$8.7 million Vermont economic stimulus bill focused on jobs

first_img AttachmentSize S_288_As_Passed_Senate.xls24.5 KB The Vermont House is expected to begin working next week on an $8.7 million economic stimulus bill that its Senate sponsor says will put a lot of contractors to work.The federally funded measure, which would pump money into several of the state’s economic development programs, passed the Senate on a voice vote last month (see summary attached). Governor James Douglas says he supports the legislation.The funding is available to Vermont as part of the national economic recovery package developed last year by President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress .Senator Vincent Illuzzi (R-Essex-Orlean), the bill’s main architect, says its provisions are intended to help repair some of the damage inflicted on Vermont’s economy by the national recession. While there’s no firm estimate of the number of jobs the legislation may create or save, Illuzzi suggests that its impact will be felt in many parts of the state and by Vermonters in many industries.The largest chunk of money in the bill, $2.9 million, is earmarked for providing 10,000 unconnected Vermont homes and businesses with broadband Internet links. Access to telecommunications and broadband services is this era s equivalent to rural electrification in the 1930s, the legislation declares.An existing state fund providing seed capital for Vermont start-up businesses would receive a $1 million infusion through Illuzzi’s legislation. He notes that the fund’s managers have identified 38 Vermont firms in fields such as life sciences, agriculture and software that are together seeking $45 million in early-stage equity capital. It’s estimated that as many as 700 jobs could be created if these entrepreneurs had access to their envisioned funding.Private capital markets have not been lending in the needed amounts, Illuzzi says. The legislation notes that although Vermont banks have made dramatic increases in their commercial lending in the past year, venture capital investment remains at dramatic lows, down nearly 33 percent in the last year alone.Another $1 million in the Senate’s stimulus bill is destined for job retraining programs. The state fund that covers these initiatives is likely to run out of money this month, preventing as many as 2000 Vermonters from receiving workforce training in manufacturing, health care, telecommunications and environmental engineering.Dairy farmers are also due to be helped by the legislation. It sets aside $1 million for an agriculture credit program overseen by the Vermont Economic Development Authority. The loan money will enable farmers to refinance or consolidate their existing debt, Illuzzi says.VEDA would also get $800,000 to be used for interest-rate subsidies on loans to Addison County businesses hurt by the closure of the Champlain Bridge. Businesses can qualify on the basis of higher expenses incurred as a result of increased travel costs.The legislation provides smaller amounts of money for a variety of additional programs, including $300,000 for the Department of Tourism and Marketing for additional media buys; $100,000 in tax credits for downtown and village center businesses; $150,000 for planning work on an aviation technical training center at Burlington International Airport; $100,000 for the Vermont Film Corp; $70,000 for rural emergency medical services; and $50,000 for a neighbor-to-neighbor project administered by Area Agencies on Aging around the state.The bill now moves over to the House where it is expected to move quickly. According to House Speaker Shap Smith s office, testimony on the bill will be taken up by the House Commerce and Economic Development committee next week, which is expected to at least tweak the legislation before it moves forward.By Kevin J Kelley. Vermont Business Magazine.last_img

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