Here is a recap of several recent updates from the office of U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH)
Educational and training opportunities for workers
Hassan joined with Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) to introduce legislation that would expand educational assistance programs for those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.
Known as the “Upskilling and Retraining Assistance Act,” the bill aims to increase the amount of tax-free educational assistance that employees in workforce development programs can receive from employers, essentially an expansion of Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code.
The bill has received local support from Paul LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University.
“During such historic times of need in our rapidly changing workforce, the expansion of Section 127 is a critical tool for employers to recruit and retain talent while building an educated workforce,” said LeBlanc.
Currently, Section 126 only allows for employers to pay up to $5,250 of educational programs for workers without having to pay taxes on those benefits. If passed, that tax-free ceiling would climb to $12,000 for the next two years and expand the exclusion to education-tools and technology.
Hassan and Young also introduced a similar bill called the “Advancing Teachers and Home Office Modernization for Employees” or “AT HOME” Act.
The AT HOME Act would provide a tax credit for small businesses and an above-the-line deduction for individuals to help offset the cost of investments in remote work equipment, software, and network services necessary for Americans to work safely from home for the remainder of 2020.
Broadband needed in upcoming COVID-19 relief package
Along with the rest of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, Hassan is urging congressional leaders to include funding for additional and flexible broadband infrastructure funding for states in the next COVID-19 relief package.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides such infrastructure funding, but only until Dec. 30, 2020. Hassan says the pandemic could last beyond that date and the infrastructure support is needed to support telehealth efforts, remote learning for students and employees now working from home.
A letter on the issue from the delegation can be seen here.
Support sought for local and state governments in next COVID-19 relief package
Like Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH), Hassan is also urging her colleagues in Washington to provide funding for state and local governments in the next COVID-19 relief package. On Tuesday, she took to the floor of the Senate on the issue and also held a roundtable discussion on the issue in July.
Bill introduced to strength vaccine safety
In conjunction with Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Hassan introduced legislation on Tuesday aiming to maintain critical safeguards in the COVID-19 vaccine creation process.
The hope of the bill is to ensure public confidence in any vaccine once it is found.
“As we work to get a potential vaccine approved, produced, and distributed as quickly as possible, it’s critically important that the public is confident that the federal government followed the necessary protocols to ensure that the vaccine is safe and effective,” Hassan said. “This bipartisan bill would ensure that key oversight mechanisms of the vaccine approval process stay in place, and that recommendations provided during this process are publicly available, even during an expedited vaccine approval process. We will push for this bill’s inclusion in the upcoming COVID-19 relief package.”
According to Hassan, the bill would not slow down the current vaccine approval process, but rather would ensure that transparent committee meetings take place as they normally would, or alternatively, if such meetings do not take place, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is required to explain the justification for those decisions.