March 11, 2020 In the News

Shaheen, Hassan push for help for workers, students amid coronavirus pandemic

Seacoast Online
By Jeff McMenemy
March 11, 2020

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., are pushing the Trump administration for a plan to help workers and students affected by the coronavirus.

In a letter to the president, Shaheen and Hassan joined Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, in stating the “goal of any economic stimulus should be directly aimed at the two types of workers who will be most harmed. First, any proposed relief should directly target workers who may have followed medical guidance to self-quarantine because of potential exposure, or those who are required to care for a family member,” the senators stated. “Second, it should also ensure that workers whose employment or income is significantly jeopardized by industries who may experience the economic slowdown as a consequence of the spread of the virus are appropriately protected.”

Hassan and Shaheen signed the letter after the Oyster River and Dover school boards approved policies on a month-to-month basis to pay any teachers or staffers if they’re required to stay home for a 14-day quarantine. The days would not be deducted from their sick time, both boards decided.

“Especially with an hourly employee you’d get concerned if they couldn’t work for 14 days how would they buy groceries or pay the rent,” Oyster River Superintendent James Morse said.

Dover Superintendent William Harbron asked the School Board Monday to adopt a similar policy, which it did. If a teacher or staffer becomes ill during the quarantine, their sick benefits would kick in.

Shaheen and Hassan also asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to issue guidance to schools as they prepare to make difficult decisions about closures. They, along with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, told DeVos “increasing numbers of K-12 schools and institutions of higher education (IHEs) are considering school closures in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.”

The senators cited the importance of the DOE taking action to support students who may be impacted by school closings, including what can be done to ensure K-12 students can access school lunch programs and how to support students who rely on their colleges for on-campus food and housing services.

The University of New Hampshire is expected to join a growing number of colleges that are closing of campuses and moving to online coursework.

Several Dover students are in a voluntary 14-day quarantine after potentially being exposed to the coronavirus, Harbron said Tuesday. He said the potential exposure occurred on a bus related an incident that prompted Newmarket schools to close Monday as a precaution.

Harbron said Wednesday a teacher at Woodland Park Elementary School is on a 14-day quarantine because the teacher has immune deficiency issues.

Dover school officials are following state Department of Health and Human Services advice concerning potential exposures to the coronavirus, Harbron said. “We’re not going to allow anybody to be put at risk,” he said.

He encouraged any parents who may be concerned their child was exposed to the coronavirus to contact DHHS and school officials.