Burlington Electric Department (BED) and the Department of Public Works (DPW) today jointly encouraged Burlington-based individuals, nonprofits, and businesses to apply for grants from the Vermont COVID-19 Arrearage Assistance Program (VCAAP) to pay their past-due electric, water, and sewer/wastewater bills. Residential and non-residential utility ratepayers served by Vermont electric, municipal, community, or fire district water and sewer/wastewater, private water, or natural gas companies are eligible to apply until December 15, 2020. Customers may receive 100 percent of outstanding arrearages linked to economic hardship caused by the pandemic that are more than 60 days past-due up to a maximum grant award of $10,000.
“VCAAP offers a relatively quick application process for customers who have fallen behind on their utility bills due to COVID-19 related economic circumstances,” stated Darren Springer, General Manager of BED. “We want to ensure that our community members are aware of this time-limited opportunity to receive meaningful financial relief during these challenging times.”
The State of Vermont Legislature appropriated $8 million of CARES Act funding to create VCAAP. Under the program, residential applicants must demonstrate that they suffer from a pandemic-related hardship, including unemployment, layoff, reduced work hours, inability to work because of unavailability of childcare or school closures, or health issues. Non-residential applicants must attest to a loss of 50 percent of business revenues in any single month since March 2020. Businesses with multiple utility service addresses may apply to VCAAP for each separate service location and unique utility account number. Applications will be accepted until December 15 or earlier if available program funds have been exhausted.
Christine Demag, owner of Jubilance Salon in Burlington and a Burlington resident, who received VCAAP relief for both her business and residential electric accounts, stated: “It’s definitely been a roller coaster. We were shut down for about two months, so there was a lot of uncertainty not knowing if or when we’d be able to reopen. At first, I didn’t apply, thinking the program was for people and businesses with bigger challenges than mine, but then I realized that the program was meant for people like me. It was super-easy to apply, and I’m glad I did. I strongly suggest that any business or person impacted by the pandemic apply right away.”
When initially launched in August 2020, VCAAP did not include grants for municipal water and sewer/wastewater departments. In November, the program expanded to include these utility services and, in the first 18 days of eligibility, the DPW Water Resources Division has approved funding for 25 percent of qualifying account balances.
“We’re so appreciative that VCAAP was expanded to include water and wastewater arrearages,” stated Chapin Spencer, Director of DPW. “We know that more Burlington residents and business owners can benefit from this program and encourage the other 75 percent of our eligible customers to apply for these grants as soon as possible.”
To apply and learn more about VCAAP, Burlingtonians can visit bit.ly/vermontbills or call 800.622.4496. With specific questions for BED or DPW, Burlingtonians may contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.