April 21, 2020 In the News

NH congressional delegation praises Senate passage of $480B COVID-19 relief package

By John DiStaso
April 21, 2020

MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Hampshire’s congressional delegation praised Senate passage of a $480 billion coronavirus relief package late Tuesday – a plan that includes $310 billion to replenish the depleted Paycheck Protection Program.

The PPP, which provides forgivable loans to small businesses, ran dry last week, prompting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to push for passage of a $250 billion bill. But Democrats held out and the plan passed by the Senate late Tuesday included an additional $200 billion for small businesses and hospitals, and to ramp up testing.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan praised the vote, which came on a procedural voice vote, not requiring all of the senators to be on Capitol Hill. The House will vote on the plan Thursday, and U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas plan to travel to Washington to vote for passage.

According to breakdowns provided by the offices of Shaheen and Hassan, the bill includes $310 billion for the PPP, which fully covers up to two months of payroll, rent and other ongoing expenses for small businesses who keep employees on their payroll.

Of that amount, $250 billion replenishes the existing program and an additional $60 billion is directed at community banks and small lending institutions, a provision agreed to during recent negotiations.

In addition, $50 billion is included for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which will allow the Small Business Administration to approve about $350 billion more in loans. Also included is $10 billion for separate grants under the disaster program.

The bill also includes $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing.

The hospital funding is in addition to $100 billion in health care provider grants already included in the previously-passed CARES Act. New Hampshire hospitals and providers have received $164.5 million so far through the first $30 billion installment of the funding.

Several New Hampshire hospitals have been forced to furlough large numbers of their staffs, most recently Catholic Medical Center.

The $25 billion for testing includes $11 billion for states and localities to increase lab capabilities, trace contacts and purchase diagnosis tests, according to a breakdown from Shaheen.

Also included are $1 billion for development, manufacturing and production of diagnostic and serological tests; $1.8 billion for National Institutes of Health efforts to develop and validate new testing methods; and $1 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ramp up lab capacity, contact tracing and surveillance, according to the Shaheen office breakdown.

“Importantly, this agreement recognizes that small businesses need help and if we’re going to reopen our economy, we need more testing,” said Shaheen, who helped negotiate the original $377 billion for small businesses in the CARES Act. “And as hospitals in New Hampshire furlough workers, delivering resources to health care providers is absolutely vital to public health and safety. Immediate action is needed on this agreement and continued oversight is critical to make sure help is getting to the people who need it.”

Shaheen said state and local governments need more funding “as they work to provide vital services as tax revenues keep dropping.” Funding for those governments was not included in the package that passed the Senate.

“This bipartisan bill includes essential additional funding to help small businesses that are facing extraordinary and unprecedented challenges, as well as our hospitals that are struggling to stay afloat as they deliver life-saving care,” Hassan said. “It also will help put us on the path to safely re-opening our economy by providing additional funding and requiring the administration to put forward a plan to increase testing.

“Unfortunately, this legislation does not provide any new funding or additional flexibility to state and local governments — a missed opportunity to prevent a second wave of economic turmoil.”

“Our efforts to slow the spread of this virus and flatten the curve are working,” Kuster said, “but they have had serious financial consequences for millions of Americans. Physical distancing is necessary and effective, and we must continue to take action to mitigate the impact on our economy so that we can get through this pandemic and move towards recovery.”

Pappas, a local restaurant co-owner said, “As a small business owner, I understand that our small businesses simply cannot wait any longer for additional relief and I’m pleased a bipartisan agreement has been reached and approved by the Senate, which I repeatedly urged House leadership from both parties to do.

“But make no mistake. While this relief is critical, more must be done to further bolster our economy and support Granite Staters so we can get through this crisis and get America back on its feet and back to work.”