U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan briefed members of the New England Council today on the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and answered questions on efforts to combat this deadly virus.
“Even with the substantial investments we’ve already made to support the health and economic well-being of the American people, the days and weeks ahead will not be easy,” Senator Hassan said. “Congress must continue to react to the facts on the ground and stand ready to provide additional support and relief. As we do that work, I am grateful for the input of the New England Council and everyone represented on this call. Across New England, we have seen incredible resilience in the face of an unprecedented crisis. And by continuing to work together and following public health guidelines, we can and will get through this.”
“I want to thank you Senator for all that you do and you've been so accessible and approachable to all of us and the New England Council and we're fortunate to have you there as our advocate and our voice for New England,” said James Brett, President and CEO of the New England Council.
In response to a question on how Congress can address the shortage of personal protective equipment, Senator Hassan responded, “We are really urging the President to fully invoke and implement the Defense Production Act, which does give him the power to instruct our manufacturing sector to produce certain materials that we need. I continue to be concerned that while the President has invoked the Defense Production Act from time to time, and yesterday used it to require meat packing plants to stay open, he hasn't been willing to do it when it comes to testing devices and supplies themselves as well as the supplies needed to administer tests.”
The Senator also received a question about some of the issues regarding the Paycheck Protection Program and shared, “We are hearing that for very small business and nonprofits who don't have a particularly well-established relationship with a bank, especially in the first round, it was very problematic for them to get in line or get their applications processed and then approved. In the second round we tried very hard to address some of those concerns and that's why you saw, in addition to the $250 billion that went into the Paycheck Protection Program as an extension of what we already had, you saw additional money that was set aside for small community lenders and for minority- and women-owned businesses. We are getting feedback, especially in New Hampshire, that that $30 billion for small lenders has really been important.”
Senator Hassan also addressed questions on a variety of other topics, including funding shortages for the United States Postal Service and caring for individuals who experience disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last October, Senator Hassan was recognized as the 2019 New Englander of the Year, an award presented by the New England Council. Senator Hassan is also working to support the business community during this unprecedented pandemic. Senator Hassan recently supported bipartisan legislation, which is now law, to significantly bolster funding for programs that support small businesses, including the Paycheck Protection Program. Additionally, the Senator joined the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation in urging the Small Business Administration and U.S. Treasury Department to provide better guidance to lending institutions so that they can issue loans through the Paycheck Protection Program.