Gov. Phil Scott has continued Vermont’s state of emergency status for another month even as a new survey shows nearly a third of the state’s businesses lost more than half of their income last year due to harsh restrictions on economic activity.
“I’ll sign an extension to the state of emergency for another month,” Scott said Friday. “As a reminder, this is simply the tool we need to respond to the pandemic, but I’m hopeful there won’t be too many more of these extensions in the future.”
Less than a year ago, the governor said the lockdown on certain businesses and K-12 schools was to last for only a few weeks to prevent a flood of COVID-19 patients to hospitals. That flood never materialized.
By April, Scott was promising to turn the economy back on. “As soon as the data shows a leveling and downward trend, then, and only then, will we open the spigot a quarter turn at a time to get folks back to work in a way that’s responsible and safe,” the governor said.
Scott continues to declare a state of emergency each month even as non-elderly people continue to face little threat from COVID-19. The data from the UK and elsewhere indicates that the vast majority of the deaths are elderly people who are already health-compromised.
Meanwhile, Vermont’s economy is facing unprecedented challenges from state-restricted economic and social activity.
A new survey by Davis and Hodgdon Associates CPAs and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce has revealed the economic crisis now facing small businesses. The results are not encouraging.
“There is dramatic change in business owners’ attitudes about the Vermont and US economies,” the survey states.
Of 151 businesses that participated, 85% of respondents report a downturn in revenue, and 61% of respondents now believe they are in an economic downturn, compared to 26% from a year ago.
About 48% of Vermont business owners “have no exit plan” for their business, meaning about half of Vermont business owners are not currently dedicated to continuing.
About 86 percent of the respondents were from companies with 25 or fewer employees.
Asked why they are losing revenue, 87% of respondents cited “pandemic-related issues”; 36% said they were having difficulty finding good employees, and 22% cited Vermont taxes.
When businesses were asked what issues they want to see lawmakers address, according to the survey, “the answers revealed continued frustration with over taxation and the excessive cost of doing business in Vermont.”
Some rules from the governor’s emergency extension issued Monday include a near ban on all socialization outside of family, as “all multi-household social gatherings indoors and outdoors in public and private spaces are prohibited. This includes all public and private gatherings including but not limited to household gatherings, parties, weddings, events, etc.”
Betsy Bishop, president of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, is quoted in the report as saying the new data on business is very concerning.
“It is grounding that 85 percent of the business owners who responded saw their revenue decrease because of COVID,” she said.