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Scott Administration Urges Businesses To Get In Line Now For Paycheck Protection Loans

Gov. Phil Scott at a COVID-19 press briefing last month. The governor says Vermont businesses should sign up as soon as possible for the second round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
Peter Hirschfeld
/
VPR file
Gov. Phil Scott at a COVID-19 press briefing last month. The governor says Vermont businesses should sign up as soon as possible for the second round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

The Scott administration is urging Vermont businesses to apply for a federal aid program that will be awarded on a “first come, first served” basis to companies whose revenues have been affected by COVID-19.

Congress allocated $320 billion last week for a second “Paycheck Protection Program,” after demand from U.S. businesses exceeded available funding for the first version of the plan.

Commissioner of Economic Development Joan Goldstein said the Small Business Administration began processing applications for the second round of the program Monday morning.

Vermont businesses that have already applied for the program, Goldstein said, should confirm with their lenders that they’re in the application queue.

For tips on how to access federal financial assistance for small businesses, click here

“And if you have not heard from them, we urge you to contact them to be assured that you are in queue, because the way that they will be conducting this and administering it is first come, first served,” Goldstein said during a press briefing Monday.

More from VPR: 'It's A Big Hit': Even With Federal Aid, Vermont Businesses Worry About Surviving COVID-19

Goldstein said the latest federal stimulus bill also includes a provision that could help farmers, who are not eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan, Goldstein said, could provide federal aid for agricultural operations that have seen demand for their products dip during the coronavirus pandemic.

More from VPR: Dumped Milk, Falling Prices, Shrinking Demand: Vermont Dairy And The Coronavirus

As business owners seek access to federal COVID-19 relief funds, many Vermonters who lost their jobs in recent weeks are still struggling to get through the unemployment claims bottleneck at the Department of Labor.

Commissioner of Michael Harrington said his department has contracted with a company that will bring another 50 claims-processing representatives online by noon on Tuesday.

“So each day our capacity is growing … in terms of the number of calls we can take,” Harrington said Monday.

Some of those call center operators may soon include members of the Vermont Legislature. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson offered lawmakers’ services to the Department of Labor several weeks ago, to help the unemployment division expedite claims.

On Sunday, Johnson said, Gov. Phil Scott accepted the help.

“I sent an email to House members at something like 4 or 5 o’clock (Sunday) night, and within a couple of hours had a slew of legislators saying, ‘Yes, please, sign me up,’” Johnson said Monday. “The goal is to increase the number of cases that get cleared every hour or every day so that Vermonters can meet their basic needs in this crisis. We’re very, very concerned that people have gone six weeks without any kind of income.”

Johnson said lawmakers would undergo training before being assigned any call center tasks.

Harrington said it’s unclear precisely what role lawmakers will play in the claims-processing bureaucracy.

“A lot of those details are being worked out as we speak today in terms of what the process will look like and to what level they can clear issues or assist people on their own, versus what would need to come to the department,” Harrington said.

Commissioner of Health Mark Levine announced four more confirmed cases of COVID-19 Monday, and one additional death. Vermont has now confirmed a total of 855 cases of COVID-19, and the Department of Health says 47 people have died from the disease.

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