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Vermont agriculture, health care relief payments on the way

Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 6:42 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Relief funding will soon be on the way to Vermont farms and health care providers hit hard by the coronavirus. The Scott administration Tuesday detailed how millions in federal funds appropriated by the Legislature will make their way into the economy.

For many farmers, the grants couldn't come soon enough. Harold Howrigan is a seventh generation dairy farmer in Fairfield. When the virus shut down schools and restaurants, it also slammed the brakes on the demand for his farm's milk.

"For the milk markets, obviously the last weeks of March and April and May -- it was completely disrupted," Howrigan said. He says he's losing up to $300,000 a month.

He’s just one farmer feeling the squeeze on the economy from the pandemic. Twenty-five dairy farms went out of business in Vermont since March, according to Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. He says two grant programs aim to help the agriculture sector. They include $25 million for the hard hit dairy industry. Those that produce milk from cows, sheep, and goats, as well as those who process milk are eligible. Losses must be related to the pandemic or increased expenses due to the pandemic.

“It’s going to go out to the businesses that rely on dairy farms for their support. It’s going to go to the feed dealers, it’s going to pay the grain bill, it’s going to pay the people that supply them, it’s going to pay the veterinarian,” Tebbetts said.

Applications for the Agriculture Assistance Program will open on Friday, July 17th and must be received by October 1. Other non-dairy agricultural relief will total $5 million. The application will be available soon and will be administered in partnership with the Vermont Economic Development Authority. That could include aid for farmers markets slaughter houses.

RELIEF FOR HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS

Also starting Friday, health care providers can submit applications for $275 million in grants. This is for every size practice. Those participating will have four weeks to complete their applications. The funding awards will be based on need. Another application process will happen in October.

“To support provider organizations of every size and type to ensure equity in the process and to encourage all providers to seek funding,” said Vt. Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith.

This is on top of $58 million already allocated to the health care sector.

Governor Scott says while both of these grant programs will help, even if lawmakers approved a $400 million stimulus package, it would still be just scratching the surface.

“We had proposed more admittedly, but even if we received all we had asked for it wouldn’t be enough to offset the impact of this virus,” Scott said.

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