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Senator Hassan, Granite Staters Discuss Need for Additional Direct Relief to Individuals and Families in Upcoming COVID Package

Roundtable Participants Included Granite Staters from Brentwood and Plaistow who the Senator’s Office Helped Secure Unemployment Insurance After Pandemic-Related Job Losses

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan held a virtual roundtable on Monday with Granite Staters to discuss the need for direct relief for individuals and families in the next COVID-19 relief package. The Senator was joined by Granite Staters from Brentwood and Plaistow who her office helped in securing unemployment insurance after they lost their jobs due to the pandemic.


Matthew Greene from Brentwood discussed the challenges that he faced with accessing unemployment insurance after he was laid off from his corporate travel sector job and took a seasonal job with UPS. “I called the unemployment office first to make sure it wouldn't be a problem. And then when I went back in to file I guess they, you know, have questions they want to ask and I got into like a pay hold ‘jail’ I guess I'd call it, for seven weeks and you can't get anybody on the phone.”


That’s when Greene called the Senator’s office: “So, I reached out to you guys and within three days they called, and you know, for seven weeks it was a minute and forty-five-second phone call to clear everything up and get paid within forty-eight hours. So, to me, that's why it's important to get the bill passed before it expires because, you know, I'm sure I'm one of tens of thousands of people that go through that multiple weeks.”


Stephanie McKay of Plaistow, who runs a Facebook page with over 4,500 members who have had issues accessing unemployment insurance, also discussed the challenges she has faced receiving relief amid the pandemic.


McKay was hired in March right before the pandemic shut down businesses and was laid off shortly after. After the CARES Act was signed into law, McKay reached out to the unemployment office to see if she could reapply for unemployment insurance, which she had previously tried to do before she took the job in March. For 15 weeks she waited for a reply, which is when she reached out to Senator Hassan’s office.


“Finally, I reached out to [Senator Hassan’s] office…[Her team] reached out on my behalf and they actually responded to her [and] I think it aggravated her because they came back with ‘she's been denied, she's been told that enough.’  And [she] said, ‘okay well what about [Pandemic Unemployment Assistance]…’ She pinged that office…until they actually converted me to self-employed and paid me.”


Recently, Senator Hassan successfully called on the U.S. Department of Labor to fix a policy that limited the ability of workers whose hours have been reduced or were temporarily laid off from receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.


Senator Hassan also heard from Joshua Meehan, Executive Director of Keene Housing; Jeanne Robillard, CEO of Tri-County Community Action Program; and Anne Grassie, Family Services Coordinator at Rochester Child Care Center.


See below for coverage highlights:


My Champlain Valley: New Hampshire Sen. Hassan discusses need for direct COVID relief to families

By Devin Bates


On Monday, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) held a virtual roundtable with Granite State residents about the need for direct relief for individuals and families in the next COVID package.


With the U.S. Senate expected to more forward this week on a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, Sen. Hassan told her constituents that there should be fewer hiccups in the rollout process if this bill passes than there were in the CARES Act.


“I’m working to fix some of the issues that Granite Staters have experienced in receiving economic relief from the last package,” Sen. Hassan said. “Last week the U.S. Department of Labor announced it would heed my call to fix a policy that was limiting the ability of workers who have had reduced hours or have been temporarily laid off.”


[…] Much like Vermont, there’s also a push for broadband investment in the Granite State. Josh Meehan, executive director of Keene Housing, wants to see that included in the relief package. Keene Housing helps find homes for over a thousand low-income families, and the CARES Act helped them pay residents’ broadband bills so students could learn remotely.


“Once the cares act funding goes away, so for us, it’s the end of this calendar year.. Then what do we do?” Meehan asked.


Hassan said the senate is currently discussing whether they can invest in additional broadband services, both in infrastructure and payment. She said if it’s not included in this, the discussion would likely carry over to lawmaker’s discussion of an infrastructure overhaul in the coming weeks and months.


Caledonian Record: Granite Staters Underscore Need For More COVID Relief

By Paul Hayes


Sen. Maggie Hassan heard from Granite Staters on the need for direct relief in the next COVID-19 federal relief package during a virtual roundtable on Monday.


“We have to take action and support our communities which continue to feel the devastating impacts of this virus,” said Hassan.


[…]The Senate is expected to prepare its version of the bill this week.


“We know here in Congress that we need to act really quickly,” Hassan said.


During the roundtable, New Hampshire residents talked about the importance of continued relief.


Josh Meehan, executive director of Keene Housing, noted that the House bill includes $5 billion in additional funding for emergency housing choice vouchers, which he called an urgent need.


During the pandemic, Keene Housing has experienced a surge in voucher applications, which has caused longer wait times. Meanwhile, applicants’ median incomes have plummeted as more people struggle with COVID-related layoffs.


“Any opportunity for new permanent vouchers is desperately needed,” Meehan said.


[…] Jeanne Robillard, CEO of Tri-County CAP, said the North Country continues to face across-the-board problems during the pandemic.


She pointed to an increased need for homeless beds, higher rates of food insecurity, a lack of broadband access, and a shortage of child care services throughout Coos and northern Grafton County.


Anne Grassie, the family services coordinator for the Rochester Child Care Center (RCCC), said insufficient child care is a statewide issue.


Grassie said child care centers have been slow to recover (RCCC is at 75% of its pre-COVID enrollment) and about 40 child care centers have closed statewide during the pandemic.


“We have fewer children in each classroom. When we first opened we were down to groups of 10. That really does impact your bottom line, because you need almost as many teachers [as before the pandemic],” she said.


Moving forward, child care centers face a staffing crunch. Between December 2019 and December 2020, 178,000 child care workers left the industry according to U.S. labor statistics, Grassie said.


“When you have trouble with staffing you can’t fully enroll your classrooms,” she said, adding, “We’re not getting any resumes. One of the saddest things is we find a hire, and we get a resignation from another staff member that’s going to move to the school department or to Target, because they pay more.”


Meanwhile, Grassie worried that COVID-related drops in enrollment, and hikes in insurance costs, would drive up child care costs.


“We’re really worried about parents being able to afford higher tuition rates,” she said, noting that one large-scale child care facility in southern New Hampshire recently raised its rates 25%.


It’s not just child care. Households continue to cope with cost increases in all areas.


McKay said the COVID relief bill — with its stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment, and other benefits — would provide much-needed help as New Hampshire households grapple with higher bills for food, utilities, and more.


“Families are home all the time now. So our electric bill has increased. My food bill, with children home 24/7, has probably quadrupled. The broadband is more expensive. The TV is more expensive. Electricity, oil, everything has escalated in cost,” she said. “And I don’t think that’s considered a lot. People say ‘You’re getting unemployment.’ Well, I’m not making what I was before. And [my kids] here all the time and they eat me out of house and home.”