(Montpelier) – The Senate Committee on Committees has appointed Sarah Mell of Winooski to serve on the Vermont Commission on Women (VCW), the state’s non-partisan commission working to advance rights and opportunities for women and girls.
Mell is the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the University of Vermont’s Women and Gender Equity Center, work that explores the intersections of identities, power, and community as a means of advancing dialogue about gender equity and belonging. This position provides training and workshop opportunities for students, staff, and faculty on concepts of positive sexuality, the prevention of sexual and intimate partner violence, and the ways individuals experience power and privilege in relationship to ourselves and others.
Mell has worked not only in a variety of academic settings, but as an independent consultant, and in nonprofit organizations, including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and HOPE Works. About joining the Commission at this time, they observed, “If COVID-19 has done anything for our state, I think it has made it clear that our community is both resilient and in need of a new focus on dismantling systems that separate us, and creating connections for us to grow together.” Mell is interested in examining how the Commission might “better represent the needs of all women and girls in Vermont, particularly centering the women who are too often overlooked - those experiencing systemic poverty, state-sanctioned violence, racial discrimination, and transmisogyny.”
Mell holds a Master of Arts in English from University of Vermont and an undergraduate degree from Western Michigan University. Their community service positions include facilitator and volunteer at Outright Vermont and board member, actor, singer, dancer and choreographer for multiple theater production companies, including Vermont Stage Company, Vermont Shakespeare Festival, and Middlebury Actors Workshop. Mell lives in Winooski.
As a result of the federal CARES act, the State of Vermont has announced new Economic Recovery Grants for Vermont businesses, which includes a set-aside of $2.5 million for women-owned businesses and $2.5 million for minority-owned businesses with zero - five employees.
Businesses should apply using the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD)'s Recovery Grant Resource Center at:
The application process opens Monday, July 6th, and applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) will host informational webinars about Vermont's Economic Recovery Grants, please visit accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/economic-recovery-grants/webinars for details.
To be eligible for an Economic Recovery Grant for minority/women owned businesses, the business must have zero - five employees and be:
- At least 51% minority/women owned;
- Organized/registered and in good tax-standing in Vermont;
- Domiciled or have its primary place of business in Vermont;
- In operation on or before February 15, 2020;
- Open for business, or have a plan to re-open; and
- Able to demonstrate that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has suffered a 50% or greater loss in revenue for any monthly period between March 1 and September 1, when compared to the same period in 2019.
Eligible businesses that submit complete applications will be awarded grants in the amount of 10% of 2019 revenues, up to $50,000 per business.
Economic Recovery Grants may be used to address the costs of business interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preparing to Apply
Before applying, businesses should prepare themselves by gathering the information and documents they will need to do so.
Applicants will need to be able to provide the following information during the application process:
- Vermont Account Identification Number & Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)
- The appropriate NAICS code for your business
- Information about any compensation already received (insurance, PPP, EIDL, other federal grant programs due to COVID-19 etc.)
Applicants will be required to upload the following documents in .pdf format with their applications:
- 2019 income statement broken down by month
- 2020 income statement broken down by month
- 2019 federal tax return, or your most recent return
- 2019 Vermont state tax return
- W-9 (signed)
Some Minority/Women Owned Businesses Should Compare Grant Opportunities Before Applying
Separate Economic Recovery Grant programs exist for different kinds of businesses. If your business falls into any of the following categories, we encourage you to compare the available grant opportunities to ensure you’re applying for the right program for your business.
- Restaurants, bars, or lodging properties that collect Rooms and Meals Tax and retail and recreation operations that collect the Sales & Use Tax, and report to the Vermont Department of Taxes monthly or quarterly may apply for a grant program with the Department of Taxes.
- Agricultural producers and providers may be eligible for funding through the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.
- Healthcare providers can apply for funding through the Health Care Provider Stabilization Grant Program administered by the Agency of Human Services.
- Child Care Providers, Summer Camps, After School Programs can apply for funding through the Agency of Human Services, Department for Children and Families.
Technical Assistance Available
If you need assistance completing your application or gathering the necessary documents, help will be available from the Partnership for Fairness and Diversity and the Center for Women and Enterprise.
The state’s independent non-partisan Vermont Commission on Women just released a new data dashboard report focusing on the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately and uniquely impacted women.
Report link: COVID-19 Crisis and Vermont Women
“The economic downturn associated with the pandemic makes women more vulnerable to financial instability,” said Cary Brown, the commission’s executive director, “Our dashboard reveals that a higher percentage of April’s unemployment claims were made by women: 46% vs. 40% by men. Our state has the highest percentage of women working at tipped wage jobs in the U.S.: 81% of those workers are women, and those jobs were largely shut down. Nationwide, women-owned businesses are more likely to be small and in service sectors most impacted by the crisis, like personal or retail services.”
Both for those who work in child care and for those that rely on child care to work, the loss of jobs and access have real and potentially lasting economic impacts for women. June 1st marked the first date child care programs could reopen, but with limitations on numbers of children and challenging new health protocols. Some programs are closing, further limiting availability. Before COVID-19, over 70% of Vermont children 6 and under had all available parents in the labor force – the need for more quality affordable care is now likely greater than ever.
The dashboard examines how impacts are multiplied by factors like inequity. In Vermont the median annual income for women who work full-time is $41,146, $8,000 less than the median annual salary of men, equating to a loss or a “wage gap” of 16 cents to every dollar earned. The gap is much wider for women of color in our state who are also facing other inequities. The visual report addresses that while almost 9.2% of Vermont’s positive cases are found in African Americans, they make up only 1.4% of our population. Black and Asian Vermonters are also being hospitalized at higher rates.
The Commission’s Data Management Coordinator, Anna Brouillette, commented on those disparities, "Ongoing gaps for Vermonters of color - both in COVID-19 case data and in the disproportionate wage gaps experienced by women of color in our state, remind us of the importance of examining and discussing the nuance and complexity of women's experiences.
In May 2020, the US Department of Education, headed by Secretary Betsy Devos, announced new regulations to Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, governing how educational institutions, including colleges and universities, respond to allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
The new rules take effect on August 14, 2020. The Department received 124,000 public comments on the regulations originally proposed in November 2018, before adjusting and finalizing them. The Vermont Commission on Women was among those offering public comment on the proposed regulations in January 2019.
The new Title IX regulations make broad, sweeping changes to the way educational institutions are required to respond to reports of sexual harassment and assault, particularly at colleges and universities. VCW has issued an Information Brief which provides details about the regulations we believe to be most significant. Here, we highlight a few of these rules.
The Title IX regulations redefine sexual harassment as “Unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would determine is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity.” VCW remains concerned that this definition sets the bar for a sexual harassment report too high and will create an environment where, from a legal perspective, students will be expected to endure more sexual harassment at school than employees are in the workplace.
The regulations also limit who students can report sexual harassment to. Students must make their report to a limited set of individuals: the Title IX Coordinator, and “officials who have the authority to institute correctional measures”. While we appreciate clarifying who at a school can receive such reports, we remain concerned that this regulation is too restrictive. Students often report sexual misconduct to people they have a relationship with, including respected professors and advisors.
Perhaps the most significant change, the new regulations overhaul grievance procedures schools must implement. Changes include: requiring schools to conduct live hearings with the right to cross-examination; allowing for a voluntary informal dispute resolution process; and preventing schools from prohibiting parties from speaking about the allegations. We remain concerned that these changes will have a chilling effect on reporting, and are requiring schools to implement quasi-judicial procedures in an education setting, where they may not be properly equipped to do so.
While we appreciate the clarity created by these regulations and the codification of many practices that educational institutions were already implementing, we remain concerned that these broad changes, which when proposed, generated a tremendous outpouring of public concern, will make it harder for students to report, more difficult and costly for schools to respond, and less likely to result in positive outcomes for the students involved.
Cary Brown, executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women, said the bill would not only benefit women candidates who historically have had to bear the brunt of child-rearing responsibilities.
“That is one of the teeny little tiny steps we can take to shift the culture a little bit,” Brown said, referring to the adoption of the bill. “So the expectation is that parents are equally taking care of children and it’s not falling disproportionately on women.”