With about $10 million left to spend, Gov. Phil Scott announced Wednesday that his administration plans to increase the amount of aid that individual flood-damaged businesses can receive from the state.
In the weeks following July’s historic flooding event, state officials announced a $20 million grant program to offer a financial lifeline to businesses and nonprofits that sustained physical damages. At the time, award amounts were generally capped at 20% of an entity’s losses or $20,000.
But with money leftover in the program and businesses reporting steep losses, officials say they’ve decided they can afford to be more generous.
“Now that employers have had several weeks to apply, we know there’s over $120 million in unmet need,” Scott said at his weekly press conference at the Agency of Transportation’s Dill building in Berlin. “So in the next phase, we’re going to remove the $20,000 cap and increase the percentage so we can close the gap a little bit more.”
Businesses reporting less than $1 million in losses will now be eligible to receive reimbursements for up to 30% of their net damages, according to Vermont Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein. That means a business that reported $300,000 in damages and received the $20,000 maximum will now be eligible for up to $90,000, according to Goldstein.
And previously, a business reporting more than $1 million in damages could receive more than $20,000 — but that was based on the number of employees it had. That requirement is now waived. Businesses reporting such losses do not have to meet the employee requirement to receive up to $500,000, although their grants are still capped at 20% of net damages.
Officials have repeatedly stressed that they are trying to streamline the program to get money out the door as quickly as possible, and Goldstein added that businesses that have already applied for help will not have to resubmit a new application.
“The department will be making changes to the payments for those applications that are still under review. And for those applicants that have already received a check, we will be issuing a supplemental check to cover the difference,” she said.
According to the governor’s office, 280 businesses or nonprofits have already received an award from the business grant program, and 189 applications are currently under review. The average grant amount thus far has been for $21,679.
Scott is convening Vermont’s Emergency Board on Thursday morning to get legislative approval for the business grant changes. He said Wednesday he had already been assured legislative leaders would be supportive.
Also at Wednesday’s press conference, administration officials said they would be surveying people who requested aid from FEMA to replace or repair their heating systems.
“Anecdotally, we’ve heard that some are struggling to get them fixed for a variety of reasons, including supply chain issues and finding someone to actually do the work,” said Scott. “So we want to help fill these gaps when we can.”
Officials said to look out for an email survey soon — and to make sure it’s actually coming from a “vermont.gov” address, as scammers often target those impacted by natural disasters.
Separately, Efficiency Vermont has rolled out a $36 million publicly financed grant program for flood-impacted businesses and income-eligible individuals seeking to replace home heating systems, water heating systems, and other home appliances. More information is available at efficiencyvermont.com.