It continues to be a busy time not only in the Vermont House, but working on the Planning Commission and on related Covid issues for my fellow constituents in St. Albans. As we attempt to finish up legislative business before June 30th we have passed some significant bills in an effort to assist Vermonters during Covid-19 and to restart the Vermont economy.
On Friday, June 12th, the Vermont House passed its first phase of an economic recovery package titled S.350. This bill will provide resources to Vermont’s businesses hit the hardest during the first half of this year related to Covid-19 issues. Our local businesses have struggled to stay open after the pandemic hit the state and I feel it is our distinct responsibility to provide quick relief to those struggling the most.
I’ve spoken with quite a few businesses in our downtown and they have all talked in detail about the hardships they have endured and the uncertainty of their future staying in business. These small businesses are the heart and soul of our downtowns, our communities and our economy for the State of Vermont, so providing relief to them is something I was happy to support. Unfortunately, I don’t believe we provided enough support in this first package.
Governor Phil Scott’s first proposal of the Vermont Economic Recovery Package that he introduced back on May 20th, was a $400 million package that included a Phase 1 of $150 million in grants and loans for our state’s businesses. S.350 was cut down to only $70 million in grants to Vermont businesses:
$50 Million appropriated to Department of Taxes to provide grants in coordination with the Agency of Commerce and Economic Development to eligible businesses:
- Business is registered to collect sales and use tax
- Businesses is registered to collect rooms and meals tax
- Business experienced a 75% or greater reduction in total sales in any one-month period from March 1, 2020 to September 1, 2020 as compared to the same one-month period from March 1, 2019 - September 1, 2019.
$20 Million appropriated to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to provide grants in coordination with the Department of Taxes to eligible businesses:
- Business experienced a 75% or greater reduction in revenue in any one-month period from March 1, 2020 to September 1, 2020 as compared to the same one-month period from March 1, 2019 - September 1, 2019.
There is still work to be done and hopefully we can distribute more funds quickly and effectively over the next week or two. For that I am hopeful.
There were other bills passed this week that were important including a vote by mail bill. In March we passed H.681 (Act 92) “an act relating to government operations in response to the COVID-19 outbreak” which gave certain responsibilities to the Governor and the Secretary of State regarding election procedures. I personally support mail in voting and our current election process allows absentee voting. This is a great way for people to vote early and at the comfort of their own home. S.348 removes the governor from the decision process for the November election. I did sign onto an amendment that would ban ballot harvesting by candidates, political action committees (PACs), and special interest groups, but that amendment was defeated.
In House Education we are quickly working on passing some legislation to provide funds to schools who have suffered during Covid-19 as well. These bills will be passed in two tiers. The first tier will provide K-12 schools $40 million and higher ed $10 million and the second tier will provide another $45 million to K-12 schools and $30 million to higher ed. I was told by my chair of Education to “buckle up” as we will be working very hard over the course of the next two weeks to get these bills out and passed before our June 30th deadline.
As I continue to work for the people of St. Albans, I want to thank you all again for allowing me to represent you in the House of Representatives. As things begin to unfold, I will try my best to provide you with the best updates. Please check out my Facebook page for my Legislative Minute videos at www.facebook.com/caseytoofvt or my website at www.caseytoof.com to learn more. As always, you can reach me via email at email@example.com if you have any questions, comments or concerns.
Rep. Casey J. Toof
Franklin 3-1 St. Albans City & Town