$75M in Relief Allocated for Vt. Lodging Properties and Restaurants

The money is coming from the state's share of the federal CARES Act

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Help is on the way to two of Vermont's sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, but business and state leaders alike know it won't be enough to make them whole from their losses.

"There's certainly a lot more pain to come from the industry," warned Amy Spear, the vice president of tourism for the Vermont Chamber.

At a weekend meeting of the state's Joint Fiscal Committee, the group approved the spending of $75 million in federal CARES Act money on sending cash lifelines to hard-hit lodging properties and restaurants. The allocation had been recommended by Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.

Those businesses already had documents on file from another round of relief aid, Spear explained, which this new funding will add to.

Grants will be based on year-over-year losses and will be capped at $300,000, according to a JFC report published on its webpage.

Spear told NECN that hotels, inns and restaurants generate roughly $374 million a year in tax revenues for the state during normal times.

"For a lodging property to be able to operate just barely in the black, they generally need to maintain a 50% occupancy level," Spear explained. "And with the shutdown that occurred in March and limited operations through the summer, many are just digging out of a hole."

At the historic Basin Harbor Club on the shores of Lake Champlain in Ferrisburgh, fifth-generation host Sarah Morris said the hospitality sector statewide needs help.

"It's not like us to have our hand out asking for things," Morris said, adding that she is grateful for the newly-allocated aid money that will cover some, but not all, of her losses. "There just wasn't the earning opportunity this year for us that there has been, historically."

Morris noted that while the Basin Harbor Club is only open in the warmer months, the coming winter will be a long and hard one for many Vermont lodging properties. She added that 2021 will feature significant uncertainty in the travel sector, as well.

Morris said she is optimistic, however, that promising signs from the vaccine front may have travelers feeling more comfortable traveling next summer.

A rise in COVID-19 case counts nationally, as well as more restrictions in Vermont and in other locations aimed at controlling the spread, have some renewing their calls on Congress and the White House to deliver even more relief for the hospitality sector, as it continues struggling.

"Man, we need them to act," said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

The Vermont Department of Health reported 122 new COVID-19 infections Monday—another single-day record for the state, after two previous highs were observed last week.

Click here for more health information on COVID-19 in Vermont, and here for guidance for the business community and travelers on issues such as state quarantine expectations.

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