Senators host talks with community leaders
By Jordan J. Phelan
July 15, 2020
NEWPORT — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) met with local community leaders, government officials and employers on Monday to learn more about their experience with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and discuss the need for further financial relief in response to economic hardships caused by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
Seated around a conference table positioned in the center of the former Pepsi building, Scott Reed, owner of Reed Truck Services, welcomed the senator to his Newport-based business to share how the company has been able to traverse the uncertain environment to keep his staff on the payroll.
In an interview with the Eagle Times, Reed said that the impact of COVID-19 first started to hit home in late March when business began to slow down.
“We still had stuff going on everyday but it was noticeably quiet,” he said. “Customers were just holding back.”
But that in no way meant a relaxation in the day-to-day operations of the company.
“Even though it got slow it felt like it was more work than ever ‘cause you want to make sure you’re on top of every phone call and involved in every single thing,” Reed said. “You want to make sure you’re doing the right thing for a lot of people who need a paycheck.”
Reed Truck Services was one of a number of businesses in the area that applied and received a PPP loan, an initiative established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that Shaheen helped negotiate as a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
For Reed, this resource would play an important role when it came to assuring his 20-person team that they would not be without a job.
“[The PPP loan] definitely gave us more confidence to keep us fully staffed,” he said. “It did work the way it was intended, at least in our situation.”
The pandemic has also forced Reed to cancel travel plans — specifically to Chicago and Montreal — where he was going to attend technical and Parts Department training sessions. Now, those once in-person gatherings have all been reconfigured online as a way to disseminate the updated information while practicing social distancing and following other virus-related guidelines to ensure public health and safety.
Moving forward, Reed said that things are beginning to ramp up again as the summer season rages on but also mentioned that it will take people caring about one another’s well-being to get through this challenging time.
“We’ve all taken a hit so I feel like we’re all in that together,” Reed said.
Another common concern shared between the senator and community leaders Monday was uncertainty about potential school reopenings in the fall.
Shaheen said that she would like to see children back in schools but only if it is a safe way that best ensures public health and safety. In an interview with the Eagle Times, Shaheen elaborated that means providing assistance to the districts so they can do retrofits such as installing HVAC systems that tailor to their specific situations in the area. This also means scheduling school days to best maintain social distancing and providing help for educators who will most likely face more work.
In an interview with the Eagle Times, Shaheen also said that she supports a federal mask-wearing mandate in light of the data that concludes wearing a face covering reduces the spread of the virus.
“I do [feel as though there should be a federal mandate for mask-wearing],” she said. “I have learned about the safety significance of mask-wearing — that it’s important if we are going to slow the spread of the virus to get people to wear masks and to understand why it’s important.”
U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) also held a virtual roundtable discussion with mayors and municipal leaders on Monday in which they discussed COVID-19 relief efforts and the need for additional funding to address revenue shortfalls at the state and local government level. Those who took part in the call included Claremont Mayor Charlene Lovett, Concord Mayor Jim Bouley, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess.
“I know how challenging these times are as you’re trying to provide critical services, make sure that you and your citizens are all up to speed on the latest public health guidance, help support your economy and businesses and individuals as they try to deal with the challenge of this pandemic,” Hassan said.
The mayors collectively shared that additional financial support for their respective municipalities and those who reside and work within their borders is crucial to getting back to pre-pandemic levels of operation.
Lovett noted that the pandemic has led to budgetary strains on infrastructure projects.
“We are investing in our infrastructure but certainly not at the capacity we would like to,” she said. “With any added burden from COVID-19 through either loss of revenue or increased expenses, we’re even going to fall further behind in infrastructure improvements.”
A number of mayors also called on concerns regarding affordable housing, homelessness and rent amid the pandemic.
“The ability to have some flexibility around doing something about sustainable housing for folks is really critical,” said Rochester Mayor Caroline McCarley.