The Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee has steered an additional $75 million into grants intended to help Vermont’s hospitality businesses survive the winter.

The committee approved many of the items on a proposal the Scott administration issued earlier this month to reallocate some of the state’s $1.25 billion share of the federal CARES Act money. Any money that is still unallocated by the end of the year will revert to the state’s unemployment trust fund.

Hospitality businesses joined forces in recent weeks to lobby lawmakers for more emergency grant funding, arguing that the state’s restrictions on travel, on inns and hotels, and on restaurants have caused millions of dollars in losses over the last eight months.

Tourism is one of the largest industries in the state, and brought in nearly 13 million visitors and nearly $2.8 billion per year before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the state’s 2017 tourism study.

The $75 million reallocation “is a recognition that they play a major role in our economy, and that COVID restrictions have hit them particularly hard,” said Sen. Ann Cummings, D-Washington County and chair of the Joint Fiscal Committee. “They didn’t choose to have their occupancy first shut down and then limited and then shut down again, essentially.”

This week, with infection rates surging, Gov. Phil Scott announced new limits on travel and on bars and restaurants.

Under the $75 million program, hospitality businesses can apply for grants to cover all their unmet economic needs, as measured by the amount of money they made this year between March and the end of September compared to the same period in 2019.

— Anne Wallace Allen, VTDigger

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