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Sununu outlines protections for people impacted by COVID-19

CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu detailed three new emergency orders, including expanded unemployment benefits and relief from being evicted or foreclosed upon due to COVID-19 at a news conference Tuesday morning.

The orders also would prohibit utilities, fuel and cable companies, and Internet providers from shutting off service for lack of payment during the state of emergency, which Sununu declared four days ago.

The orders also prohibit starting eviction and foreclosure proceedings against people who can’t pay their rent or mortgage because of COVID-19.

Sununu said he has requested emergency help for small businesses through the U.S. Small Business Administration. And Granite Staters can get a six-month extension on their driver’s license by calling 603-227-4020.

“When Granite Staters come together, we truly set an example for the rest of the country,” Sununu said standing at a podium with state officials, including Democratic Senate President Donna Soucy and House Speaker Steve Shurtleff.

“I think the picture of leadership standing here is the message. We are committed to working in solidarity as we go forward,” Shurtleff said.

The Legislature will stay in recess “until it is appropriate for us to come back to Concord and get back to work,” Shurtleff said.

Sununu said, “Our policy makers truly are coming together in an all-hands-on-deck effort.”

The State House in Concord is closed to lawmakers, legislative workers and visitors until further notice.

On Monday, Sununu banned public gatherings of more than 50 people and ordered restaurants and bars to provide take-out food or delivery only as the state reported 17 cases of COVID-19.

All public schools have been closed for three weeks as districts move to distance learning and providing food delivery to students.

Sununu provided great detail on how to apply for unemployment compensation at the press conference for all types of situations, including self-employed people who are unable to work because of COVID-19.

“These are extremely tough decisions, but it’s worth it,” Sununu said. “We can now focus our attention on relief opportunities.”

The state unemployment fund is solid, has a balance of $300 million and state officials are hoping to get some compensation relief from Washington, D.C., as well, to allow individuals who are unable to work or who have reduced hours due to COVID-19 to have access to unemployment, Sununu said.

Individuals who find themselves in the following situations will be eligible:

• Your employer is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.

• Individuals who need to self-quarantine or are directed to quarantine by their health care provider, employer or government officials.

• You need to care for a family member that has COVID-19 or is under quarantine.

• You need to care for a dependent child due to school closure.

• Self-employed individuals who are temporarily unable to operate their business.

The waiting period to receive benefits has been suspended.

Sununu stressed that people should avoid going to Department of Employment Security offices and apply by phone or online. The number to call is 603-271-7700, or visit www.NHDES.NH.gov.

“The lack of appropriate response in other parts of the world has really forced us here in New Hampshire to make very difficult decisions to make sure we can stop the tide of this worldwide pandemic in our own community,” Sununu said.

The governor’s actions were praised by those in Washington, including U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan.

“I commend Gov. Sununu for issuing these emergency orders, which will help provide vital economic relief to Granite Staters affected by the coronavirus outbreak. These actions from the governor also reinforce why the Senate needs to get the House-passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act to the president’s desk without delay,” Hassan said. “It will support our citizens and states by providing $1 billion in grants to expand unemployment insurance, among other critical priorities. In addition to this House-passed bill, we will need to pass substantial additional legislation to get help to families and small businesses and shore up our economy, and I am committed to continue working with members of both parties to do that.”

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