Vermont officials defend disbursement of pandemic money
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Vermont officials defend their disbursement of pandemic relief funds following a state auditor’s report that found there was insufficient oversight from the program.
In March of last year, amid coronavirus closures, Church Street in Burlington was among areas of the state that have essentially become ghost towns, with no buyers or income for businesses. Using a flood of federal funds, the state has put in place several grant programs to help businesses weather the storm. In the end, more than 2,200 companies received $ 117 million, some of which reached $ 300,000. state subsidies on lost income in March 2020 compared to 2019.
“What they haven’t done is come back a few weeks and months later and say, ‘My God, we don’t know how this company has been doing the rest of the year. “The point is, some companies have turned the tide,” said Vermont auditor Doug Hoffer.
His office looked at 57 companies and found that two-thirds of them ended 2020 in a better financial position than 2019. He says some were overpaid and could be in violation of federal rules, meaning that the US Treasury could get the money back and taxpayers could be on the hook.
“We followed the procedures and methodology we agreed to,” said Vermont Secretary of Commerce Lindsay Kurrle. She says federal officials have yet to reach out and overpay any companies. Kurrle says Hoffer used a different methodology, net income. “We have developed something according to treasury guidelines and feel like we are on a solid footing and support the work being done by our agency.”
Hoffer acknowledges the business grant program was important, but says more could have been done to better direct the money to those in need. “Helping more businesses be profitable sounds like fun if you own that business. But this money not being available for companies that were really suffering, it is not an optimal result, ”he said.
State subsidies were just one of the programs that kept businesses alive. Up to $ 8 billion has been pumped into the economy through paycheck protection loans, prolonged unemployment and direct stimulus checks.
Whether businesses were overpaid or not, many people we spoke to said the money had arrived just at the right time and they might not be here without it.
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