The pandemic has hit an already fragile workforce hard; nearly every sector of Vermont’s economy is struggling with staffing shortages and challenges to recruitment & retention. As a result, the Legislature passed S. 11, a bill that invests nearly $100 million in efforts to increase workforce participation rates and recruit and train workers in critical fields. The bill also includes funding for new and existing economic development programs to support businesses and municipalities, reimburse leaves related to COVID–19, expand tax credits, and assist specific economic sectors such as arts and culture. See a complete summary here.
In particular, S.11 focuses over $11 million on programs and funding to attract and retain health care workers, including grants and forgivable loans for nurse educators, as well as similar programs for nursing students themselves. The bill also provides funding for loan repayment and tuition assistance for mental health professionals and staff, as well as funding for health data systems and coordinated staffing.
Funding is available for workforce development in outdoor recreation and the forest products sector, a pilot program for community-based reentry program for incarcerated individuals, a work-based learning program, training for BIPOC workers, and $18 million for scholarships for trades and construction training programs. We provided $15.2 million to cover paid leave for employees who missed work due to COVID. In addition, unemployment insurance weekly benefits are temporarily increased until a total of $100 million has been paid out of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
We allocated $19 million for the Vermont Economic Development Authority to provide a short-term forgivable loan program to employers with fewer than 500 employees in Vermont that have experienced a reduction in adjusted net operating income in 2020 and 2021, as well as $9 million for creative economy grants and $10 million for the Community Recovery and Revitalization Grant Program. Finally, the bill continues funding for the Restaurants and Farmers Feeding the Hungry Program, the Downtown and Village Center Tax Credit Program, and Relocated and Remote Worker Program.