Hassan and NH mayors discuss COVID-19 impact on localities

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U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan on July 13, 2020 (D-NH)

EXETER, N.H. – On Monday, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) convened a zoom roundtable of mayors and town administrators to discuss how New Hampshire’s municipalities are coping with COVID-19 at the local level along as well as Washington’s role in helping New Hampshire’s cities and towns.

Hassan stated that Congress is discussing another COVID-19 relief package next week, which she hopes will provide targeted assistance for individuals and businesses as well as aid for increased COVID-19 testing as well as aid for municipalities.

Local officials on the call also requested greater assistance for New Hampshire hospitals and nursing homes as well as others impacted by the pandemic such as landlords and tenants as well as arts organizations, chambers of commerce and the state’s homeless population.

Without federal aid for municipalities, Hassan fears that revenue decreases caused by COVID-19 could adversely impact municipal bond ratings across the state, making it difficult to finance local infrastructure projects in the future.

While Hassan said some of her colleagues in Washington referred to local assistance as “bailouts,” she felt that term to be inaccurate given that the current situation has not come from anyone’s mismanagement.

Although the needs and concerns were different among those on the roundtable, which included representatives from Claremont, Concord, Manchester, Nashua, Derry, Rochester, Dover and Portsmouth, there was a general consensus that stabilizing revenue is a concern as the financial impacts of the pandemic are still being assessed.

“The tsunami of lost revenue is on its way and catching up with that is a big deal,” said Bob Carrier, Mayor of Dover.

Certainty about what will come next is also a concern, including attempts to predict the brunt of the financial impact from the pandemic.

During the roundtable, Hassan said that she has not directly discussed with other Senators how New Hampshire’s municipalities are faring compared to cities and towns in other states, but believes that local governments across the country will face financial concerns at some point with timing depending on whether or not their state and local governments have followed advice from public health experts as well as differences in budgetary cycles.

Perhaps one of the largest certainty concerns revolves around the topic of re-opening schools.

Hassan wants New Hampshire schools to be re-opened safely in the fall, but lamented both a lack of guidance from the Trump administration as well as what she sees as irresponsible actions from President Trump and U.S. Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos in threatening to withhold funding from schools that do not reopen regardless of safety.

For Hassan, the hope is that DeVos and Trump can rather engage with educators and school administrators across the country to see what is needed to retool schools to provide safety instead of the lack of support she currently sees.

“We have a President and Secretary of Education that are completely divorced from reality in what it takes to reopen schools safely,” said Hassan.

About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.