Catching Up with Annie
Navigating Our New Normal
Washington, DC, May 8, 2020
It’s hard to believe we’ve been living in this new normal - some of us sheltering in place and working/studying from home, while essential workers bravely continue through this pandemic - for nearly two months now. These are trying times, but I continue to be inspired by the resiliency, compassion and spirit of Granite Staters. Our first responders, health care workers and all who are on the frontlines have shown us what true selflessness is, and their dedication to helping others through this crisis is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Last week, I unveiled my "Roadmap to Recovery" plan outlining steps we should take to safely and responsibly reopen our economy. There’s a long road ahead, but I know that when we band together, there’s nothing we can’t overcome.
Improving Broadband Service in Rural Communities
Yesterday, I joined U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Senator Maggie Hassan, and Governor Chris Sununu for a virtual press conference to announce that Granite State Communications will receive $1.9 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to improve broadband service in rural communities.
Access to high-speed internet has long been a challenge in New Hampshire, and the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored just how important it is that all Granite Staters have access to a reliable internet connection. The USDA grant we announced yesterday will expand high-speed internet in Deering, Washington, and Hillsborough - bringing us one step closer toward getting all Granite Staters access to the high-speed internet they need. I’ve called for future COVID-19 response packages to include broadband expansion so we can build on this progress and secure funding for critical broadband improvement and expansion projects across New Hampshire.
Providing Student Debt Relief to Essential Workers
I introduced bipartisan legislation with Representative Brian Fitzpatrick this week to provide $25,000 in either student loan debt relief or education benefits to essential workers and their family members. Essential workers risk their health and well-being every day to keep our society functioning during this unprecedented pandemic. Thanks to their courage, Granite Staters are able to buy food for their families, call for help during an emergency, and receive treatment if they are sick. This legislation will honor the service of essential workers by allowing them to pay off student debt and have the opportunity - should they want it - to further their education or learn new skills once the crisis has subsided.
Bolstering Public Health with the National Service Corps
On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues to cosponsor the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act. The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on the financial wellbeing of Americans and our economy, and recovery is going to require smart solutions and an all hands on deck approach. This legislation is a win-win, as it creates jobs for those who need employment during this crisis, creates investments in the health and wellbeing of our communities, and provides support for our economy. I’m proud to support this commonsense measure as we look towards recovery efforts and the future of our nation.
Helping Ski Areas Maintain Essential Staff Throughout the Pandemic
Representative Scott Tipton and I led a bipartisan letter to House Leadership on Wednesday, calling on Congress to consider temporarily waiving the federal permitting fees for ski areas through June 2021. For many rural mountain communities, ski areas are the largest employer and a main driver of local economic activity. As of mid-March, ski areas across the country closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 season to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus. These closures mean ski areas are not operating during their peak season that typically represents twenty-five percent of annual revenue. As this crisis continues, ski areas are facing a serious liquidity challenge, and allowing them to retain funds that would have otherwise been paid to the Treasury will help ski areas retain employees.
Keeping You Informed
On Wednesday, Congressman Chris Pappas and I held our ninth telephone town hall to discuss COVID-19 and take questions from Granite Staters. These regular town halls allow me to stay connected with you and hear about the issues that matter most to you and the impact this crisis is having on your lives. I sincerely appreciate Ken Norton with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, George Copadis and Richard Lavers with the office of New Hampshire Employment Security, and Dr. Calderwood, Epidemiologist at Dartmouth Hitchcock, for taking time out of their busy schedules to share their expertise on this week’s call. As always, if you have questions or are in need of assistance, please contact my team by giving our Concord office a call at (603) 226-1002 or visit my website at kuster.house.gov.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NH DHHS) are the best resources to turn to during this public health emergency.