Vermont’s Coronavirus Relief Fund Explained: Part II

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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 II covers Agriculture and Other Business GrantsRead Part I here.  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.

Dairy Farmer Assistance Program and Agricultural Producer or Processor Assistance Program

The Dairy Farmer Assistance Program is being established within the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets to provide assistance to milk producers and dairy processors that have suffered economic harm in Vermont caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency. In order to qualify for assistance, the milk producer or dairy processor must be currently producing milk or dairy products, be in good standing, and be able to demonstrate economic harm caused by the public health emergency.

$19M from the CRF will be available to milk producers. Grants may be awarded up to the following maximum amounts until all appropriated funds are awarded, depending on the farm size as of March 1, 2020.

$3.8M from the CRF will be available to dairy processors. Grants may be awarded up to $60,000, depending on the size of the milk processor as of March 1, 2020.

An entity may only submit one application. However, a company that is both a milk producer and a dairy processor may be eligible for assistance under both categories. If the two businesses are organized as separate entities, they may each submit an application, but if the two exist within one entity, the business should submit one application for both grants.

The Agricultural Producer or Processor Program is being established within the Agency to provide relief that offsets harm to other eligible agricultural businesses. In order to qualify, an applicant must be currently operating a farm, a commercial processor, a commercial slaughterhouse, or a farmer’s market, be in good standing, and be able to demonstrate economic harm caused by the public health emergency.

$7M has been appropriated to the Agricultural Producer or Processor Assistance Program. Until all appropriated funds are awarded, the Secretary will make grant payments to eligible applicants for demonstrated economic harm up to $20,000, based on annual gross sales as of March 1, 2020:

In most cases a business cannot receive more than one CRF grant, but a dairy sector business may apply for an additional grant from the Working Lands Enterprise Fund (see below) if the award is not for the same loss covered by another CRF grant. Economic harm is not compensable by these Programs if it has been or will be covered by insurance or another government grant. And, with regard to the Agricultural Producer or Processor Program, an otherwise eligible applicant will not receive an award if the applicant had a net business profit between March 1 and August 1 of this year.

Working Lands Enterprise Fund

$5M has been appropriated to the Working Lands Enterprise Fund to be used for grants to businesses within the agricultural, food and forest, and wood products industries for recovery from losses and developing new products and markets necessary for sustaining viability after changes in the supply chain and relevant markets.

Outdoor Recreation Business Assistance Program

$1.5M has been appropriated to the Agency of Natural Resources for grants through the Outdoor Recreation Business Assistance Program. The Secretary of Natural Resources will provide grants to outdoor recreation businesses for costs or expenses necessary to comply with or implement public health precautions. To qualify, the business must be currently operating or providing services and must accurately demonstrate eligible costs or expenses incurred (or that will incur) between March 1, 2020 and December 20, 2020.

Eligible costs include cleaning services or equipment, PPE, symptom monitoring, signage, temporary staff housing, maintenance or repair of trails where damage is caused by increased use during the public health emergency, and other necessary improvements to address public safety needs.

Applications will be processed in the order they are received and deemed complete. The Secretary will attempt to award grants equitably on a geographic basis across the state, and then on a first-come, first-served basis. The maximum award will be $30,000.

Woman- and Minority-Owned Businesses

$5M has been appropriated to the Vermont Community Loan Fund for grants up to $10,000 to woman-owned businesses and minority-owned businesses. The Vermont Commission on Women will design a grant application and make it available for processing online. A business is eligible for these grants if:

 

  1. A woman or minority individual owns at least 51% of the business and meets the standard for being woman- or minority-owned according to the Department of Buildings and General Services
  2. The business has five or fewer employees;
  3. The business suffered at least 50% reduction in revenue in a monthly or quarterly period from March 1, 2020 to September 1, 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019; and
  4. The business certifies its eligibility requirements and proper use of funds.

Arts and Cultural Organizations

$5M has been appropriated to the Vermont Arts Council for grants to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. To be eligible, the organization must have suffered at least 50% reduction in revenue in a monthly or quarterly period from March 1, 2020 to September 1, 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019, tax deductible charitable donations excluded.

Highway and Bridge Maintenance Services

$3M has been appropriated to the ACCD for Emergency Economic Recovery grants to businesses that provide highway and bridge maintenance services. To be eligible, the business must provide services for the Agency of Transportation or municipal highway departments and have suffered economic harm due to the public health emergency.

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