State encouraging big businesses to apply for employees’ hazard pay

Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 6:49 PM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Workers across Vermont asked WCAX News why their employers wouldn’t apply for hazard pay on their behalf. We went looking for answers, and now one of those companies is coming through. Our Christina Guessferd learned how the state set the record straight, convincing Shaw’s to have a change of heart.

Shaw’s employees say receiving money through the Frontline Employee Hazard Pay Grant Program would mean a warmer winter, happier holidays and a big boost in morale.

“We worked hard through this pandemic when it first started. We all busted our butts, and we felt we deserved a little something," South Burlington Shaw’s employee Julie Morrow said. She says that one extra paycheck will be priceless.

“I’ve had struggles the last couple of years and just trying to get back on my feet. It would help a lot,” Morrow said. The single mom says she was heartbroken when she heard her employer didn’t plan on applying for the hazard pay program. She’s happy company officials finally changed their minds. “It means a lot to all of us that they’re looking out for us now.”

In a statement to WCAX News Wednesday, a Shaw’s spokesperson wrote, “After discussing the parameters of the recently enacted State of Vermont’s COVID-19 Pay program with the Department of Financial Regulation, the Company is partaking in the grant application process on behalf of eligible employees.”

Financial Regulation Department Commissioner Michael Pieciak says he had a conversation with the corporation to clear up confusion. He says some companies are hesitant to apply for the hazard pay because of a misconception they’ll face repercussions.

“There are not unintended consequences for them as a business, if they participate, and it’s a relatively simple process to participate, as well,” Pieciak said. Pieciak is pushing for other big businesses to get on board, too. He says since many aren’t based in Vermont, they may not realize their employees are eligible. But Friday’s last chance to submit for this second round of funding is looming.

“We continue to hear and learn about companies that haven’t applied that on their face would seem to be clearly eligible, whether they fall into the hardware store category or grocery store category,” Pieciak said.

For employees in the 19 Shaw’s stores across the state, they say if your employer hasn’t applied, it’s worth reminding them what that money means to people on the front lines of this pandemic.

“I hope all corporations step up and do the right thing,” Middelbury Shaw’s employee Cindy Beaulieu said. “It’s really going to make my life that much better.”

The deadline for employers to submit the hazard pay application on behalf of their workers is this Friday by midnight. The state put aside $30.5 million for this round of hazard pay. Pieciak says there’s still about $4 million of unclaimed money in the pot.

The Financial Regulation Department has already approved about $15 million for Vermont businesses. He says about $2.3 million is in the payment process for 80 employers with approximately 1,800 employees. They will likely receive a check within a week. Another $13 million has been approved and is waiting to be processed for payment – that includes 334 employers with approximately 7,500 employees. They should be receiving a check over the next seven to 10 days.

Pieciak says the Financial Regulation Department is scheduled to complete its review of the remaining $12 million worth of applications this week, and those checks should be in employers' hands within two weeks.

Thursday afternoon, state senators will hold a press conference in front of CVS on Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace to provide a list of larger employers who have not yet applied on behalf of their workers. Check if your employer has applied.

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Lawmaker confounded why Walmart, Shaw’s ‘screwing over’ Vermont workers

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