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Shaheen talks to city mayors, N.H. officials during COVID call

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke with mayors and town officials from around New Hampshire during a conference call last week.

Shaheen last spoke with a group of local government leaders in April when the CARES act was passed and now, as was then, she’s still pushing to get money out to Granite State businesses and non-profits.

Those participating were Paul Grenier, Mayor of Berlin; Robert Carrier, Mayor of Dover; Rick Becksted, Mayor of Portsmouth; Charlene Lovett, Mayor of Claremont; Jim Bouley, Mayor of Concord; Caroline McCarley, Mayor of Rochester; Tony Giunta, Mayor of Franklin; Dana Hilliard, Mayor of Somersworth; George Hansel, Mayor of Keene; Kevin Smith, Londonderry Town Manager; and David Caron, Derry Town Manager.

Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess could not attend but Cheryl Lindner, his chief of staff, was on the call and asked Sen. Shaheen a question about hazard pay for public health nurses.

“Is there anything to include in that group that is eligible for hazard pay?” asked Lindner. “In our community, they’re performing the testing and doing contract tracing and they’re also out in the community helping those that are quarantined and they’re not on the list for hazard pay.”

“They are on the list in the House bill that’s been introduced,” Shaheen said. “So, I think certainly as that bill comes to the Senate, hopefully that will stay in. It’s something that I think we need to support because those who are putting their lives at risk to help during this time should see some kind of financial reward.”

“There are some pretty significant funds in the package that was introduced in the house yesterday, for state and local governments,” she said. “It includes $500 billion for state governments to use over the next several years, to not only cover pandemic-related expenses, but also to replace lost revenue and respond to the negative impact.”

She added that the money there is flexible for local governments it $375 billion; for county and local, there is $250 million to be made available within 30 days of enactment. And the remaining $125 million to be made available a year later.

“And just to go back to that $500 billion, $250 billion would be due in May 2021,” she said. “It’s looking not just at the current crisis, but also anticipating that as a result of where we are now, there will be needs in the future.”

The bill also includes hazard pay for essential workers including healthcare, emergency responders, sanitation workers and a number of other occupational situations.

Grants to small businesses through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program are also included in the bill, as is $175 billion in housing assistance, $100 billion for hospitals and healthcare providers, and $75 billion for testing and contact tracing.

Additional stimulus checks of $1,200 per family member and $10 billion for supplemental nutritional assistance program, to help families cover the cost of food.

“We’re still going through the package ourselves,” Shaheen said. “The funding that New Hampshire is still receiving from the CARES relief package and the follow-up to that, which provided mainly funding for small businesses but did have an additional $100 billion for healthcare, $75 billion for hospitals and health care providers, and $25 billion to go for testing.”

Of that, $67 million was released on Wednesday for the state of New Hampshire.

Shaheen thanked the local governments who she said are the ones on the frontlines of the pandemic.

“My goal in Washington is to try to as much as I can to support all of you,” she said. “One of the challenges as this bill comes from the House to the Senate is going to be deciding what happens with funding to help state and local governments. That was, as you may remember, a fight in the third COVID-19 package, the CARES legislation. It’s one of the things that delayed it for several days.”

Craig asked Shaheen a question regarding FEMA, and that that agency typically will reimburse 75% back to the community. Craig inquired as to whether FEMA, under current circumstances, would reimburse 100%.

“I don’t know,” Shaheen responded. “I’ll assume it’s something that will be considered as part of the package. I haven’t seen what was in the house package. We have to continue to go through the bill and see if it’s in there. If not, I understand why people are concerned about it.”

Craig also asked about airport funding, and that specifically as a result of Shaheen’s advocacy, the Manchester-Boston regional will see $12 million coming in but will be competing with larger airports in the region.

“We’re at a disadvantage,” Craig said.

“I know there were some issues with how the last package of funding got distributed to airports,” Shaheen said. “I talked to Ted Kitchens, I share some of those frustrations with why there were certain airports who got more than we did given their lack of commercial flights. It’s an issue we’re going to continue to work on.”

Carrier, asked that with revenue shortfalls and with the relief money, what kind of tax repercussions would the government face having to replace those monies back into budgets?

“That’s a huge challenge,” Shaheen answered. “Everybody I’ve talked to, from economists to government officials, all say that the most important thing we can do it try and first help people get through this emergency period, and second, to provide stimulus and support to our economy and small businesses and to those industries who are such a critical part of our economy.”

Shaheen added that at some point, the deficit and debt created would have to be addressed, “but now is not the time to do that.”

A question from Mayor Jim Bouley of Concord referenced the dollar amount that his city would see for several transportation and bridge projects but Shaheen said she had not seen that infrastructure investment and transportation.

The house bill that was released on Tuesday did stipulate $15 billion in grants to support the ongoing work of state and territorial departments of transportation, to mitigate the effects of COVID, a Shaheen aide stated.

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