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Proposed Legislation Targets Fallout of COVID-19 Pandemic in N.H.

N.H. State House
Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired several new bills proposed for the coming legislative session. 

Rep. Kristina Schultz, a Concord Democrat, has sponsored a handful of them. One bill would require maintenance of the state's COVID-19 dashboard, which has been recording New Hampshire's pandemic data.

"There have been concerns about when the COVID dashboard is up to date," Schultz said. "This is about people making decisions based on the dashboard. School boards and principals are making decisions about students related to the dashboard, and businesses likely are as well."

The data on the state's school dasboard has sometimesvaried from what schools themselves report.

Schultz is also working on a bill that would create greater protections for workers who enforce mask mandates. It would come with repercussions for those who refuse to wear a mask in a place of business, Schultz said.

"To put some teeth with these mask ordinances in general is something that I feel has been lacking, and I feel at least for our frontline workers...that they [should] have protection. And that people who are aggressively anti-mask know that they shouldn't do that to this frontline employee," Schultz said.

Another proposed bill seeks to offer more protection to tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to economic strain caused by the ongoing pandemic. Despite a federal eviction moratorium that has been extended through the end of January, evictions in New Hampshirehave been rising since the statewide ban ended this summer.

Rep. Casey Conley, a Dover Democrat, is sponsoring that bill. He said existing programs, like CARES fundsthat have been made available to those struggling to pay rent, haven't been enough to keep people in their homes.

"We look at what's happened over the last six months when the governor, to his credit, set this money aside, and we know only about $10 million of it was allocated. So there's some kind of disconnect. This aims to be sort of a simpler fix," he said.

Conley added that the bill would only protect tenants from non-payment evictions.

Other pandemic-related bills on the table seek to widen employee protections relating to the pandemic and end the state of emergency.

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