Vermont rolling out $30 ‘Shop Local’ program Tuesday, lawmakers mulling over more hazard pay
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - On Tuesday morning, Vermonters can sign up for $30 in discounts at local businesses, the latest move by state leaders to help an economy hit by COVID-19.
The program accompanies additional proposals from the Vermont Legislature including potentially millions more in extra stimulus and hazard pay earmarked for more essential front-line workers.
Thirty dollars in local benefits could be coming your way Tuesday morning when the state’s $500,000 “Buy Local” program comes online.
“The hope is not only that folks find new businesses that they haven’t been to before, hopefully when they go in there, hopefully they’ll spend more than the $30 as well,” said Nate Formalarie, the communications director for Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
To get the benefits, head to thinkvermont.com/local, create an account, and then you’ll select a few interests such as dining, retail or art. The website then will let you select one of two deals at local businesses. Formalarie said this makes sure that all 1,000 businesses that are in the program get a slice of the pie.
“If everyone wanted to go to Hill Farmstead, that wouldn’t necessarily be fair,” he said. “By offering people two deals based on their interest and location, we’re trying to make it more equitable across businesses.”
Weeks ago, Gov. Phil Scott pitched a similar buy local program that would give every household $150 in discounts. That proposal was shelved in the Vermont House of Representatives because they say it didn’t help low-income Vermonters.
“It wasn’t businesses where even if the lower-income people were able to use it, it wasn’t at places where people need it like groceries, food insecurity, things like that,” said Rep. Michael Marcotte, R-Chair of the House Economic Development Committee.
The Vermont Senate is still considering the governor’s $150 proposal and will take testimony later this week.
Instead, the House is boosting aid to hotels and B&Bs to the tune of $88 million. In their proposal, there’s also $4 million for tourism and marketing, and $5 million for PPE and adjustments to Vermont’s ski resorts. The House is also earmarking $3 million for a workforce education system where state colleges will provide free classes to people out of work from the pandemic.
The House’s package now moves to the Senate which last week also approved spending almost $20 million in hazard pay for essential front-line workers who were cut out of the first program, such as grocery store workers.
Sen. Michael Sirotkin, D-Chittenden County, said that other states went ahead and gave hazard pay to grocery store workers and others, so Vermont is following suit and retroactively awarding $600 to $1,200 from March to May. But that proposal still has to go through the House which will pick back up Tuesday.
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