We are faced with an unprecedented public health and economic emergency with the spread of the virus in New Hampshire and across the United States. As I traveled to Washington, D.C., before dawn on Friday morning to vote for the largest economic relief package in American history, I reflected on the countless Granite Staters who have stepped up to the plate to practice social distancing and protect the most vulnerable in our communities. I thought of the debt of gratitude we owe to our health care workers and first responders on the frontlines of this public health emergency, the members of our National Guard, and to those who work at our grocery stores, pharmacies, and the people who provide essential services across our state.
In the Granite State, we have taken extraordinary but necessary steps to mitigate this crisis, protect the health and well-being of our communities, and maintain essential operations in our state. The efforts on the ground in New Hampshire require an equally robust federal response to support those who are fighting this global pandemic.
It has become clear that New Hampshire needs more support. I was pleased that the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate worked with the President to quickly pass two coronavirus response packages in the early days of this crisis to support our hospitals, workers, and families.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has strained America’s public health infrastructure and economy in unprecedented ways. In a few short weeks, hospitals and health clinics have seen a dramatic increase in patients with COVID-19 symptoms and are running out of resources, businesses have shuttered their doors in accordance with state and local health advisories and workers have been laid off or furloughed with little notice.
First and foremost, we must stop the spread of this virus. The economic impact of COVID-19 has been profound, but economic stabilization will only occur once we curtail the spread. Hospitals, health providers, and first responders need additional supplies and resources, including personal protective equipment, test kits when appropriate, ventilators, and a guarantee that these supplies also reach our rural providers.
As social distancing and other preventive measures have disrupted our economy, we must keep small businesses and nonprofits afloat, while providing financial relief for workers who have been laid off or furloughed. In an effort to help slow the spread of this virus, many business owners have responsibly closed their doors and seen revenue dry up entirely, while expenses largely remain the same. With little cash on hand, businesses need immediate relief so they can cover their costs and retain as much cash on hand as possible.
Last weekend, I called on Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader McConnell to act immediately with an additional robust COVID-19 response package to support New Hampshire’s health care system, workers and small businesses that are struggling during this difficult time.
This past week, we came together once again to pass a stimulus package to provide some certainty to our country during these uncertain times.
The bill we sent to President Trump’s desk on Friday includes a $150 million Marshal Plan for our health care system. It helps protect our small businesses and not-for-profits with $377 billion in loans and grants. The legislation also creates a “Paycheck Protection Program” to keep small businesses and not-for-profits afloat and help prevent workers from losing their jobs. Granite Staters can sign up and get more information at SBA.gov.
This relief legislation increases unemployment insurance for Americans who are out of work because of this crisis. An estimated $250 billion will be provided to expand unemployment insurance benefits. All workers who are experiencing joblessness due to COVID-19 will receive an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits. To file for unemployment, visit https://www.nhes.nh.gov/ or call 603-271-7700.
This bill will also provide direct payments to many Americans at a time when pocketbooks are stretched thin. People who earned less than $75,000 in adjusted gross income in 2019 will receive $1,200. Those who filed jointly with a spouse and earned less than $150,000 in 2019, will receive $2,400. And for every child under 17 that a person claims, they will be eligible for an additional $500. Individuals with reported earnings above $75,000 and couples with reported earnings above $150,000 will receive smaller rebates. Seniors who are on Social Security, filed a 2019 tax return, and meet the income eligibility requirements will qualify for a payment.
Importantly, this legislation reflects lessons learned from the 2008 financial crisis and includes provisions to prevent fraud and abuse. As Congress works to provide relief to America’s economy and major industries that have been negatively impacted, we must put Main Street ahead of Wall Street. Congress must ensure strict oversight and accountability measures for how taxpayer dollars are spent.
I stand ready to work with the Governor, our federal delegation, and state partners to get these resources out the door as quickly as possible. Inaction or delays in providing the support needed for our health care system, American small businesses, workers, families, and our economy will result in lives lost and financial ruin for many Americans. We face a long road to recovery but when Americans work together there is nothing we can’t overcome.
U.S. Rep Annie Kuster represents New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District.