As of April 20, some Vermonters are returning to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The phased restart of business allows for outdoor businesses (such as landscaping and utilities) and construction operations to resume work with a maximum two employees per site (indoor construction workers can be in empty buildings only). Also sole proprietors that offer professional services that involve no or low contact, such as lawyers, Realtors and pet care operators, can reopen their offices or shops as long as no more than two people (the professional and the client) are in a space at once. Everyone must follow health and safety requirements, of course.
The phased return to work is in response to Vermont’s flattening of its COVID-19 caseload curve. This in turn is due to the state’s aggressive social distancing measures: restaurants and bars have stopped in-person traffic since March 17, all schools have been closed since March 18 and all other non-essential, in-person businesses have been shuttered since stay-at-home orders took effect on March 25.
But what has been great on the health front has hurt the state’s economy. As is the case in most of America, Vermonters are coping with the financial hit of non-essential business closures and rising unemployment. To help them – individuals, families and businesses – get through these difficult times, SmartAsset has compiled this list of state and federal relief programs that have been created or expanded in response to the coronavirus crisis. For hands-on help with your finances and investments though, it may be a good time to hire a financial advisor.
Vermont Coronavirus Relief for Individuals
In recognition of the financial distress that social distancing is causing residents, the state has issued several orders related to financial relief for individuals. Here’s what we found:
Utility Disconnection Moratorium for Vermont Coronavirus Relief
If you can’t pay your utility bills, residential clients cannot be disconnected before April 30, 2020 (and possibly later). The moratorium was issued by the Vermont Public Utility Commission and applies to electricity, natural gas, certain water companies and landline services. Some internet and cell phone service providers (such as AT&T, Sprint, Comcast and Consolidated) have voluntarily pledged also not to cut off customers due to nonpayment. You’ll still owe what is due, so you should contact your utility, phone and internet providers to make new payment arrangements.
You can learn more about the moratorium here.
Eviction Moratorium for Vermont Coronavirus Relief
The Vermont Supreme Court has temporarily suspended all non-emergency court hearings until May 31, 2020 (and possibly later). As a result, evictions due to non-payment are on hold. That said, if you receive court papers, you must respond within the given timeframe. Or if you are paying rent into court, you must continue making payments.
If you are in the eviction process and have a hearing scheduled during the moratorium, call your courthouse to confirm that your hearing has been postponed. If you have received a Writ of Possession, you can get assistance from Vermont Legal Aid at (800) 889-2047.
Unemployment Insurance for Vermont Coronavirus Relief
The state has expanded eligibility for unemployment insurance to include people who are laid off or have had their hours cut due to the coronavirus (i.e., quarantines, business closures, self-quarantines) or who left because of the virus (i.e., you are sick or at high risk of having been exposed, you are caring for someone who is sick or at high risk or your child’s school is closed and your child is home.) The state has also temporarily waived the usual requirement to search for work while receiving unemployment insurance.
To file an unemployment insurance claim, go here.
Medicaid for Vermont Coronavirus Relief
If you lost your health insurance along with your job, you may be eligible for Medicaid. The state has cut some of the usual red tape involved with signing up and temporarily waived required verification of financials. Vermont is also offering a special enrollment period for those without health insurance to sign up with a qualified health plan and receive premium and cost-sharing assistance, if eligible. The special enrollment period is until May 15, 2020.
To find out more, go here.
Vermont Coronavirus Relief for Small Businesses
The Vermont Small Business Development Center has compiled a helpful list of resources, as has the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and the State of Vermont. Here is one state-mandated order and two programs offering financial relief or assistance to small businesses specifically related to the coronavirus crisis.
Commercial Utility Disconnection Moratorium
The Vermont Public Utility Commission has called for a temporary moratorium on commercial customers as well as residential ones. So if you can’t pay your utility bills for your business, your utility provider – electricity, natural gas, certain water companies and landline services – cannot cut you off. The moratorium is until April 30, 2020. You’ll still need to pay your bills eventually, so you should contact your provider to make arrangements.
For more information, go here.
Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) Small Business COVID-19 Loans
VEDA is lending money to small businesses under the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Paycheck Protection Program (see more in the federal section). The agency says on its site that it is still accepting applications while Congress works out the next round of funding.
For more information and to apply, go here.
Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF) Small Business COVID-19 Loans
VCLF is also lending money to small businesses under the SBA’s PPP. It is accepting applications for up to $250,000. But the organization is only accepting them from current or former borrowers in good standing.
To learn more, go here.
Federal Coronavirus Relief for Individuals
Probably the most popular federal relief program for individuals provides stimulus checks, aka Economic Impact Payments, to most Americans. To be eligible for the cash payment, an individual’s adjusted gross income (AGI) must be less than $99,000 and a married couple’s AGI must be less than $198,000. To receive the full amount of $1,200 as an individual, though, your AGI must be $75,000 or lower. Similarly, to receive the full $2,400 as an a married couple, your AGI must be $150,000 or lower. Additionally parents receive $500 per dependent child. To find out how much you’ll get, use our calculator. Or if you received the wrong amount or have other issues, our article will help you trouble-shoot.
Through recent legislation, the federal government has also mandated the country’s first national paid sick leave policy. If your company has 500 or fewer employees and you can’t work (or telework) because of the coronavirus, you are eligible for up to two weeks of sick leave paid at your regular rate (capped at $511 per day). If you can’t work (or telework) because you have to care for your child whose school is closed or for a family member who has COVID-19, you are eligible for two weeks of sick leave paid at two-thirds your pay rate (capped at $200 per day). Additionally, if your child’s school remains closed or you have no childcare, you are entitled to 10 additional weeks of expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds pay. These provisions expire at the end of the year.
What’s more, through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, the government has extended unemployment insurance to workers who don’t usually qualify: self-employed people, independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers and part-time workers. The CARES Act also provides a boost of $600 per week (which ends July 31, 2020).
Federal Coronavirus Relief for Small Businesses
If you own a small business, you may have already applied or tried to apply for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The Small Business Administration (SBA) has already approved loans for the $349 billion allocated to the program; Congress is working on another round of funding. Until then, you may want to get your loan application ready and find a lender if you haven’t found one already.
The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program is another SBA program offering help to businesses impacted by COVID-19. It has also stopped accepting applications because it ran out of money. Under the program, which actually existed before the pandemic, small business owners in areas that have been declared economic disaster zones can get loans for up to $2 million (though because of the funding shortfall, initial disbursements are being capped at $15,000 for two months). One notable change to COVID-19 EIDLs, though, is that businesses can get $10,000 advances that are forgivable if certain requirements are met. Also, the interest rate has been fixed at 3.75% for businesses and 2.75% for non-profits. The loan term can be for up to 30 years. To apply for an EIDL (once the program reopens), go to SBA’s site.here.
For business owners with existing SBA loans, there is a debt relief program that is automatic. For six months, the SBA will cover principal, interest and fees. Check with your bank to make sure your loan is covered.
For those waiting for an EIDL to be approved, the SBA offers express bridge loans for up to $25,000 to tide you over until the larger loan arrives. The EIDL money can then be used to pay back this express loan. You can apply for this loan with a local lender.
Finally, existing programs like the SBA 7(a) loan program, the express loan program, 504 loans, Community Advantage Loans and microloans are all still available.
Tips for Managing Your Finances During the COVID-19 Crisis
- Don’t go it alone during these disquieting times. Use SmartAsset’s matching tool to find the right financial advisor for you. After you answer a handful of questions, we’ll connect you with up to three advisors who fit your needs.
- Save your stimulus payment if you still have your job. As tempting as it may be to spend the free money, you should use it to pad your emergency savings instead. With so much uncertainty ahead, experts are recommending increasing emergency funds from three months of expenses to six.
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