Vermont’s Coronavirus Relief Fund Explained: Part I

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This post is the first in a three-part series explaining the Coronavirus Relief Fund (“CRF”), which was recently passed by the Vermont legislature and signed by the Governor.  Part I covers Health Care Grants.  Note that a business may apply for grants from multiple sources within the CRF but – in most cases – may only receive funding from one program.

The Health Care Provider Stabilization Grant Program

Over $250 million has been appropriated from the CRF to the Agency of Human Services for grants to health care providers under the Health Care Provider Stabilization Grant Program using a needs-based application process. The following providers of health care services are eligible to apply if located in Vermont and delivering health care services in Vermont:

 

  • Hospitals, including community hospitals, psychiatric hospitals;
  • Health care professional services, including independent medical practices, hospital-owned medical practices, designated and specialized services agencies, federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, ambulatory surgical centers, and laboratory and imaging centers;
  • Dental services;
  • Other professional services, including mental health providers, residential and nonresidential substance use disorder treatment providers, advanced practice registered nurses, physical therapists, podiatrists, optometrists, chiropractors, and other health care providers;
  • Home health and hospice agencies;
  • Pharmacy services;
  • Facility- and community-based long-term care services, including skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, residential care homes, assisted living facilities, and adult day service providers; and
  • Organizations recognized by the Agency of Human Services through their status as provider grant recipients providing health support services, including the area agencies on aging and organizations providing peer support services.

Applications will be evaluated based on need and the potential impact of funds on the applicant’s sustainability, not on the provider’s size or proportion of health care spending in the state. In addition to the applicant’s demonstrated need, the Agency will consider whether the applicant appears capable of making appropriate and efficient use of the grant funds and the extent to which the applicant would use the grant funds to sustain and improve healthcare services and continue to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 health emergency, including meeting increased health and financial needs of the public and withstanding business interruptions.

At least $5M of the Program funds will be awarded to nursing homes and at least $8.5M will be awarded to substance use disorder treatment programs, home health and hospice agencies, and programs specific to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries.

Front-Line Employees Hazard Pay Grant Program

$20 million has been appropriated from the CRF to provide grants to certain public safety, public health, health care, and human services employers whose employees were engaged in activities substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding the public health emergency from March 13, 2020 through May 15, 2020.

Covered employers include assisted living residences, nursing homes and nursing home contractors, residential care homes and therapeutic community residences, health care facilities and physicians’ offices, dentists’ offices, homeless shelters, home health agencies, health centers and clinics, DCF residential treatment programs, morgues, and providers of necessities and services to vulnerable or disadvantaged populations. ARIS Solutions will act as a fiscal agent for independent direct support providers.

An employee eligible to receive grant funds is an employee of the covered employer applicant who:

 

  1. Performed a job with an elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19 during the March 13 through May 15 period;
  2. Was unable to perform their job remotely;
  3. Earns an hourly base wage of $25.00 or less (except in the case of home health agency and nursing home employees);
  4. Worked at least 68 hours for the employer during the March 13 through May 15 period;
  5. Is not eligible to receive monetary benefits for the performance of their job under any federal government program;
  6. Is not an independent contractor or self-employed; and
  7. Did not receive unemployment insurance benefits for any week during the March 13 through May 15 period.

A covered employer may apply for a grant to provide hazard pay to its eligible employees in amounts based on the number of hours worked during the March 13 through May 15 period. An eligible employee who worked at least 216 hours in a job with an elevated risk of exposure is eligible for $1,400.00 and an employee who worked at least 68 hours and less than 216 hours is eligible for $800.00. Eligible employees may elect not to receive hazard pay funded by the Program by providing notice to their employer.

The number of hours worked may include hours paid for by accrued paid leave or pursuant to the Emergency FML Expansion Act or Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act if the employee used the leave because they contracted COVID-19 or was quarantined because of exposure to COVID-19. Qualifying hours do not include paid leave time if spent caring for another individual and may not include any time spent working remotely or providing services by telephone, video conference, or telehealth.

Conclusion

The bills enacting these programs also contain substantial direct appropriations to agencies and organizations to benefit and care for Vermonters in a variety of ways. The information above is focused on grant programs and RFPs that will be available to businesses by application, but many more outreach and services are being offered throughout the state. For more information, visit the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (“ACCD”) COVID-19 Recovery Resource Center at https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19.

When applying for grants, note that the name of the business that receives an award and the amount of the award are public records subject to the Public Records Act, but business information including federal identification numbers, sales amounts, and trade secret data are subject to confidential treatment.

Our attorneys are ready to answer any questions about the Coronavirus Relief Program and other resources available to Vermont businesses as a result of state and federal legislation.  To contact an attorney, email attorneys@sheeheyvt.com