January 7, 2022
Gov. Phil Scott’s State of the State address focused on Vermont’s workforce crisis, a familiar theme for employers. The Governor stated that he will not support any legislation that could make the workforce shortage worse. He prioritized workforce training opportunities with an expansion to the CTE program and a relocation incentive package with targeted marketing to attract new workers. The Governor also outlined other ways to attract more workers through refugee resettlement, recruitment of Canadian businesses, modernizing licensing laws, and eliminating the tax on military pensions. In response, Vermont Chamber President Betsy Bishop said, “We support initiatives to fund our training programs, build more housing, and provide relocation incentives, all of which will benefit from federal ARPA funds.” The Governor also noted the shortage of middle-income housing as a critical need for addressing the workforce shortage. The Governor suggested his budget will address other economic development programs and make transformational investments for a strong economic future. The Governor’s budget will be presented in two weeks.
The Governor’s requests for adjustments to the current year funding were discussed. The Vermont Chamber testified in support of increases in programs that support growing Vermont’s workforce and workforce housing. Those include Vermont State College funding to the Critical Occupations Program Scholarship, the Welcome Home Scholarship, and a CTE pilot program as well as  ARPA funds going to housing programs for VHCB, VHIP, a rental risk pool, and a Missing Middle Home Ownership Development Pilot Program.
Preliminary discussions in committees on the $30 million Bridge Grant program highlighted the low participation rate with only $3.6 million allocated. The early consensus is that program amendments are needed with the Department of Economic Development asking for greater discretion to determine need beyond just a net loss year over year. The remaining need continues to focus on the hospitality, performing arts and agriculture industries. With nearly $25 million remaining in this program and the Governor’s previous interest in reserving another $25 million for business grants, this will be a priority for the Vermont Chamber. We will work toward an amendment that makes this program less restrictive and easier to access in a timely manner. 
The Capital Investment Program was initially funded with $10.5 million in ARPA funds to support transformational projects for key infrastructure needs including housing, climate, wastewater and economic development. As collaborative community projects rolled in, the program was oversubscribed by $60 million. The Senate Committee on Economic Development reacted positively to the Department of Economic Development’s presentation which will likely lead to greater funding to replenish the program.
Historic federal investments in broadband infrastructure will jumpstart broadband buildout, connecting more households, businesses, and community anchor institutions to bring the economy into the 21st century. Due to the matching requirements for most of these programs, the Legislature must determine whether State funds appropriated for broadband buildout will be sufficient to cover Vermont’s share of the cost of these projects, and whether the State is on track to meet statutory goals of providing 100/100 Mbps service to all locations in Vermont by 2024. The Legislature must also address the problem of finding the workforce to carry out this project. Last year, the Legislature created a pilot program at Vermont Technical College to train fiber-optic technicians, pay them during classroom training and apprenticeship, and offer wraparound services such as childcare. The Vermont Chamber supports this program to create a stronger talent pool and will continue to advocate for relocation incentives to attract more workers to the state. 
In his State of the State address, the Governor foreshadowed support for childcare programs in his upcoming budget, specifically referencing changes to the Childcare Financial Assistance program to increase access to quality care and learning. That is one component of helping families with children. Other areas up for discussion this session include emergency compensation and recruitment tools for early childhood educators and funding a Child Care Financing Study. The Governor will also propose a tax relief package focused on retirees, middle-income families and young workers which may create room for discussion on a state-level Child Tax Credit, similar to the federal tax credit that recently expired. The initial proposal would be a $1,200 annual refundable tax credit for children under six with an estimated cost of $58.7 million. How this would be funded in the short-term or long-term has yet to be discussed but the House Committee on Ways and Means appeared poised to pursue this proposal.
Congressman Peter Welch joined Vermont Chamber members for a conversation about leveraging federal funding to build the economy of the future. The discussion covered the impacts COVID-19 has had on businesses, the workforce shortage, and housing. The Congressman will support efforts to bring more workers to Vermont through visa programs and refugee resettlement and continue to support the Build Back Better bill’s funding of tax credits and construction of new housing units. He also affirmed his support for replenishing the Restaurant Relief Funds, which could provide much-needed aid to the at least 581 Vermont restaurants with unmet need.
Resources & Information
Attend Our Economic Conference
At our 2022 Economic Conference, learn about the national and state economic trends facing Vermont businesses for 2022 while also hearing how Vermont can become an economic leader by welcoming all, supporting and growing our diverse communities, and leaning into our state’s strengths. Register here.

Resources for Employers Navigating UI and Vaccine Policies
The Vermont Department of Labor held a webinar for employers to better understand UI in the context of policies requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. A guide for those seeking more information can be found here.

How to Access Legislative Hearings Remotely
Amid concerns about a holiday surge and the Omicron variant, the Legislature began the session remotely. Many Vermonters have enjoyed the increased access and transparency of being able to monitor the proceedings from their homes, and the Vermont Chamber’s five-person lobbying team is ready for this continued challenge. If you are interested in accessing the deliberations, here’s what you need to know:
  • Each committee has a webpage where the agenda and YouTube links are available.
  • Legislators are on Zoom, but you will be watching YouTube. They are not able to monitor that chat, but instead have a Zoom chat accessed only by those invited to that channel.
  • You can find a bill, topic, or legislator information at the legislative website.
  • If you have a policy question or are interested in testifying, email us at the Vermont Chamber and we can help.

January 2022 Vermont Business Economic Survey
Please take the January 2022 Vermont Business Economic Survey to provide insight on current business operations. The deadline to complete the survey is February 11.
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