Vermont will start accepting applications from small businesses that have been financially impacted by the coronavirus crisis Monday as part of Gov. Phil Scott's economic relief package.
"I’ve instructed my team to make the process as easy as possible in order to get the money out the door quickly to those who are in need," Scott said Wednesday. "The fact is, even though we’ve begun cautiously and methodically reopening the economy and putting Vermonters back to work, I understand many of you, especially small business, are on the brink of ruin."
The state will accept applications from businesses and organizations for grants of up to $50,000 starting July 6.
Officials are urging business owners to visit the Agency of Commerce and Community Development's website for details on how to prepare proper documentation, find eligibility requirements, learn about the grant formula and the application process ahead of time. A webinar with that information will be held Thursday afternoon.
"Helping these businesses survive right now is essential or many jobs won’t come back and we’ll face a long-term economic crisis," Scott said. "Even though this economic relief will help, I know it’s not enough and recovery will be long and hard, but we’ve seen the strength of Vermonters and what a powerful impact we have when we work together."
Scott proposed a two-phased, $400 million economic relief and recovery package in May for immediate relief to the most impacted businesses followed by long-term recovery efforts.
Scott signed a bill on June 19 that included $70 million for the Emergency Economic Recovery Grants. Additional legislation is headed to the governor for signature and when signed, will add another $96 million in funding for the grants.
There were two new coronavirus cases reported Tuesday, bringing the state total to 1,210. The death toll has remained at 56 for several weeks now.
Vermont health officials continue to urge residents to stay vigilant when it comes to coronavirus precautions including avoiding crowds, social distancing, frequent hand-washing and wearing masks.
"As we head into the holiday weekend, we must continue to take personal responsibility to prevent spread of the virus," Scott said Wednesday. "This is literally in our hands. We all have a role to play and if we do our part, we can prevent the spread of the virus and help things get back to normal."
In a Monday press conference, Scott said that he is not considering walking back any of the relaxed restrictions he has implemented in recent months, including his expanded trusted travel map, which allows more communities from out of state to visit Vermont without a quarantine requirement.
"For right now, we feel good about our numbers and the approach we are taking," Scott said. "In terms of those coming from others states, we have opened up the ability to come to the state without quarantining if you come from a safe county."
Counties in other states that meet a threshold of less than 400 active cases per million can visit Vermont as of Wednesday without a mandatory quarantine, including some in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Washington D.C. Visitors must drive in personal cars in order to qualify.
"We'll continue to watch other counties and expanded states that we discussed on Friday," Scott said. "It's perfectly OK for them to come without quarantining but it's really important that we all adhere to those safety measures."
The state has seen an update in out-of-state car travel, according to Scott.
The move to reopen the state to visitors is part of an effort from Scott to stimulate Vermont's hospitality industry. State data shows approximately 10,000 hospitality workers are out of the job, representing about a quarter of those covered by unemployment insurance.
"I know we'll get through this and be stronger than we were before," Scott said Monday. "But to do that, as a reminder, we’re going to have to continue to stay home when sick, keep physically separated, wash our hands and wear a mask when around others."