Just checking in as we wind down Week 2 of our “flatten the curve” stay at home public health response to the COVID 19 Pandemic - how are you doing? I am hunkered down here in New Hampshire on a cold, rainy Friday by the wood stove. Brad has joked, “we introverts have been training for this our whole lives,” while extroverts like me spend hours on conference calls for work and reaching out to family and friends to stay connected.
In this newsletter, I will share outreach and appreciation for our front line health care workers and our efforts with the Governor to secure sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supplies.
Last Friday, I made a quick trip to Washington to vote in favor of The CARES Act, the largest emergency economic relief package in history with $2.2 trillion for hospitals and health care providers, not-for-profit organizations and small and large businesses. We will describe below all our efforts this week to get the word out to Granite Staters, including:
1. Direct payments
2. Unemployment Compensation
3. Small Business and Not-for-Profit grants and loans
Rep. Chris Pappas and I hosted our 4th COVID-19 tele-town hall with close to 14,000 constituents on the phone with us. And throughout the week, I joined my House colleagues for discussions about future legislation to respond as we get past the public health crisis and begin our economic recovery in the coming months.
Meanwhile, like all of you, we are adjusting to our “new normal.” Yesterday, I joined my great-nieces for a virtual story hour, reading “Charlotte’s Web” and listening to their stories. In the evenings, Brad and I catch up with our sons or friends from away. Most days, we get out for a walk. From home cooked meals to phone calls with friends, we count our blessings and focus our gratitude on those who are serving on the front lines in keeping our community safe.
If you need help, please give us a call at 603-226-1002 or reach out at Kuster.house.gov. Whatever your circumstances, my heart is with you and we are here to help. Stay home, stay safe and together we will rise to the challenge!
Getting Assistance to Help New Hampshire Respond to COVID-19
The coronavirus outbreak has upended normal daily life in New Hampshire and across the country. This is a challenging time, but I am confident that we will get through it if we work together. Earlier this week, I joined Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and Congressman Chris Pappas in announcing $147 million that New Hampshire can expect from the new coronavirus response law (the CARES Act) that was signed by the President last Friday. This funding is in addition to the $1.25 billion that New Hampshire is already set to receive from the CARES Act. The funding will help sustain our communities and crucial aspects of our society, such as public transit, and ensure our valiant public health care workers have the childcare they need to save lives during this crisis.
Yesterday, the New Hampshire delegation also announced an additional $11.7 million in funds from the CARES Act to assist our state’s vulnerable homeless population and strengthen community facilities that are vital during this public health emergency, such as health care and child care centers and food banks.
Furthermore, I deeply appreciate the work of Governor Sununu, local businesses, and my fellow members of the New Hampshire Federal Delegation in securing the supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) those on the frontlines need, and I'll continue to do my part to ensure our state is equipped to adequately respond to this pandemic.
The New Hampshire delegation called on President Trump this week to swiftly approve Governor Sununu's request for a Major Disaster Declaration for New Hampshire in response to COVID-19. Health care workers, first responders, government officials, and other essential staff across the state continue to assist New Hampshire communities. However, the magnitude of this pandemic’s impact is such that an effective response is beyond the capacity of state and local governments, justifying federal assistance. I'm pleased the President approved this request today.
Direct Payments to Support Americans
The CARES Act will send Americans tax-free checks to assist them through this difficult time. People who earned less than $75,000 in adjusted gross income in 2019 will receive $1,200. For those who file jointly with a spouse and earned less than $150,000 in 2019, they will receive $2,400. For every child 17 and under that a person claims, they will be eligible for an additional $500. Individuals with reported earnings above $75,000 and couples with reported earnings above $150,000 will receive smaller rebates. In addition, seniors who are on social security - whether they typically file a tax return or not - will qualify for a payment.
The IRS will be working as quickly as possible to deliver these rebates to Americans. For more information on direct payments and the stimulus bill, click here.
Filing for Unemployment
An estimated $250 billion will be provided through the CARES Act to expand unemployment insurance benefits. All workers who are experiencing joblessness due to COVID-19 will receive an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits until July 31st. This benefit applies retroactively to January 27th, so those who have lost their jobs since that date as a result of this pandemic are eligible for higher unemployment benefits. To file for unemployment, visit https://www.nhes.nh.gov/ - claims can be filed here at any time. In addition, you can call 603-271-7700 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information on filing for unemployment, click here.
For Small Businesses and Nonprofit Organizations
The CARES Act creates a Small Business Rescue Plan that will establish over $376 billion in loan relief and grants to help small businesses get through this difficult period. That includes $349 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses to pay employees and keep them on the payroll; $17 billion for debt relief for current and new SBA borrowers; and $10 billion in immediate disaster grants.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is providing small businesses, not-for-profits, cooperative and employee-owned businesses, and the self-employed with up to $10 million at a maximum 4% interest rate. The bill also creates a “Paycheck Protection Program” to keep small businesses afloat and help prevent workers from losing their jobs. Under this program, businesses that maintain their payrolls will be forgiven for loans used to cover 8 weeks of eligible expenses such as employee salaries, health care benefits, mortgage interest, rent, and utility payments. Forgiven loans will not be subject to federal tax. For more information on small business loans, click here or visit the Small Business Administration’s website.
Helping People Fill Prescriptions During Emergencies
On Tuesday, Congresswoman Lucy McBath and I introduced the Emergency Advance Refill Notification Act. We’re living in a time of stress and uncertainty, and this legislation will ensure that Americans who rely on prescription medication are prepared in the face of a public health crisis. Many health plans allow patients to fill 90 days of medication at a time, which can help protect people who are at heightened risk during a pandemic and who need to stay home and practice physical distancing as much as possible. Folks who can fill prescriptions in advance under their insurance benefits should be fully informed about their options and resources to get through such a crisis. Congress must do its part to promote the health of Granite Staters and people nationwide.
Vaccines and Treatment for COVID-19
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is one of 97 clinical sites worldwide that are conducting trials of an anti-viral medicine identified by the World Health Organization as a “promising agent” in treating COVID-19. In addition, multiple manufacturers have begun efforts to work with federal partners to develop a vaccine that can be used to prevent COVID-19 infection and stop its spread. While several of these potential vaccines are moving to clinical trial faster than a typical investigational vaccine, it will still take time to establish their safety and effectiveness and be widely available to the general public. You can visit clinicaltrials.gov to see whether you are eligible to enroll in a clinical trial to assess the safety or effectiveness of a particular vaccine or treatment.
Boosting Rural Economic Development
Today, I introduced the Northern Border Regional Commission Financial Flexibility Act to provide additional financial flexibility to the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC). As communities across New Hampshire grapple with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBRC can play a critical role in boosting rural economic development in the Granite State. My bipartisan legislation will help ensure the NBRC can inject critical resources into our rural communities and continue its mission to accelerate job creation and economic prosperity in communities that need it the most.
Providing Resources to Higher Education and Nonprofit Leaders
I held conference calls with New Hampshire nonprofit leaders and higher education leaders this week to discuss COVID-19 planning, preparation, funding, and the impact that the virus has had on educational institutions and nonprofit organizations.
Nonprofit organizations have been the backbone of our local response to the coronavirus pandemic in New Hampshire, and I was proud to talk with leaders from Granite United Way, the NH Charitable Foundation, the NH Center for Nonprofits leadership, and others. It is crucial for nonprofits to know that they too are eligible for SBA loans that can be forgiven to cover critical expenses such as payroll, mortgages, and utilities.
Education leaders also have a wealth of resources and options available to them. Specifically, the CARES Act provides billions in funding for higher education institutions, which will help colleges and universities serve their neediest students and cover other expenses like staff salaries.
I encourage all higher education institutions and nonprofits to visit SBA.gov, which provides extensive resources and guidance during this crisis. My staff and I have been in regular contact with higher education and nonprofit leaders and we will continue working to ensure all available financial resources are being utilized here in the Granite State.
Investing in Reliable Internet and Broadband Connectivity
On Wednesday, Democratic House leaders discussed infrastructure plans for the phase four coronavirus legislative response package. With the important steps Granite Staters are taking to slow the spread of the coronavirus including physical distancing, the need for reliable internet and broadband connectivity - particularly in our rural communities - could not be greater. Additionally, our public health infrastructure and workforce have been strained with the spread of COVID-19, and it is critical that Congress provides long-term certainty and additional investments to these critical health providers. While the three coronavirus response packages we have already passed represent an important step to address the immediate public health and economic impacts of COVID-19, the disruption to the American people’s way of life and well-being has exposed vulnerabilities that must be addressed in future legislation.
Protecting Students During COVID-19
I joined Congresswomen Jackie Speier, Ayanna Pressley and Elissa Slotkin in leading a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Assistant Secretary Kenneth Marcus, urging them to abandon the Administration’s reckless plans - amid the COVID-19 pandemic - to finalize regulations that would gut civil rights protections for survivors under Title IX. The Department of Education’s plans to issue a final Title IX rule in the middle of this crisis would only exacerbate the tremendous challenges that students and school staff are already combating. Schools would be forced to divert their already limited resources to create complex new policies and train staff on implementation - all while operating remotely. It is imperative that the Department of Education prioritize safeguarding students’ civil rights instead of undermining them. Read more here.
Keeping Granite Staters Informed
Congressman Chris Pappas and I held our fourth telephone town hall yesterday to discuss the COVID-19 crisis and take questions from New Hampshire residents. We were joined by Dr. Michael Calderwood, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Epidemiologist and Infectious Disease Expert, and Rachael Roderick, the Deputy District Director at the New Hampshire District Office for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). I appreciate Dr. Calderwood and Rachael taking time out of their busy schedules to join us, and we will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation in our state closely.
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.
Additional information on COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus):
New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services
WMUR School Closings Page
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.