On a conference call with county administrators throughout New Hampshire, Senator Maggie Hassan discussed COVID-19 response efforts in Congress to support county needs and took questions from participants about access to vital supplies and keeping frontline workers safe.
Senator Hassan began the call by thanking county administrators and their staffs for all that they are doing to protect public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic: “We are grappling with unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all of you represented on the call are on the front lines of ensuring that county facilities keep residents and employees safe. I’m incredibly grateful to you all.”
Strafford County Administrator Ray Bower asked about additional support for frontline workers beyond health care workers who are putting their own safety at risk to protect public health and serve their communities. Senator Hassan discussed support in Congress for these measures, saying, “In my own caucus, we have a bill being written that would provide what we’re calling pandemic or hazard pay for people on the front lines not just health care workers. I’m incredibly grateful…to workers who really are providing an essential service and we need to be able to not only incentivize them to stay on the job but to reward them for the risks that they are taking by doing that.” Senator Hassan continued, “We are pushing for it and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get enough people on the other side of the aisle to make it a reality in the next package.”
Cheshire County Administrator Chris Coates stated, “First and foremost, thank you for the voice you bring down to Washington because more than ever before we need your advocacy! Due to the lack of swabs and any type of testing kits in Cheshire County testing is limited if happening at all…[personal protective equipment] same issue, we were able to get some level in from the state, but if we got into a situation at our nursing home or DOC our burn rate is going to exhaust that in a really quick period of time.”
Senator Hassan responded, “I have been pushing [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] on both the issue of personal protective equipment and testing and trying as hard as I can to reinforce that this administration needs to fully exercise the Defense Production Act so that it can direct the manufacturing here at home of more PPE and then coordinate distribution…[the Federal Emergency Management Agency is] hampered by the administration not deciding to fully exercise this authority.”
In addition, Senator Hassan discussed the importance of Congress passing additional funding to support states, cities, and counties. Senator Hassan recently led a bipartisan group of her colleagues calling on Vice President Mike Pence to work with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to issue guidance to states on how they can use funding from the CARES Act to address budget shortfalls. The CARES Act that Congress passed into law includes $150 billion in stabilization funding for state and local governments, and the Trump administration is now working to distribute these funds.