Catching Up with Annie

Keeping in Touch During Challenging Times

Washington, April 10, 2020

Dear Friend, 

As we wind down the fourth week of this new normal we are living in, with many of us hunkered down in our homes here in New Hampshire, we are beginning to see that efforts to “flatten the curve” of new cases of COVID-19 are showing some success, with fewer hospitalizations in Washington state, California and even New York City. Here at home, testing capacity continues to increase and more new cases are identified each day, but we can share in the hope that our efforts are working and the tide will turn in the coming weeks. We mourn for the families whose loved ones have died and we share the pain of every Granite State family coping with illness and isolation.

From the beginning, we knew that for some, especially older and more vulnerable Americans, the outcome of this vicious virus would be fatal. For many more, flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, muscle, and headaches) will be debilitating for days, but will not require hospitalization. And for most Granite Staters, physical distancing and working or studying from home will protect us from the virus. The inconvenience is real, but the benefit of slowing the spread of COVID-19 is critical to protect our families and our communities. If you’d like to learn more, check out this clip of state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan answering common questions about the COVID-19 pandemic on WMUR. 

As we do our part by practicing physical distancing and staying home when possible, health care workers, grocers, truck drivers and other essential workers go out every day to serve on the frontlines. We honor those who serve us - in hospitals, nursing homes and grocery stores - as we serve them by following the “stay at home” public health directive. This week, I checked in with hospitals, nursing homes, community health centers, nurses and grocers to hear their challenges as I continue to advocate for their needs in Congress. 

As my congressional staff and I continue to serve the Second District from our homes in D.C. and in N.H., we have ramped up our communication with weekly tele-town halls with Rep. Chris Pappas and experts in infectious diseases, public health, and economic stimulus. This week, Rep. Pappas and I held our first Facebook Live event with experts to respond to your frequently asked questions.

I know this is a challenging time. I care about you and your family. Please reach out if you have questions or concerns. Be kind to yourself, to your family and to your friends. Reach out to show you care. Together, we will overcome. Spring is here. Summer is right around the corner. We are blessed to live in New Hampshire. Stay safe and be well.

Looking out for Small Businesses 

On Tuesday, I joined Congressman Chris Pappas in sending a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them to increase funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) at the Small Business Administration. I have heard from New Hampshire small businesses, independent contractors, and non-profit organizations about the importance of the PPP and the need for additional support to protect the wellbeing of our economy. Congress should act with foresight and increase funding for the PPP to ensure that eligible Granite Staters are not inadvertently locked out of this program.

Working to Protect New Hampshire Hospitals and Frontline Health Care Workers

Yesterday, I joined our federal delegation in sending a letter to the Trump Administration outlining the urgent need for personal protective equipment (PPE) in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NHDHHS) continues to work to ensure crucial PPE gets to those who need it most. We previously wrote to HHS and FEMA on March 26 expressing our deep concerns over the agencies’ poor response to our state’s request for medical supplies. In the letter this week, we noted that while supplies have been reaching New Hampshire, the Administration has failed to meet the current demand and adequately prepare our state for a surge in coronavirus patients. It is critical that the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) respond to New Hampshire’s request for assistance so that we can protect our frontline workers and communities.

Providing Resources to Our Smaller Communities 

I helped introduce the Coronavirus Community Relief Act this week to provide $250 billion in stabilization funds for local communities, cities, and towns across the United States. This legislation is the result of concerns I have heard from municipalities and county administrators from across New Hampshire who are working diligently to protect their communities without any guarantee that they will be reimbursed. We must ensure that small localities have the resources and services necessary to meet the challenges presented by this public health and economic crisis. This legislation will help to protect all of our communities and ensure they have the support they need.

Keeping Our Seniors Safe

Every week, I am keeping in close contact with New Hampshire seniors and those who care for our greatest generation.  Following the state’s announcement of additional outbreaks at residential facilities and nursing homes, including at the Huntington in Nashua, I led a phone meeting with the New Hampshire Healthcare Association’s leadership, the largest association of long-term care providers in New Hampshire, including skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and a specialized pediatric care facility. I heard directly about the needs of these sites and how we need to protect our vulnerable populations and the workforce serving our friends and family members at those facilities.

Protecting Americans from COVID-19 Scams 

On Monday, I joined my colleagues to introduce bipartisan legislation to protect Americans from COVID-19 scams. We are living in a time of stress and uncertainty, and as we combat the spread of COVID-19 in New Hampshire and across the U.S., we must also combat the spread of misinformation and scams, which have been on the rise. By providing critical information and resources, we can keep consumers safe and prevent bad actors from taking advantage of Americans during this national emergency.

Expanding Broadband and Tele-Health in Our Rural Communities

As Granite Staters practice physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, there has never been a greater need to expand broadband to our rural communities. As a Member of the House Rural Broadband Task Force, I have long been an advocate for deploying broadband connectivity throughout New Hampshire and have called on Congressional leaders to include robust financing in future coronavirus response legislation. As folks are working from home, students are attending classes remotely, and patients and doctors are using telemedicine more often, we must ensure that our rural communities are not left behind. In order to succeed in our 21st-century economy, Americans and businesses must have access to affordable and quality broadband internet, and I’ll continue my efforts to ensure this technology is accessible to all. 

What You Need to Know About Tax Deadlines and Direct Payments Through the CARES Act 

Starting next week, the IRS and Department of Treasury will begin distributing direct cash payments to eligible Americans via direct deposit. These payments - through the CARES Act that we passed last month - will help Granite Staters cover normal costs during the economic downturn and help stimulate the economy. 

Individuals may utilize three options for providing their direct deposit information to the IRS before a paper check is mailed. Paper checks will be issued in the coming weeks starting with lower-income individuals - if you and your family prefer to receive a stimulus payment via direct deposit, I encourage you to look at the following options:

  • File a 2019 Tax Return and include banking information for direct deposit.
  • File a Simple Tax Form and fill out a few questions – Be sure to include banking information to receive a stimulus payment via direct deposit.
  • IRS Online Portal – This will be established in the coming days for individuals who already filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 without banking information.

Additionally, the IRS has extended the filing deadline for 2019 tax returns to July 15, 2020. This will provide maximum flexibility to American families who may need extra time to file this year. 

If you typically do not file a tax return, click here to register for your Economic Impact Payment.

Keeping You Informed 

Congressman Pappas and I held our fifth telephone town hall to discuss the coronavirus on Wednesday.  These town halls provide an important opportunity to keep the public informed and for me to hear directly from Granite Staters. I thank Dr. Calderwood, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Epidemiologist and Infectious Disease Expert; and Kevin McKeon, IRS District Congressional Liaison, for joining us on this call. I will continue to advocate for New Hampshire priorities as Congress responds to the health and economic crisis caused by this pandemic.

Keeping in Touch with New Hampshire

Every week, I spend countless hours on the phone and video-conferencing with those on the frontlines across New Hampshire. We owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women providing critical health services in our hospitals, working each day in our grocery stores, and serving in local government. These frontline Granite Staters are working tirelessly to combat the spread of COVID-19.  Calls and conversations with these folks allow me to provide critical updates from Congress and hear their needs first hand.

Earlier this week, I spoke with the New Hampshire Hospital Association to discuss Coronavirus planning, preparation and the impact on New Hampshire’s hospital system, including the ongoing need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and efficient testing capabilities. We also discussed the challenges of rural hospitals, expanded telehealth resources and forthcoming funding our hospitals should expect to receive from the CARES Act.

I hosted a video conference on Wednesday with Bi-State Primary Care Association’s membership to discuss the ongoing needs of our health clinics and the federal support these health centers can expect in the weeks ahead.  On Thursday, I heard from the New Hampshire Nurses Association about their needs and the challenges they are facing as they staff our hospitals and care centers. These men and women are on the frontlines and we must do all we can to ensure they have the resources to stop this virus.

Like our health care workers, New Hampshire grocers also play a crucial role in helping Granite Staters get through these tough times. I spoke with C&S Wholesale Grocers this week as well as Associated Grocers of New England about their recent efforts and challenges. From keeping the shelves stocked to ensuring employees have PPE, all grocers are working overtime and we appreciate their hard work.

Finally, just hours ago I spoke with Paul Parisi, New Hampshire’s State Fire Marshal, and Perry Plummer, the Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Safety to discuss the state’s response to the crisis and the needs of our first responders who are working diligently to combat COVID-19. Our firefighters and first responders put themselves at risk every day to defend our communities and this crisis is no different. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for their selfless work. 

Over the past month, my office has received more than 14,000 emails and nearly 1,200 calls from Granite Staters. Especially during a crisis like this, I value the opportunity to hear from you about your concerns and the issues affecting you and your family.  As always, if you have questions or are in need of assistance, you can contact my team by giving our Concord office a call at (603) 226-1002 or visiting my website at Kuster.house.gov.

Managing Stress and Staying Connected While Apart

Stress and anxiety are high right now during this uncertain time. Here is a thoughtful piece with tips for navigating through it. 

Like many of you, I’ve been working from home and taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I’ve been finding joy in cooking, video chatting with friends and family, and going for walks with my husband Brad.

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How to Make a Mask at Home

The CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in grocery stores, pharmacies, and other public settings where physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

Unlike the medical face masks that health care workers wear to protect themselves from patients who are ill, these cloth face masks are intended to keep those who have the virus but might not have symptoms from infecting others. Don’t have a face mask? Here’s some helpful guidance on how to make your own. 

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Resources for You 

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.

Remember: keep calm and wash your hands. If you are sick, stay home and call your health care provider. If you live in NH and have questions about coronavirus, dial 2-1-1. Visit CDC.gov for more information.

Sincerely,