From the Vermont State House | 4.2.2020
From the Governor and Administration
Since Gov. Scott declared a State of Emergency on March 13, it has been updated seven times, each with measures aimed at mitigating and containing the spread of COVID-19 in Vermont. The most recent update earlier this week in Addendum No. 7 in which he ordered any person, resident or non-resident, travelling into Vermont for anything other than an essential purpose, must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days or the balance of 14 days dating from the day of arrival.
In addition, the Addendum stated that visitors are instructed not to travel to Vermont if they are displaying symptoms or if they are travelling from cities and regions identified as COVID-19 “hot spots,” including, among others, the states of Florida and Louisiana and the cities of Detroit, Chicago and New York City. In addition, residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut should stay in their home states in strict compliance with CDC travel guidance.
And finally, in response to law enforcement survey of physical and online lodging that showed inconsistent compliance with the Stay Home, Stay Safe Order, the Governor in Addendum No. 7 reiterated suspension of lodging operations, and further suspended on-line reservations. Lodging operations include hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, short-term rentals, such as those made available through VRBO, Homeaway, and Airbnb, parks for recreational vehicles and campgrounds, and all public and private camping facilities. Exceptions are lodging for vulnerable populations, health care workers and others needed for critical infrastructure and public safety.
Businesses and employees continue to understand the Stay Home, Stay Safe Order and its impact on continued operations, or not. The agency of Commerce and Community Development continues as the point agency and ACCD continues to update its COVID-19 webpage to provide guidance for businesses, individuals and communities. Those include:
- To help businesses and non-profit organizations determine if their in-person business operations are essential to public health and safety, economic or national security, the Agency has developed Frequently-asked Questions
- For a more detailed discussion within industries is a Sector Specific Guidance
ACCD also continues to develop information for businesses related to federal relief legislation and State and Federal unemployment insurance matters, including:
- A Small Business Guide to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 27 to assist business owners with immediate financial needs, as well as a CARES Act FAQ
- A Description and FAQ of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans program intended to provide cash-flow assistance through federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency
- A Description and FAQ of the Small Business Debt Relief Program intended to provide immediate relief to small businesses with non-disaster SBA loans
Individuals are also able to access information through ACCD, including information tailored to individuals on Financial Assistance, Housing, and Unemployment Insurance.
From the State House
The Legislature showed it can move pretty quickly, and remotely, last week when it was able to compile and pass the first in what is expected to be a series of COVID-19 related measures. The Governor has since signed into law the two primary bills passed that contain immediate and initial responses.
H.742 contained several health care measures aimed at facilitating the delivery of health care services by professionals (including telehealth services), relieving the financial burned on individuals by suspension of co-pays, deductible and other out-of-pocket costs, and also enhancing the State’s unemployment insurance program to address layoffs and separation of employment due to COVID-19.
Another bill, H.681, addressed issued facing municipalities and provided relief from in-person requirements for open meeting laws, elections procedures and rules, and also granting authority to the administrative agencies and municipalities to extend certain deadlines for up to 90 days after the emergency ends. Both of these bills became effective with the Governor’s signature, or March 30.
Meanwhile, legislative activity continues to operate remotely and is becoming enhanced as time progresses. Legislators now have familiarity with Zoom – and unfortunately have familiarity of a few instances of outsiders hacking the platform during a couple of committee hearings. Testing of online voting software is also starting in the House. Both chambers still need to pass additional amendments to their rules that will allow for remote voting during this Emergency. That could happen as early as next week.
Focus continues to be on developing the next series of COVID-19 legislation. Part of the task ahead of the Legislature to fully understand the federal relief bills passed to date, and any upcoming stimulus measures. The Legislature will then likely respond to gaps, omissions, and other impacts to Vermont and its residents and businesses. More and more is becoming known, including some individual and employer tax provisions in the CARES Act. Those include
- Tax credit to low- and middle-income families
- $1,200 for individual earning $75,000, which diminishes by 5% of any income in excess of $75,000 (phases out at $99,000 if no children)
- $1,200 for a head of household earning up to $112,500, which diminishes by 5% of any income in excess of $112,500 (phases out at $146,500 if one child)
- $2400 for a couple earning up to $150,000 which diminishes by 5% of any income in excess of $150,000 (phases out at $198,000 if no children)
- Credit is increased by $500/child
- Individuals who have no income or whose income comes entirely from non-taxable means-tested benefit programs, such as SSI, also qualify for this rebate
Employee Retention Tax Credit
- Refundable credit against employment taxes that is equal to 50% of the qualified wages of each employee (up to $10,000 including health benefits)
- Credit is available for:
- Quarters in which business was partially or fully suspended because of COVID- 19; or
- Any quarter in which gross receipts were less than 50% of the same quarter in the prior year (ends with the first quarter when receipts exceed 80% of the previous year)
- Covers period from 3/13/2020 through 12/31/2020
- Delay of payment of employer payroll taxes over 2 years (50% due 12/31/2021 and 50% due 12/31/2022)
- Modification of use of net operating losses for tax purposes to allow full offset of income and amendment of prior year returns
- Similar provision for pass-through businesses and sole proprietors
- Acceleration of availability of Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax Credits.
- Increase in amount of interest expenses that businesses can deduct on tax returns for 2019 and 2020
- Technical amendment allowing businesses to write off the cost of facilities improvements
- Temporary exception for 2020 from excise tax on distilled spirits used for hand sanitizer
- Subsidy for certain loan repayments