February 19, 2021

Senator Hassan, Laconia Leaders Visit Downtown Businesses, Discuss Need for More COVID Relief to Help Small Businesses

LACONIA – In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan visited downtown Laconia businesses yesterday and was joined by Laconia Mayor Andrew Hosmer. Senator Hassan spoke to small businesses owners about the challenges that they have faced amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to secure additional relief to help small businesses stay afloat.


Senator Hassan, Mayor Hosmer, and other Laconia leaders, including Justin Slattery, Executive Director of the Belknap Economic Development Council, visited the Colonial Theatre, which is undergoing a $15 million revitalization project that is expected to bolster the downtown economy. The Senator also visited Wayfarer Coffee Roasters and Spyglass Eyewear, where she spoke to the owners about how their businesses have adapted to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


Senator Hassan is working to support small businesses in New Hampshire and across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and successfully included bipartisan legislation in the year-end funding bill to allow eligible small employers to both participate in the Paycheck Protection Program and also claim the Employee Retention Tax Credit to help keep workers on payroll and pay for their health care coverage. Previously, small employers could not participate in both of these programs. Following the passage of the year-end bill, Senator Hassan joined Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) in urging the Biden administration to issue guidance to help ensure that small businesses can fully participate in both programs. Additionally, the year-end funding bill included key provisions of the Save our Stages Act, which Senator Hassan cosponsored, to provide grants to live venues and theaters to help these venues retain jobs and keep their doors open amid COVID-related losses.


See below for coverage highlights in the Laconia Daily Sun, or click here for the full article.  


Laconia Daily Sun: As COVID continues, Hassan sees economic glimmers of hope downtown

By Michael Mortensen


LACONIA — U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan got a firsthand look Thursday of examples of downtown economic activity and efforts that small-businesses people, entrepreneurs, and the city are undertaking to keep the momentum going, especially in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


The state’s junior senator spent more than an hour viewing the results of the Colonial Theatre restoration, as well as visiting two Main Street businesses where she spoke at length with the owners.


[…] “We’re trying to keep everybody going — small businesses, families, getting schools reopened, municipal governments,” Hassan said, referring to the assistance in the two COVID stimulus bills passed last year. Congress is now considering a $1.9 trillion relief plan that has been put forward by President Joe Biden.


Hassan started by touring the $15 million Colonial Theatre revitalization project. She viewed the restored ornate decoration in the 106-year-old theater while workers continued to install carpeting in the 750-seat venue. Standing on the Colonial’s stage, Hassan was given an overview of the scope of the undertaking from project lead architect Robert Turpin and colleague and fellow architect Jared Guilmett.


“In this age when we can get entertainment from so many different places, theaters are a place where people come together to experience something at the same time,” Hassan said. “It is nice to imagine how people will be able to be together again,” she added as she looked out into the auditorium.


[…] Hassan also took time to meet with two downtown business owners, both of whom made major investments during the pandemic.


Jose Diaz, who opened Spyglass Eyewear since the pandemic hit, told Hassan, “COVID has forced us to slow down and take it all in.”


Thinking of the education he received to be an optician, Diaz said it is critical colleges provide the programs that will prepare students for the work that will be available in local businesses.


[…] Hassan said the stimulus package passed in December, in addition to the direct relief available to businesses, also allows businesses to take advantage of an employee retention tax credit that could be beneficial.


[…] Hassan said she hoped that as more and more people get vaccinated against the coronavirus that will help to boost public confidence to where more people will once again want to come out and patronize businesses like Wayfarer.


Diaz told Hassan the Colonial will be a major catalyst to the economic revival of the city’s downtown.


“That theater was nothing but an eyesore,” he said. “But now I think it will motivate other businesses to come in.”


“What’s really important is that we find a way to keep our small businesses and our individuals steady and stable as we go through COVID," Hassan said. "After we contain the virus we still have business communities thriving, people working again, and everybody able to ramp back up to much more complete economic activity as soon as possible.”