in 1945 that supports Vermont organizations working to improve the lives of children and families, promote environmental education and conservation, and preserve the environment.

 

Pediatric New American Program at the UVM Children’s Hospital gets $25K from TD

The TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, recently donated $25,000 to the Pediatric New American Program at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital as part of the Foundation’s commitment to giving back to the community. The TD Charitable Foundation donation will provide the Pediatric New American Program with essential funding for a new community-embedded clinic, the Building Strong Families (BSF) Clinic, that partners with a local parent-child center that offers childcare and support groups for new parents.

 

Waterbury Roundabout and VJT announce sponsorship for fundraising, grant-seeking

The Waterbury community’s year-old online news outlet, Waterbury Roundabout Inc, and the Vermont Journalism Trust, Ltd, have announced a fiscal sponsorship agreement to assist the new local news site as it works to become financially sustainable. The website WaterburyRoundabout.org launched in May 2020, several weeks after the community’s weekly newspaper, the Waterbury Record, folded early in the COVID-19 pandemic. The association will allow Roundabout to raise nonprofit funds. VJT is the parent organization of the Montpelier-based online news organization vtdigger.org.

 

Greensea expands operations in Vermont

Greensea Systems, creator of OPENSEA, the universal open architecture software platform for the marine industry, recently expanded their Vermont operations by leasing 4,200 ft2 of additional commercial space at The Creamery located at 20 Jolina Court, Richmond, VT. The new commercial space will provide additional office space as well as a much needed engineering laboratory space for research and development.

 

Bill Stenger pleads guilty to false document charges in EB-5 case

The United States Attorney’s Office has announced that former Jay Peak President William Stenger, 72, of Newport, Vermont, has pleaded guilty before Chief Judge Geoffrey W Crawford in United States District Court in Burlington to a felony count of knowingly and willfully submitting false documents to the Vermont Regional Center in connection with his involvement in the Jay Peak Biomedical Research Park EB-5 investment project, also called the AnC Vermont project located in Newport. Stenger faces up to five years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for October.