Vt. COVID paid-leave program kicks off next month

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 3:26 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2022 at 7:06 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - While the worst of the pandemic appears to have passed, many workers continue to get sick, and those missed paychecks can add up. Now, a new paid leave grant program starting next month aims to support Vermont businesses and their workers.

“You can’t reasonably ask employees to bear the burden of not being paid when they are sick,” said Eric Sorkin with Runamok Maple.

Since the pandemic hit, the company has relied on state programs to help them pay employees who need to miss work because of COVID. “At some point, we just cried ‘uncle.’ What we did was increase our employees’ paid time off. But we just couldn’t personally absorb it anymore,” Sorkin said.

Because of the ongoing need for these supports, the state is starting the COVID-19 Paid Leave Grant Program.

“If employers compensated for employees out of their own funds when they were sick with COVID or had a loved one sick with COVID, this is a little bit of a relief for them,” said Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Chittenden County.

Starting next month, employees who miss work due to COVID between July 1, 2022, through June 2023, may ask their boss to apply for a reimbursement. Workers may be eligible for 40 hours of wage replacement at up to $21 an hour. “They can put this back toward their bottom line and continuing to keep Vermonters employed,” Ram said.

Vermont’s Main Street Alliance and Vermont Businesses for Social responsibility proposed the program to the Legislature to continue helping businesses in Vermont pay their employees while they are out sick with COVID.

“We have, I think right now, two employees out with COVID you know. So, it’s impactful and we would like to be able to be in a position where we can compensate them for the time out,” Sorkin said.

Alyson Ruby from the Bennington Early Childhood Center said she has used programs like the COVID-19 Paid Leave Grant Program before. She has already had six people to start the new school year. “They have just started a new year of paid time off, and without this grant, all those staff would be out of paid time off already,” Ruby said.

The program is being paid through American Rescue Plan funding and applications are set to open on October 1st. Those who want to apply should go through their employer. The funding is available on a first-come-first-served basis.