Vermont to Open $20 Million Business Flood Relief Fund | Business | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Vermont to Open $20 Million Business Flood Relief Fund

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Published July 27, 2023 at 4:35 p.m.


Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein - ANNE WALLACE ALLEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Anne Wallace Allen ©️ Seven Days
  • Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein
A new state-run program will distribute grants of up to $20,000 to businesses and nonprofits that suffered losses in the flooding earlier this month. The money, administered by the Department of Economic Development, will go to companies that can show they lost physical space, inventory, machinery, equipment and supplies.

Large companies that have sustained extraordinary losses are eligible for grants with a higher limit of $500,000. Landlords will also be eligible, said Joan Goldstein, Vermont’s commissioner of economic development.

The money will come from a $20 million pot that has been set aside for the grants. About $1 million will be reserved for agricultural business losses.

“We hope this will truly bridge a gap for business owners,” Goldstein said at a press conference on Thursday.



The caps are based on a 20 percent reimbursement of total losses. The state plans to roll out more details and an application for the program next week.

“We understand this will not make businesses whole, but we want to bring state resources to an already robust effort by charitable organizations all over the state," Goldstein said.
In the days after the flooding swamped Vermont, business owners stripped their soaked and damaged properties down to the studs and started to take stock of their losses. Most business owners don’t have flood insurance, and it quickly became clear that there were no federal grant programs for businesses — only loans.

Several people started GoFundMe drives, and local leaders organized fundraising efforts. The Montpelier Strong Recovery Fund has raised $1 million, organizer John Hollar said on Thursday. And a statewide fund, the Vermont Main Street Flood Recovery Fund, has raised $440,000, according to one of its organizers, Patti Komline.

Komline welcomed the new state-run program but said there’s a sticking point. When calculating business losses, the state will take into account other money that the business has received to cover losses. That could cut into the amount of money a business gets from the state.

Goldstein acknowledged as much during Thursday's press conference.

“That’s the way we need to work it,” she said.

The program is good news for Vermont’s cannabis businesses, which are illegal under federal law and aren’t eligible for federal flood relief programs. But they can apply for the state program, Goldstein said.
“I am delighted that the state has developed a program in which cannabis businesses are included,” said Kevin Bopp, who is working to open a dispensary called Green Mountain Therapeutics in Londonderry. The shop, in a repurposed garage, was under construction, with a wiring inspection scheduled for July 10.

Now Bopp, a lawyer, is helping his partner, Kellie D’Elia-Laskin, remove the newly installed drywall and subfloor.

“So much of the funding available in this country is federally backed, in which case cannabis businesses won’t qualify,” Bopp said.

While the state doesn't yet have an estimate for how much money the flood has cost homes and businesses, lawmakers have been hearing from their constituents about the devastating impact. The legislature’s House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development and the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs held a joint hearing on Thursday to discuss relief for homes and businesses.

Katie Trautz, the executive director of downtown revitalization program Montpelier Alive, told the two committees that more than 150 businesses in the Capital City’s downtown had been affected by the flood. Montpelier Alive, one of the partners in the Montpelier Strong Recovery Fund, is issuing $4,000 checks on Friday to businesses that have applied and been accepted, Trautz said.
She hopes the fund can raise another $1 million and make additional $4,000 grants available in three weeks.

“But those are really small amounts, given the amount of loss we’re seeing,” Trautz said. “$4,000 might only cover rent for one business for one month, to hang on to their space. $4,000 might only cover one nice new convection oven for a restaurant. It is just a drop in the bucket.”
Shannon Bates, owner of the sandwich shop Enna in downtown Montpelier - ANNE WALLACE ALLEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Anne Wallace Allen ©️ Seven Days
  • Shannon Bates, owner of the sandwich shop Enna in downtown Montpelier
Shannon Bates owns Enna, a sandwich shop that is one of those businesses. Bates has been stripping her damaged walls and floor since the flood and is working on an estimate of how much it is going to cost her to rebuild.

She’s also keeping an eye on how other downtown Montpelier businesses are doing. Some, she said, have already told her they don’t plan to reopen.



“There are a lot of people who are on the fence,” Bates said. She wants to keep her business in Montpelier. “But if there is not a viable downtown, it’s not going to serve my business in any way to open there,” she said.

Gov. Phil Scott said on Thursday that he knew the money available now wouldn’t be enough to save every business that suffered devastating losses. He said he’s also hoping the state’s congressional delegation can secure money to supplement what Vermont is putting up. And he added that his administration is still looking for other ways to direct money to business recovery.

"We know this $20 million won't be enough, but I believe the state has a responsibility to step up and do what it can" while it looks for other sources of cash, he said. 

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