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N.H.'s Extra Pay for Long-term Care Workers Could Cost $30 Million a Month

N.H. State House
Allegra Boverman for NHPR

A new program to provide extra pay for workers at long-term care facilities could cost the state of New Hampshire as much as $30 million a month.

Governor Chris Sununu gave lawmakers that estimate Wednesday during the first meeting of a new legislative advisory board on the state's COVID-19 response.

The stipends will come from the state's general fund at first, but Sununu says the state has also applied for a waiver to replenish that money with federal tax dollars.

“We have the cash and liquidity to move forward at about 30 million a month for the next two and a half months or so. And once the waiver is approved, we can backfill with those federal funds,” he said via the telephone meeting.

[Coronavirus update: 5 More N.H. Deaths; Elliot, Southern New Hampshire Hospitals Lay Off Workers]

The program will offer $300 a week for employees of long-term care facilities and some other social service agencies.

During the meeting, a parade of different agency heads offered the latest on how their slice of the government has been affected.

Officials with the New Hampshire Department of Safety said they have 70 staff members who are in quarantine and unable to work. That is on top of 76 other local emergency workers who are also quarantined.

Legislators also heard the first public accounting of how many ventilators are in New Hampshire. Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette says it's about 900, including pediatric ventilators.

“I like the number we have right now,” she said. “I would love it if it was about 100 more. And I would be really happy if it was about 300 more.”

Shibinette said the state has been trying to purchase more ventilators for six weeks with no success.

[How is the coronavirus affecting you? Take our survey to let us know]

New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut also warned the advisory board about economic consequences of the pandemic at state universities.

After campus closures last month, the University of New Hampshire, Keene State College, and Plymouth State University reimbursed students for room and board costs and other fees. Edelblut says these reimbursements will mean a major loss of revenue for the state university system.

New Hampshire is expected, soon, to get 36 million dollars in federal aid for pandemic recovery efforts at college and universities.

NHPR reporter Sarah Gibson contributed to this report

Jason Moon is a senior reporter and producer on the Document team. He has created longform narrative podcast series on topics ranging from unsolved murders, to presidential elections, to secret lists of police officers.

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