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Legislative Update – July 13, 2020

July 13, 2020

It has been two weeks since the Legislature adjourned and we provided you with our legislative summary of the months of January through June. Our advocacy team is working to prepare for the Legislature’s return on August 25th. Between now and then, we will continue to provide you with updates on the COVID-19 response, federal legislation, and other relevant legislative preparations. 

In this week’s update:

Large Event Guidance Finally Published 

The Lake Chamber’s advocacy team has been facilitating working groups and engaging with the Restart Taskforce to create guidance that allows larger gatherings that have crucial economic and societal benefits to proceed in a manner that is protective of human health. This ad hoc group will still be convening to further the guidance and provide assistance to one another to preserve public health. 

ACCD has released guidance for large outdoor event venues that can usually accommodate more than 1,000 people. Venues may be able to exceed the 150-maximum limit by creating multiple distinct event locations that meet the event criteria, including creating separate areas of 150 people with unique facilities in each area. More details and full guidance can be found in the ACCD Work Safe Memo.

For more information, reach out to our team at [email protected].

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) Survey

The Lake Champlain Chamber and other partnered business organizations are working together to survey Vermont’s employers to help identify employer masks/face coverings and other personal protective equipment (PPE) needs in the state. The purpose of this survey is to help quantify use, demand (current and future), and supply of masks/face coverings to help inform ongoing efforts to assist Vermont employers in securing the masks/face coverings and other PPE they want and need. 

We appreciate you taking the time to complete this survey.

Available Grants and Business Relief Updates 

ACCD Economic Recovery Grants 

Economic Recovery Grants are still being accepted by the Agency of Commerce and Vermont Department of Taxes from Vermont businesses who can demonstrate revenue loss in any one-month period from March 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020, when compared with the same month in 2019. The Economic Recovery Grants landing page has full details, including eligibility requirements, document preparation instructions, and a link to a series of FAQs to assist businesses in completing the application. Webinars hosted by ACCD can be found here. 

Landlord Grants 

Governor Phil Scott, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Vermont State Housing Authority, and the Vermont Housing Finance Agency today announced $30 million in housing assistance to those affected by COVID-19. The programs utilize federal CARES Act funding to provide relief for those tenants unable to pay rent, landlords suffering from a loss of rent payments, and those lower-income homeowners needing assistance in paying the mortgage.

EIDL Advance Grant Ends 

On Friday the U.S. Small Business Administration announced the conclusion and success of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance program. EIDL loan applications will still be processed even though the Advance is no longer available. 

PPP

On July 4th, the President signed legislation that extends the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) until August 8th.

Unintended FFCRA and Unemployment Policy

Over a month ago, our advocacy team flagged for legislators and administration officials an unintended consequence of language included in the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act as well as Vermont’s recent Act 91. The FFCRA Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires an employer to pay for the mandatory quarantine of an employee but the Act does not take into account the circumstances that led up to the need for quarantine. Similarly, Act 91 makes individuals eligible for unemployment if they need to quarantine. The result? Employers may have to pay for an employee’s quarantine after they return from non-essential travel. Employees may quarantine for 7 days and get tested and return to work after receiving a negative result or quarantine for 14 days. 

What Should I do? 

  • An employer can have a policy that requires employees to request leave ahead of time, and if the request is for a vacation in another state that would lead to quarantine, the employer could deny the request.

  • If the employer has work the employee can do remotely, the employer can require the employee to work while quarantining. 

  • Recently passed workers’ compensation legislation highlights that an employee’s behavior outside of work that puts them at risk of exposure creates liability for their employer; as such, you may want to include questions around employee travel in your workplace’s syndromic surveillance screening. 

Our advocacy team is working with state partners to create human resources policies that can foster greater communication, understanding, and collaboration between employers and employees as well as with our State’s Congressional Delegation on a possible federal remedy. We suggest employers get legal counsel should this issue arise in your workplace.

Have more questions about FFCRA? Take a look at our 5/26 Webinar: An Overview of FFCRA with Sheehey Furlong & Behm.

Burlington Looks to Reform Parking Minimums 

The Burlington City Council will get a first look this evening at an amendment that reforms restrictive parking minimums that represent a significant barrier to increased density and the construction of the housing stock our region desperately needs. The measures presented within Amendment ZA-20-04 will provide for the meaningful flexibility necessary to build the Burlington that facilitates accommodations for motor vehicles in a judicious manner rather than by a default requirement. It is for these reasons that the Lake Champlain Chamber supports the Amendment ZA-20-04. 

We’ve heard from a number of members about some of the policy issues considered by the Burlington City Council in recent months. We know how important it is to bring businesses’ voice to the Council and we’ll continue to represent you there. Our soon to be President of the Lake Champlain Chamber, Cathy Davis, recently published a commentary on this development. 

Top Question We Answered This Week

We’re publishing the question that has shown up in our advocacy inbox the most each week. If many are asking, many others might appreciate the answer. 

Q: Why are sole proprietors without W-2 employees ineligible for the economic relief grants passed by the legislature? 

A: Faced with limited resources, the members of the Committees working on the grants felt that this population had already received assistance from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program which made this population eligible for unemployment insurance. Our advocacy team disagreed with this assessment. The grants were made available to women- and minority-owned sole proprietors. We hope to have more information one Vermont-based relief for this population very soon.

The Laundry List 

  • Our team has heard reports that as many umbrella and general liability insurance policies are being renewed, companies are including a Communicable Disease Exclusion endorsement. The endorsement excludes liability arising out of the actual or alleged transmission of a communicable disease from being covered. 
  • Lodging: ACCD, in conjunction with the Department of Health, has updated the lodging certification process.  In addition to offering the Certificate of Compliance form, lodging properties with the technology to add a digital checkbox certification to reservation and check-in procedures and processes may now offer that option.  The ACCD Guest Compliance page has been updated with the exact language that must be used.
  • A commentary published in the journal Pediatrics, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, by two UVM doctors concludes that children infrequently transmit COVID-19 to each other or to adults and that many schools, provided they follow appropriate social distancing guidelines and take into account rates of transmission in their community, can and should reopen in the fall. Read more here.
  • In two split decisions handed down Friday, the Vermont Supreme Court narrowly ruled against school districts fighting forced mergers under Act 46, a sweeping school governance reform passed in 2015. Read more here
  • Water Quality: the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) invites Vermonters to attend three online presentations in July to review a collaborative watershed action plan for the Northern Lake Champlain Direct Drainages. The plan encompasses a portion of the Lake Champlain watershed that stretches from Ferrisburgh to Swanton, including the Lake Champlain Islands, as well as Shelburne, Burlington, Malletts, and St Albans Bays. Learn more here
  • Our COVID-19 Resource Guide is being consistently updated here.

Upcoming Webinars

Pandemics, Politics and Planning: A Market and Economic Discussion
July 15 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Free

Please join the Lake Champlain Chamber and People’s United Advisors’ senior investment and planning professionals for an insightful market and economic discussion. Register here. 

Race Against the Machine: A Webinar Addressing Systemic Racism
July 16 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
$30 members | $40 non-members (all proceeds to Abundant Sun)

Dr. Jude Smith Rachele of Abundant Sun will facilitate a workshop on how businesses can address systemic racism and achieve better racial equity.  State of Vermont Executive Director of Racial Equity, Xusana Davis, will join and co-facilitate. Register here.

Concerned or need to learn more about anything in this newsletter? Email our team at [email protected]. 

We look forward to working with you.
Sincerely, 
The Lake Champlain Chamber Advocacy Team

Man with white shirt and black sports jacket
Tom Torti, President
Cathy Davis, Executive Vice President
Austin Davis headshot
Austin Davis, Government Affairs Manager