More Than 35,000 Vermont Workers Will Get Hazard Pay | Off Message

More Than 35,000 Vermont Workers Will Get Hazard Pay

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From left: Sen. Michael Sirotkin, Sen. Tim Ashe and Sen. Chris Pearson at a press conference last week - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Paul Heintz ©️ Seven Days
  • From left: Sen. Michael Sirotkin, Sen. Tim Ashe and Sen. Chris Pearson at a press conference last week

Roughly 35,600 frontline workers in Vermont will get hazard pay for filling essential roles during the pandemic, Finance Commissioner Mike Pieciak said Wednesday evening, hours after the extended deadline for companies to apply for a final round of grants passed.

Legislators allocated the aid from federal CARES Act funds, saying that people who put themselves at risk while others hunkered down at home deserve the money.



An initial round of grants targeted health care workers; a more expansive round that concluded Wednesday included businesses such as retailers, childcare facilities and pharmacies.

A few major companies applied in the final hours, including Home Depot and Target. Jiffy Mart tried to apply Wednesday and experienced “technical issues” with the state’s portal, said Pieciak. Officials will help the company apply Thursday, he said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden), who had publicly pressured large companies to apply, said he was generally pleased with the interest in the program. 

“While we’ve been emphasizing, rightly, the last few multi-state holdouts, the truth is, virtually every single employer of eligible employees did apply and they applied without a hitch,” Ashe said.  

He reserved harsh criticism, though, for a bargain retail outlet that has 37 locations around the state.

“Dollar General I will single out as being a company that has shown absolutely no interest in helping their employees out,” Ashe said. “They’re screwing them over, plain and simple.”

He added, “That they would block their employees from getting these grants, it’s just cruel … It’s just a harsh callousness that I can’t explain."

The state allocated $58.5 million for the program. Some applications were still being processed, according to Pieciak, and exact figures were not yet available.

Ashe noted that to be eligible, employees had to earn less than $25 an hour. Many who will benefit make much less than that.

"For them, a $1,200 or $2,000 check is real money, and couldn't come at a better time," he said.

Disclosure: Tim Ashe is the domestic partner of Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly. Find our conflict-of-interest policy here: sevendaysvt.com/disclosure.

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