Is nonmonetary compensation the same as wages?

For most injured employees, the calculation of the workers’ compensation wage replacement benefits is straightforward: They will receive two-thirds of the average of their earnings over the 26 weeks prior to injury. If you are an employer who provides some form of nonmonetary compensation as part of a remuneration package, however, the calculation can become much more complicated. Vehicles, ski passes, cellphone service, cows, and food and lodging, to name a few, can all factor into the calculation of what your carrier pays out in weekly wage replacement benefits. Most recently, the commissioner of the Department of Labor ruled in Haller v. Champlain College that tuition-free college credits Champlain College offers to all full-time employees should also be included in the calculation as a form of nonmonetary compensation. Champlain appealed that decision to the Vermont Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in February.

Margie Barton, a financial counselor at the IU Health Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, helps to explain how health benefits works once patients arrive at the hospital. Shrinking insurance coverage and soaring treatment costs can swamp patients with piles of unexpected bills. AP PHOTO / DARRON CUMMINGS

Talking money with the hospital trying to treat you

The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — The financial counselor will see you now. Many people hit with a terrifying medical diagnosis like cancer also have to deal with another worry: whether the care will bankrupt them. Insurance that covers less and soaring treatment costs can swamp patients with piles of unexpected bills. To help ease money worries, hospitals and other care providers are increasingly using counselors to guide patients and, in some cases, arrange for financial help. Financial counselors can tell patients about help they didn’t know existed or coax them into accepting assistance they might be reluctant to request on their own.

Cook  Jocelyn McElroy removes a pizza from the outdoor wood-fired oven at Woodbelly Pizza off Barre Street in Montpelier.

Montpelier pizza cooperative readies to move beyond mobile

MONTPELIER — Sometime between 8 and 9 a.m. on Thursday mornings this summer, things will start heating up on Barre Street. A mobile wood-fired pizza oven that sits in a parking lot across the road and down the hill from Bohemian Bakery on Barre Street will begin sending up savory smoke signals a few hours later, indicating lunch is on the way. A white pizza with wood nettles, farmer cheese and garlic might be on the menu, or a sautéed mushroom and caramelized onion creation, or a sausage, bacon and onion offering. Those familiar with Woodbelly Pizza from the Saturday Montpelier and Sunday Stowe farmer’s markets will now be able to indulge their cravings for pizza made with freshly milled flour from Elmore Mountain Bakery all day on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the lot adjacent to a new commissary kitchen. Gluten-free options include Farinata, a creation from the town of Liguria on the northwest coast of Italy, made with chickpea flour, water, salt and olive oil, that resembles a thick crepe topped with black pepper and herbs.

Survey: Workforce issues blamed for tepid business climate

Vermont’s business leaders are less bullish on the economy than earlier in the year, according to the latest survey by the Vermont Business Roundtable and Economic Policy Resources. The quarterly survey gauges the pulse of the state’s business community across a range of industry sectors. In the second-quarter survey on business conditions, 55 percent of the state’s CEOs expressed a neutral assessment of the state’s business climate. Only 24 percent of respondents were optimistic (compared with 46 percent in the first quarter), 21 percent had a negative view of economic conditions. The information sector was the most positive about the business climate with 67 percent expressing an optimistic outlook.

Locally owned data network grows broader

ROYALTON — ECFiber, a municipally owned central Vermont internet provider, is bringing service to six new communities this year. The company, also known as the East Central Vermont Telecommunications District, continues widespread, steady growth, providing rural communities across Vermont with high-speed fiber-optic internet. Eventually, that means a territory of 24 towns. Further implementation is expected for 2018, and ECFiber has secured additional funding of up to $14.5 million to move forward. “We plan to build the under-served areas first, which represent about 225 of the 1,683 miles that is considered to be off-road.

Vyto Starinskas / Staff File Photo

Will resort sales shake up Vermont’s ski industry?

In a history-making year, three Vermont ski resorts are changing hands, with new owners ranging from the nation’s largest conglomerates to a local family. Global giant Vail Resorts is acquiring Stowe Mountain Resort’s ski operations for $50 million from the Mt. Mansfield Company. Aspen Skiing Company (owner/operator of four Colorado areas) and KSL Partners (a private equity firm that owns Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows) will purchase Stratton Mountain Resort in Londonderry, per a merger agreement with Intrawest Holdings, Inc. The acquisition is part of a $1.5 billion purchase of Intrawest’s six ski resorts and heli-operation. By comparison, the April 14 purchase of Bolton Valley by the DesLauriers family and some local investors marks the continuation of independently owned Vermont resorts.


‘Rich20Something’ inspiring, but worthy of caution

“Rich20Something: Ditch Your Average Job, Start an Epic Business, and Score the Life You Want” by Daniel DiPiazza, 2017, TarcherPerigee, $24, 281 pages. Your paycheck was a lot smaller than you thought it would be. How irritating: After taxes and other deductions, you’re making a pittance for your work. How unfair. This isn’t the way it was when your parents started out!

Young central Vermont professionals get connected

BARRE — The Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce recently hosted the inaugural meeting of the Central Vermont Young Professionals Group — a coalition of people under the age of 40 who want to share their entrepreneurial energy and ideas
The group started as a Facebook entity under the auspices of Mark Browning and Reuben Stone from Stone and Browning, a property management company in Barre. Browning and Stone were aware of robust young professionals groups in Rutland and Burlington, but no similar organization existed for central Vermont. Rutland Young Professionals, for instance, was founded in 2013, charges a minimal yearly fee of $25 to belong and is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with an active membership and a brick-and-mortar address on Cottage Street. With old fashioned commitment and hard work, the Central Vermont Young Professionals Group looks forward to a similar vibrant future. Earlier this year they formed a steering committee to gauge interest in a potential network geared to smaller businesses, microbusinesses and new startups.

Don’t let your investments take a ‘vacation’

It’s summer again. Time for many of us to take a break and possibly hit the open road. But even if you go on vacation, you won’t want your investments to do the same — in summertime or any other season. How can you help make sure your portfolio continues to work hard for you all year long? Here are a few suggestions:
— Avoid owning too many “low growth” investments.

Good Beginnings of Central Vermont worker Katie O'Rourke, left, works with a young East Montpelier mom and her baby. A new law provides workplace accommodations to mothers with healthy pregnancies.

New law supports women with healthy pregnancies

On Friday, May 4, Gov. Phil Scott signed bill H.136 into law. Known as Act 21, the legislation provides the same accommodations to working pregnant women that are available to people with disabilities as specified in the Americans with Disabilities Act. “This is an economic equity issue. Women are already in a more financially precarious situation than men in the state of Vermont and this law allows for simple solutions for women to maintain their positions within the workplace during and after their pregnancy,” said Cary Brown, executive director at the Vermont Commission on Women. Act 21 provides an easier process for pregnant workers to receive reasonable accommodations in the workplace, and requires employers to reasonably accommodate a worker’s condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, unless the employer can prove that doing so would pose “undue hardship.”
Under disability laws, employers must accommodate pregnant women’s needs in the workplace during a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, allowing them to stay healthy and prevent problems before they could possibly occur.