VBSR, MSA Partner for VT COVID-19 Worker Relief Fund

MONTPELIER, Vt. [Feb. 17, 2022] – Today, Main Street Alliance of Vermont and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility released a letter signed by over 100 employers and over 500 workers calling on the legislature to create a program whereby employers can be reimbursed for paying an employee’s lost wages in the event of absenteeism due to COVID-19.

The federal Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) required businesses to provide emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for those impacted by COVID-19. In return, businesses received FFCRA payroll tax credits which partially covered the costs of providing this benefit. These credits were later expanded with the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for those who voluntarily provided leave; but these credits expired as of September 30th of last year – leaving businesses to either pay for these benefits out of pocket or eliminate them altogether. The Vermont COVID-19 Worker Relief Fund would essentially act as a state-based FFCRA program to help businesses cover the cost of COVID-related leave for themselves and their employees.

“My business can’t function without me and my employee showing up everyday. But some days we get sick. Some days my kiddo’s daycare closes,” said Emily Eley, founder and CEO of Emily Eley Coaching in Burlington. “There’s no safety net for us in this. We need help and we need help NOW. Please! We’re really struggling to make it through this pandemic with a functioning and profitable business.”

“At Vermont Glove, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that our valued employees have the ability to put health and safety first by supporting their wages when they need to be out for COVID-related reasons. This is not only the right thing to do but it’s the right business decision because it provides security and consistency for our workforce,” said Sam Hooper, president of Vermont Glove in Randolph. “We also know that this might not be available for all employers and workers, so we strongly support the establishment of a COVID Worker Relief Fund – so that no one needs to choose between a paycheck and their health.”

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Runamok has done our best to position employee health and safety as a top priority. While we are in a much better place than we were in March of 2020, one of our most important tools has consistently been to try to exclude infectious people from our workplace,” said Eric Sorkin, co-owner and CEO of Runamok Maple in Fairfax. “On the ground, this comes down to asking employees to stay home if they test positive for COVID, have had a meaningful exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID, or have symptoms of COVID. Until this January, we were able to provide replacement pay to all impacted employees. Without replacement pay, the burden falls on employees to choose between lost wages, and potentially exposing others at work. That’s an unenviable position to be in. The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) helped us to do this by reimbursing our company for a sizable portion of this expense. With that in mind, when FFCRA funding ran out in September of 2021, we attempted to fund worker replacement pay on our own. With the recent increase in infections, we have had to change our policy as we are no longer able to manage the cost.”

To view the letter and the full list of signatories click here.  

About Main Street Alliance of Vermont
Since its founding in 2014, MSA-VT has been committed to bringing business owners to the table to engage in developing and advocating for policies that reflect the interconnected nature of small businesses and the communities they serve. Small businesses are at the core of Vermont’s communities and their voices have helped drive change in building healthier communities and a Vermont that works for everyone. Learn more at https://mainstreetalliance.org.

About Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility
VBSR is a statewide, non-profit business association with a mission to leverage the power of business for positive social and environmental impact. VBSR’s 650 member businesses and organizations strive toward a just, thriving, and transformative economy that works for all people and the planet through shared learning, building connections, and collective action. Learn more or join the cause at www.vbsr.org.