NEW HAMPSHIRE – During a virtual roundtable today, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and New Hampshire mayors and municipal leaders discussed COVID-19 relief efforts and the need for additional funding to address revenue shortfalls that state and local governments are experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to Senator Hassan, participants included Claremont Mayor Charlene Lovett, Concord Mayor Jim Bouley, Dover Mayor Bob Carrier, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess, Rochester Mayor Caroline McCarley, and Derry Town Administrator David Caron.
“I know how challenging these times are as you’re trying to provide critical services, make sure that you and your citizens are all up to speed on the latest public health guidance, help support your economy and businesses and individuals as they try to deal with the challenge of this pandemic,” said Senator Hassan.
Senator Hassan raised the need for additional aid for state and local governments, “understanding how critical it is not only for your operations but for our overall economy and public health.” She continued, “I will keep pushing for more state and local aid, not only so it can help you respond directly to challenges of COVID, but I am pushing for the kind of flexibility – and there is some bipartisan support for this – that would allow state and local governments to use dollars to backfill the revenues that they have lost as a direct result of COVID.” Senator Hassan previously led a bipartisan group of her former governors in calling for this increased flexibility for COVID-19 relief funding.
Mayors on the call shared that this additional support is critically important. Dover Mayor Bob Carrier stated, “The tsunami of lost revenue is on its way, and to catch up with that is a major deal.” Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig said, “What I appreciate in the work that you’re doing is advocating for our communities to get direct funding. If we can get that funding to positively impact the loss in revenues, it would be tremendously helpful.”
Claremont Mayor Charlene Lovett raised the hit to infrastructure projects due to COVID-19-related budgetary strains: “We are investing in our infrastructure but certainly not at the capacity we would like to. With any added burden from COVID-19 through either loss of revenue or increased expenses, we’re even going to fall further behind in infrastructure improvements.”
A number of mayors on the call discussed concerns over affordable housing and homelessness. “The ability to have some flexibility around doing something about sustainable housing for folks is really critical,” said Rochester Mayor Caroline McCarley. Earlier this year, Senator Hassan joined her colleagues in introducing legislation to establish an Emergency Rental Assistance program to provide $100 billion in emergency rental assistance to help families and individuals pay their rent and remain housed during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
Mayors also addressed the uncertainty that schools face as they prepare for the fall and in-person or remote instruction, or a combination of the two. “We don’t know what the cost of operating schools under a new format may be,” said Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess. Senator Hassan has called for at least $175 billion for the Elementary and Secondary Education Relief Fund in any future COVID-19 relief package, and during a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing, raised the importance of additional funding to schools.