April 23, 2021
During testimony in the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, the Vermont Chamber and other business advocates expressed support for cost-saving adjustments to Senate-passed S.10. In its current form, S.10 would increase Vermont UI benefits by an estimated $5.2 million in ongoing annual costs for employers. The Vermont Chamber requested the Committee amend the legislation to remove 2020 from the calculation of the UI Trust Fund balance size, which is of paramount importance to Vermont businesses. The Vermont Chamber also suggested the Committee consider using American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds to support a dependent benefit that could serve both those currently in the workforce and UI claimants. Use of ARPA funds for this purpose would avoid the $5.2 million direct cost to employers, as would be the case if the UI trust fund were employed as a funding source. Please contact Vermont Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Director Charles Martin with questions or concerns. 
After an outpouring of opposition from many business advocacy organizations and business owners, including the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, the Senate Committee on Finance heard additional testimony from business representatives. The testimony responded to the Legislature’s recent unexpected decision to enable forgiven Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in tax year 2021 to be taxable as if they were income. Without legislative action, the recent changes would apply a tax to forgiven 2021 PPP loans as if they were income. The Vermont Chamber and other business organizations have requested the Legislature conform to federal treatment of forgiven PPP loans in the tax year 2021, as was the congressional intent of the forgivable loan program. In the wake of an economically devastating pandemic, most employers are ill-equipped to pay this new and unexpected tax bill. Please contact Vermont Chamber Government Affairs Director Charles Martin with questions or for help with contacting your legislators to oppose the tax. 
The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs heard testimony this week on provisions in H.159 related to supporting BIPOC-owned businesses. Advocates representing BIPOC Vermonters, including the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, and the Center for Women & Enterprise, voiced support for the legislation as a first step in creating sustainable, equitable networks and systems. Data collection by the Secretary of State remains a high priority, an addition the Vermont Chamber suggested to better understand and reach BIPOC-owned businesses. Witnesses also highlighted the need for assistance in state contracting and procurement, both to ensure equity and to prevent outflow of state dollars to out-of-state firms. The Vermont Chamber continues to support these provisions as we work to expand our own capacity to serve the BIPOC business community. Efforts are underway to engage with the community to understand how we can use our networking, marketing, and advocacy assets to support BIPOC-owned businesses. To learn more about this work, please contact Vermont Chamber Membership Engagement Director Sophia Yager.
In collaboration with the Department of Liquor and Lottery, the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs is revising an alcohol bill, H.313 to include a provision to reduce 3rd class licensing fees for Vermont distillers. Currently, the 3rd class licensee fee for manufacturers is $1,095. The revision brings the licensing fee to $230 which would create parity for all Vermont beer, wine, and spirit manufacturers wishing to serve full-pours for on-premises consumption. The bill also contains provisions to extend alcohol to-go until July 2023. The Committee plans to vote on the bill on Tuesday. 
The House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs completed a detailed review of S.79. The bill contains a provision that would establish a short-term rental registry, a longtime priority of the Vermont Chamber. The Vermont Chamber has advocated that the foundation set by establishing a registry would be a positive step forward to ensure a safe rental environment and move towards greater regulatory equity in the lodging marketplace. The Committee will take testimony next week to answer outstanding questions, and it is anticipated that the bill will be passed out of Committee by next Friday. 
After the House advanced a $2.5 million boost for tourism marketing promotion within the Department of Tourism and Marketing, the Senate Committee on Economic Development reduced the proposal to $1.25 million administered through the Department and diverted $750,000 to a regional consumer stimulus program. The tourism promotion funds are intended to be used to promote Vermont’s travel, recreation, culinary, arts, culture, agritourism, and heritage experiences to attract visitors and stimulate visitor spending with local attractions and small businesses in rural communities and throughout the state. The Vermont Chamber supports maintaining the full $2.5 million amount of tourism promotion funding and the remainder of the plan as originally proposed by the House. Doing so would contribute to broad economic recovery and would also be the most equitable means to promote general visitation across all of Vermont’s regions. Please contact Vermont Chamber Vice President of Tourism Amy Spear with questions. 
Following testimony by Beth Kennett of Liberty Hill Farm in Rochester, Vermont, the Senate Committee on Judiciary passed H.89 favorably without amendment. The concept of limiting liability for agritourism was first considered by the Legislature in the 1990s. This bill would align Vermont with other states and put agritourism on a level playing field with other related industries in Vermont such as equine and ski areas in terms of limiting liability. Please contact Vermont Chamber Vice President of Tourism Amy Spear with questions. 
The Vermont Chamber of Commerce is collecting resources for employers and businesses throughout Vermont, produced by the Chamber and externally. View this week's roundup to learn about Vermont's manufacturing tax exemption in two minutes, share your experience with telecommunications, and more. To share helpful content for next week's resource roundup, send us an email.
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