The state of Vermont has made $20 million available to help businesses with flood recovery costs, but some businesses say they are frustrated with the application process and haven’t been able to access the money.

Melissa Whitaker and her husband, Carlo, own Positive Pie in Montpelier. They lost all their equipment and most of their inventory in the flood. So far they say the damage has cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

“We’re thinking of putting in a loft for storage,” Melissa said. “We’re just having to rethink our whole concept.” 

But, she says, “We’re just in a hold. We are waiting and can’t start without funding.”

Melissa estimates it will cost $300,000 to $500,000 to rebuild. The couple have received about $10,000 from fundraisers and nonprofits.

But Melissa says they really need the funding from the state’s Business Emergency Gap Assistance Program, which began awarding grants for flood recovery last week. And that’s been a problem, she says.

“Most people’s initial applications were denied, so then you’d have to go back and find more information,” Melissa said. “Or sometimes they were denied for really stupid things like a comma missing. And {Small Business Administration] loans — most of those haven’t come.” The Office of Economic Development tells us no one has been denied for a BEGAP Grant in the city of Montpelier.

Lindsay Kurrle, secretary of the Vermont Agency Of Commerce And Community Development, says businesses need to document their need and what it could cost. 

“They have to demonstrate their damages,” Kurrle said. “One thing we’ve noticed quickly is that there are a lot of different contractors pulled in different directions, and people are having trouble getting estimates.” 

Kurrle says the state has so far approved more than $1.5 million in grants under the program.

“We want to be really flexible, but with that being said, we’re also encouraging people to be as thorough as possible,” she said. “We don’t want to have to kick it back because it pops them out of line.” 

Only one business in Montpelier has received money from the SBA. Many business owners have said they are not reopening at all. That’s created concerns that Montpelier won’t be the hub it was before the floods.

This story was updated with a response from the Vermont Department of Economic Development.