From the Vermont State House | 3.23.2020
From the Governor and Administration
Today it was announced that businesses will not need to pay rooms and meals or sales and use taxes until further notice. Also, individuals and businesses will not be assessed penalties or interest for failure to file income taxes until July 15. The Administration and Legislature continue to consider adjusting the actual April 15 filing deadline, and other tax relief measures and deadlines.
Earlier directed gymnasiums, fitness centers, and similar exercise facilities, hair salons and barbers, nail salons, spas, and tattoo parlors to close all in-person operations no later than 8:00 p.m. on Monday, March 23.
From the State House
The Senate is scheduled to reconvene tomorrow to pass short-term measures and send them over to the House for its consideration on Wednesday or soon thereafter. Both chambers are grappling with rules that require in-person presence to vote in Committee and on the floor. There will likely be temporary rules suspensions to allow for remote meeting and voting, but still subject to review and discussion.
Going forward, leadership is exploring technological capacities to conduct those remote hearings, enable comment from interested parties, and potentially vote. It is anticipated there will be additional COVID-19 response legislation, identifying must-pass budget bills, and other legislation left prior to the recess.
In health care and related matters, the Senate Health & Welfare Committee this morning gave its approval to a series of amendments in H.742 aimed at health care response and delivery related to COVID-19. H.742 contains issues that require legislative action, while others can be done administratively. The amendments in the bill include:
- Giving authority to AHS to modify or postpone payment of hospital and other entities subject to provider tax assessments for FY2020
- Granting authority to DVHA to relax provider credential requirements for Medicaid, and DFR to direct insurers to do the same to allow providers to deliver services across settings and respond adequately to the crisis
- Authorizing OPR and Board of Medical Practice to issue temporary licenses during a state of emergency to health care professionals licensed in other states and not subject to disciplinary proceedings. Retired professionals may also be reactivated.
- Granting DFR emergency rulemaking authority to reduce cost sharing requirements for COVID treatment, prevention and diagnosis; to suspend deductible requirements for prescription drugs; and expand access to telehealth services
- Authorizing all health plans and Medicaid to allow early refills of 30 day maintenance prescriptions for the duration of a state of emergency; authorize pharmacists to extend a maintenance prescription when one has no refills remaining if it has recently expired; and allow pharmacists to offer therapeutic substitutions for an unavailable prescribed drug in the event of shortages.
- Authorizing and expanding telemedicine and store-and-forward for health and dental insurance plans and define coverage of these services.
The Department of Health has a dedicated COVID-19 webpage that continues to be updated.
The Senate Economic Development Committee has given its approval to employer and employee issues in an amended H.681. Under consideration are amendments primarily related to unemployment insurance that provide:
- An employer’s unemployment insurance experience ratings will not be adversely impacted due to temporary layoffs or self-isolation related to COVID-19 with certain restrictions
- An employer will also not be charged for benefits paid to an individual who voluntarily leaves employment to care for a family member with COVID-19
- An individual to receive benefits if they voluntarily leave employment for specified purposes, including being diagnosed with COVID-19, told to self-isolate by a health care professional or health official, to care for a family member with COVID-19, to care for child because school has closed, and more
- Similar provisions are contemplated for family or sick leave benefits, including allowing an individual to receive both sick leave and UI benefits during this emergency period only, but further amendments contemplate an employee may not “double dip” by receiving State benefits if they will also be receiving any federal benefits that may be forthcoming
The Vermont Department of Labor also has a dedicated webpage for COVID-19 issues.