ICYMI: Shaheen Highlights Calls from NH Local Officials & Nonprofits Urging Action on COVID-19 Relief Legislation

October 01, 2020

(Washington, DC) – Over the past week, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has shared a series of letters from local New Hampshire officials and nonprofits on social media that highlight the serious impact the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis has had on local communities and organizations that serve Granite Staters. In their letters addressed to Shaheen and New Hampshire newspapers, they underscore the urgent need for Congress to pass a bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill that addresses the crises they’re seeing in their communities. Specifically, several letters address the severe budget shortfall in the state that could result in communities having to lay off essential personnel like first responders and teachers, cut critical services including education, health care and public safety. New Hampshire has a budget shortfall of nearly $540 million – a 20% drop in state revenues. Nonprofits are facing a similar crisis as donations have plummeted and they are at risk of shutting their doors at a time when their services are needed most.  

 

Shaheen is fighting to secure financial relief for struggling state and local governments and nonprofits on the frontlines of this crisis in COVID-19 relief legislation and highlighted several of these letters on the Senate floor yesterday.

 

Here are excerpts from the letters Shaheen highlighted over social media. The letters and social media posts can be read by clicking on the links.

 

From Pamela Keilig, Public Policy Specialist at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence to Senator Shaheen:

“The pandemic has had grave consequences on the health and safety of survivors as they encounter ongoing barriers to accessing the support they need, while simultaneously experiencing more severe and lethal cases of violence and abuse… As we continue to acknowledge the full impact of COVID-19 in our field, we would be exceedingly grateful for further federal funding to help us weather this storm… Surviviors will feel the impact of this pandemic on their lives for months to come; the time to intervene is now.”

 

From Russell Dean, Exeter Town Manager to Senator Shaheen:

“This letter is to inform you regarding Exeter's delay in previously committed SAG (state aid grant) program funding for our new Wastewater Facility, which was completed in July of 2019… Exeter was scheduled to go to Governor and Council for final approval in 2020, but has now been told these funds are non-contractual and part of the hold on spending at the state level… The bottom line is this money represents extremely significant impact to our community, and the overtures from the Governor's office indicate this will not be funded without further assistance from the federal government - however no mention has been made of our debt payment that will be due and payable in just over 2 months’ time. Obviously without these funds other ratepayers will make up the difference in the form of even higher rates and this will hurt both residents and businesses - placing an even further burden on them in a period where they are just trying to survive the pandemic.”

 

From Dr. Ronna F. Cadarette, Superintendent of SAU 58 to Senator Shaheen:

“As a school leader of three small rural school districts in the North Country of New Hampshire, we are in need of your support… We have made use of the ESSER CARES Act monies that we were allotted... Yet, we are still sacrificing to provide quality, rigorous, and safe educational environments and curriculum for students. We are walking a tightrope and balancing well, but reality is ever present and the rope sways with the climate. There must be a comprehensive bipartisan package to support resources to meet the fundamental educational needs of our most vulnerable Granite Staters - our future.”

 

From Richard V. Lowney, President of the New Hampshire Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs to Senator Shaheen

“In this unprecedented time, parents are facing hard decisions balancing their careers with the health and safety of their children. To meet the demand of those who need us the most, we urge Congress to work together to pass an all-inclusive relief package that supports childcare and out-of-school time providers who not only deliver critical services to youth and families but who also have been negatively impacted as the result of COVID-19.”

 

From Sarah Mattson Dustin, Executive Director of New Hampshire Legal Assistance to Senator Shaheen

“As the pandemic and ensuing economic crisis wears on, I am writing to ask you to support additional federal funding for COVID-19 relief as well as greater flexibility for existing CARES Act funding. Low-income people in New Hampshire were struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic. Our legal aid clients often face impossible choices – rent or the electric bill; groceries or medicine… As we look ahead to the long, hard recovery ahead, people living in poverty must not be asked to bear the disproportionate burden that would result from massive state budget cuts. Additional state and local budget relief and increased CARES Act flexibility could help remedy the inequities that have characterized the pandemic and economic recession.”

 

From Margaret M.L. Bynes, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Municipal Association (NHMA) and Shaun Mulholland, City Manager of Lebanon in the Union Leader:

“THE COVID-19 financial impact on towns and cities across New Hampshire continues to cause concern for the entire state, particularly as municipalities begin next year’s budgeting process facing unknown expenses and uncertain revenue.

 

To make matters worse, as the state also begins its next biennial budget process and determines how to respond to its own significant losses, customary state aid to municipalities is vulnerable. Cuts in this funding could send shockwaves throughout the state as it impacts municipal budgets and services to Granite Staters… With the December 30 deadline fast approaching for the “use it or lose it” of CARES Act funding, and with the impacts of the pandemic continuing to unfold and be felt by increasing populations in our state, we strongly urge the U.S. Senate to pass a funding bill to provide much needed additional aid to the state and local governments, which will include flexibility to ensure funds can be targeted to areas of greatest need, along with including an extension of the current CARES Act funding deadline.”

 

From David Ports, President and CEO of the Granite YMCA in the Union Leader:

“DURING the COVID-19 crisis, charities have been delivering services to vulnerable individuals and families across New Hampshire, but we’ve also been hit particularly hard by the pandemic with facility closures, declines in donations, cuts in program revenue and staff reductions. Without additional relief, nonprofit organizations will be forced to further reduce staff and services, leaving their communities without critical support... We also know that inaction on COVID-19 relief could have disastrous consequences. If nonprofits fail, the safety net fails too... We need Congress to recognize that the time for action is upon them, and that with every day lost to negotiation, our nonprofits and the lifeline they provide are at risk.”

 

From Chris Coates, Cheshire Country Administrator to Senator Shaheen:

“At a time when so many Cheshire County citizens are serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we move closer to 2021 with so many unknown fiscal realities, I was extremely disappointed that the new supplemental aid package being considered in the U.S. Senate left out new fiscal relief or flexibility for county governments…

 

If a new stimulus agreement is not reached prior to the seating of the new congress the fiscal ramification could be devastating. Counties could be looking at tax payments from towns and cities that may be substantial short of normal revenues and services that are dictated by state statue may need to be immediately reduced. A stimulus package that allows municipalities to utilize federal funding to offset lost revenue could advert what may be a pending catastrophe for not just Cheshire County but the country.”

 

From members of the Seacoast Chamber Alliance:

“The Seacoast Chamber Alliance respectfully requests that you and your colleagues in the Senate work together in a bipartisan effort to approve a comprehensive funding relief package to support our businesses… As we head into the winter months, many are seeing continued declines in business over concerns about a surge in coronavirus cases during what is typically the season for flu and other illnesses. Our restaurants and hospitality industry in particular are seeing a lack of consumer confidence in dining indoors... Although hospitality businesses are facing an urgent need due to the change of season, many other businesses are still in need of assistance as well… It is clear that without another round of assistance, many businesses will not survive into 2021. Please urge the Senate to vote on a bipartisan bill and send the relief needed to ensure our business community’s survival.”