Vermont Offers A Hand Up

by Doug McClure

MONTPELIER – With the virus returning in force and communities still reeling from the financial impacts of the first wave of COVID, the State of Vermont has expanded its program to help people and businesses with past-due bills.

“Vermonters suffering economic hardship due to loss of income from COVID-19 can get help now to pay their arrearages for residential and non-residential accounts. The Vermont COVID-19 Arrearage Assistance Program (VCAAP) provides financial support to customers who may face disconnection of service because of past-due balances for their electric, landline telephone, Vermont Gas, private water or water and sewer/wastewater charges.” The program was just expanded to include municipal entities for water, municipal sewer/wastewater, and payments to fire districts.

The VCAAP grants for residents are only available to a primary household and not dependent on income or filing status. In its FAQ, the state said “Customers can expect to receive 100% of eligible outstanding arrearages that are more than 60 days overdue… the maximum grant award is $10,000.” The program is available to both residents and businesses, with just one accepted application permitted per service location. If rejected, applicants can re-apply, but if the application was rejected because the balance due does not qualify the state will re-assess when it does qualify, so no second application is needed.

To qualify for the funds, “residential applicants must certify and attest to a COVID-19-related economic hardship. Hardships include unemployment, layoff, reduced work hours, health (had COVID or cared for someone with COVID) or can’t work because no childcare is available, or school was closed.”

Business applicants must attest to a loss of 50% of business revenues in a single month since March. If a business has multiple locations with service, each location is eligible so long as the service location is separate and has its own utility account.

The grant application deadline has been extended to December 15, or until funding runs out. The funding comes from the federal CARES Act and the State of Vermont Coronavirus fund. To apply online visit bit.ly/38NX84o or call NEK Community Action in St. Johnsbury at (802) 748.6040.