Senator Feltes is committed to standing up for all Granite Staters during this difficult time and continuing to propose creative solutions to the pressing challenges we face together. Senator Feltes wrote an op-ed highlighting the importance of working together and all doing our part, regardless of a political party, to combat this crisis. You can read it here. Here are other ideas that Senator Feltes has proposed:
Live Free and Learn Safe
A Blueprint for Back to School in New Hampshire
Dan released his “Live Free and Learn Safe” blueprint for back to school plan on July 22 to address the key issues facing our public schools in a substantive, specific manner. The “Live Free and Learn Safe” plan provides specific funding mechanisms and actions that can be taken. This is the type of guidance my administration would produce if I have the honor and privilege of serving as your next Governor. While no plan is perfect, the “Live Free and Learn Safe” plan provides a comprehensive approach to reopening schools that prioritizes safety and support for local school districts, while maintaining the latitude for individual districts to tailor the plan to their specific situation.
During this pandemic, like many other Granite State families, Dan and Erin juggled child care and managed constant uncertainty. When the childcare center closed for their two young daughters, Iris and Josie, it changed everything. Like everyone else, they did their best to adapt (often with more than the recommended screen time). With months of uncertainty behind us, parents need guidance, support, and some semblance of a plan for this fall.
On July 14th, Governor Sununu released his so-called “guidance”, which simply passed the buck down to local school districts, similar to what the Trump administration did. Complete and total local control on public health is not a plan, it’s a punt, school districts do not have their own epidemiologist and medical experts. Pushing all decisions to local school districts is playing politics in a pandemic. With about six weeks before school starts, what families, educators, and educational support staff wanted was as much certainty as could be provided, what Governor Sununu delivered was chaos. A Governor’s job is to work hard and make tough decisions looking out for everyone, not wait for months, and then punt all the work and all the decisions to everyone else.
Worker’s COVID-19 Bill of Rights:
Getting New Hampshire Back to Work Safely
We all share the common goal of getting New Hampshire back to work. The ability to safely earn a living and support your family is fundamental to New Hampshire. Whether you work for tips, punch a clock, or receive a salary, every job matters and plays a critical part in New Hampshire’s economy, but when re-opening the economy we must do everything we can to put people before profits and make sure that every worker returning to the job is safe and all the precautions are in place to protect them.
How New Hampshire continues to re-open the economy will answer the fundamental question of whose side are you on. What matters more: corporate profits or keeping people safe? The following measures will keep workers safe and help our economy by giving Granite Staters the confidence to responsibly participate in the economy. This Workers’ COVID-19 Bill of Rights is a fifteen-point plan that keeps workers safe and puts people and families first. Read the full plan here.
Thanks to the hard work of our federal delegation New Hampshire secured $1.25 billion in unrestricted federal funds in the CARES Act. We owe it to the people of New Hampshire to move quickly under the tradition of open, public and transparent financial discussions. Senator Feltes released some a few immediate steps New Hampshire can take with the federal funds, which you can read about here, here, and here.
Senator Feltes proposed an immediate Frontline Workers Fund used for direct financial assistance to those on the frontlines of this crisis, for the recruitment and retention of essential employees, and to cover the training costs for newly hired frontline workers. He also proposed an immediate $100 million distribution to our towns and cities on a per person basis as they are taking on additional costs and property taxpayers should not bear this burden. Finally, he proposed setting up a “Fast Start” small business program that allows previously established small businesses that close because of COVID-19 to erase debt and fund start-up costs. There’s much more we can do including providing revenue relief for our state budget to maintain critical services, maintain the newly created hospital fund, bolster high-need areas of public health, domestic violence prevention, and child protection.
On April 10th, Senator Feltes wrote a medium post about economic impacts this crisis will have on our state and every Granite Stater and the importance of protecting critical state services. Governor Sununu has made it clear that he would rather cut the budget than use the federal stimulus funds for the revenue shortages. The legislature worked hard to pass a budget that provided the greatest increase in public education funding in two decades. Made critical advancements in health care that must be protected. This budget fully backfilled the Title X funding that was jeopardized by the Trump administration’s so-called “gag rule” to ensure continued delivery of critical family planning care. It funded increases in key programs to combat homelessness and established a consistent, ongoing affordable housing fund. It funded the municipal water grants and funded the ongoing litigation costs against big corporations responsible for polluting our water and much more. These are just some of the critical programs at risk if the state budget is cut. COVID-19 and the CARES Act should not be used as a justification to cut the budget. The $1.25 billion in largely unrestricted federal resources should be used in part to backfill and hold harmless our state’s biennial budget and guarantee we are able to protect critical state services, protect working families and our communities, not bail out corporations or big businesses.
On March 18th, Senator Feltes signed onto a letter asking Governor Sununu to direct the New Hampshire Insurance Department to set up resources to assist Granite Staters who are enrolling in individual marketplace plans. The New Hampshire Department of Insurance put together a helpful guide here and you can contact them with any questions at (603) 271‐2261, or by email at email@example.com.
Senator Feltes also wrote a medium post about other steps we can, and must, take to protect uninsured Granite Staters. With record-high unemployment numbers, many Granite Staters are going to be losing their employer-sponsored health coverage. New Hampshire should request an 1115 Waiver from the federal government to expand Medicaid to cover uninsured. Prior to this crisis, New Hampshire already had the highest health care costs in the nation. New Hampshire has the highest premiums, the highest co-pays, and the highest deductibles. With fewer people insured due to the loss of employment, health care costs will be driven up for everyone even more. We have a way to prevent this. During previous emergencies, Republican and Democratic presidential administrations alike have empowered states to loosen Medicaid rules in order to meet growing coverage and treatment needs. Whether it was in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, after Hurricane Katrina or during the H1N1 epidemic, states requested and were granted the ability to use Medicaid in their responses to cover the uninsured.
Senator Feltes wrote a medium post and an op-ed about the two key steps that our state administration should undertake in order to deal with child care challenges due to COVID-19. Child care centers are providing a critical public service for our health care workers and first responders. It will be impossible to combat this crisis if they can’t go to work:
First, New Hampshire can and should use emergency powers to allocate some of the $5 million secured by the federal delegation and/or applicable federal funding streams and state resources to create a daily reimbursement rate so child care centers can afford to stay open.
Second, the state should create a Child Care Public-Private Partnership on COVID-19 and take the lead on the inventorying, the coordination, and the planning for child care availability across the state for the children of state employees, first responders, and medical providers.
Senator Feltes advocates for a portion of the federal stimulus money to be used to create a new small business Fast Start program that allows small businesses that closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic to erase their debt and fund start-up costs. These previously established businesses have a business model and previous customer base, but they will need a jumpstart when we begin the recovery period. You can read more about Dan’s ideas here.
On March 19th, Senator Feltes wrote a medium post highlighting the need for New Hampshire to take proactive steps to ramp up our testing capacity to meet this challenge. The only way we’re going to get a handle on this virus, to know what we are up against, and to contain and mitigate the virus in New Hampshire is by implementing widespread testing. Senator Feltes proposed expanding mobile testing capacity by setting up locations around the state where Granite Staters can get tested safely without leaving their cars. Senator Feltes also proposed additional public-private partnerships where our businesses and manufacturers right here in New Hampshire are contracted to provide additional PPE and testing capacity.
On April 15th, Senator Feltes and Senator Melanie Levesque wrote a medium post highlighting the importance of preparing now for what an election looks like during COVID-19. To fully understand the scope of the challenges we face, we need to walk through the entire process from registration to distributing ballots to casting ballots. Senator Feltes and Senator Levesque proposed expanding the opportunities for individuals to register without in-person interaction, including online voter registration and mail-in registration options. They also proposed Instituting no-excuse absentee voting and joining the 14 other states that allow online absentee ballot requests so we can streamline the process for our cities and towns. Lastly, proposed exploring secure drop boxes for ballots where individuals can safely drop their ballot off in advance of the election and on election day where Granite Staters could drop their ballots off without leaving their cars. Granite Staters have a constitutional right to vote and nothing can take that away and protecting the right to vote should not conflict with protecting public health.
Housing and Homelessness
On April 15th, Senator Feltes wrote a medium post laying out his proposals for how to address New Hampshire’s housing and homelessness crises during the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Sununu has yet to release a comprehensive plan on homelessness and instead, this week cut funding for homelessness services in the state. Senator Feltes proposed backfilling Governor Sununu’s cuts to homeless services, providing homeless shelters state assistance in acquiring PPE, & establishing leasing agreements with local hotels and motels for those in need while supporting the local hospitality industry. He also proposed addressing housing for those struggling due to unexpected costs & job loss by; providing conditional relief to landlords, direct support for homeowners facing foreclosure, expanding rental assistance, & immediately capping the affordable housing fund.
Raising the Minimum Unemployment Benefits
On March 17, Senator Feltes sent a letter to Commissioner Copadis and Governor Sununu thanking them for Executive Orders 3-5 and requesting that they consider increasing the minimum Unemployment Insurance benefits received to $250 per week or $1,000 per month. The minimum benefit hadn’t been increased since 2007 and stood at $32 per week, which is not sufficient for families to live off of. On March 30th, the state raised the minimum benefit to $168 per week. You can read more about Senator Feltes’ unemployment benefit ideas in this op-ed.
- New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services COVID Website
- 24/7 COVID-19 New Hampshire Hotline: Call 2-1-1
- Center for Disease Control Website
- Unemployment Insurance: If your place of employment has been closed, you are home taking care of a dependent, you’ve been required to self-quarantine, or your hours have been cut back due to COVID-19, you can apply for New Hampshire unemployment benefits. You can call the unemployment hotline at 603-271-7700 or visit https://nhes.nh.gov.
- Health Insurance: The New Hampshire Department of Insurance issued guidance outlining health care coverage options and other information available for New Hampshire residents who have recently been laid off or lost their employer-sponsored health insurance benefits. HealthCare.gov has Special Enrollment Periods (SEP) for people who may have recently lost their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. You can find additional guidance from the New Hampshire Department of Insurancehere.The Insurance Department is here to help, you can contact them with any questions at (603) 271‐2261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Small Businesses: While social distancing is critical to public health, it has serious economic impacts on many New Hampshire small businesses. The New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs has a resource page to help New Hampshire businesses navigate relief.