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Scott pitches economic relief for workers, businesses

(WCAX)
Published: Mar. 20, 2020 at 4:18 PM EDT
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The coronavirus is forcing small businesses across the region to roll with the punches and be creative to keep their doors open. Meanwhile, the state of Vermont is pitching the beginnings of an economic relief plan which they say can give businesses a little more flexibility.

Coronaviris concerns are taking a toll on 'Main Street' Vermont.

"Who knows if it's going to get worse, really just taking it day by day," said Stefano Coppola, the owner of the Morse Street Deli in Barre.

Even though his doors are open, he's had to make difficult decisions on how many hours to give to each of his employees. "I've definitely cut back labor hours -- which sucks -- but I'm still trying to spread the love amongst my employees and keep everyone making money," Coppola said.

"We will pull every lever and turn every dial we can to support folks through this time, and look toward economic recovery, even as we are closing in on the eye of the storm," Scott said.

The state is expanding unemployment benefits for people who've been laid off and protections for people who can't work for family or medical reasons. Vermont is also appealing to the Small Business Administration so businesses hit hardest by the coronavirus can apply for low-interest loans.

The state is also looking to insurance companies during the outbreak to make sure nobody loses health care coverage and it's eliminating co-pays on Dr. Dynasaur, the state's publicly-funded health care program for children under 18. "To make sure nobody loses their health care coverage during this time," he said.

If people can't pay their utility bills, the state is working with utility companies to make sure nobody will lose heat, water, or electricity.

The governor admits that these changes are just a start and that it's a long road ahead for small business relief. "We know this is not nearly enough and it will be much, much more in the future to help our small businesses, the backbone of our costumes while working to provide some economic relief," Scott said.

And for small business owners like Coppola, they say their main priority is staying flexible. "Just rolling with the punches and whatever changes come about. Just trying to figure out how to utilize that to best suit my business," he said.

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