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Gov. Sununu asks Fiscal Committee to accept a new round of federal COVID vaccine aid, and says N.H. will need more

A sign that says "stop the spread of germs" and offers other COVID safety tips
Dan Tuohy
/
New Hampshire Public Radio
A COVID-19 safety precautions sign hangs in the New Hampshire State House.

Gov. Chris Sununu is asking the legislature’s fiscal committee to accept almost $5 million in federal vaccine money Friday.

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The money amounts to the Sununu administration’s first effort at replacing the $27 million dollars in COVID vaccine aid rejected last week by the GOP-controlled executive council.

The Sununu administration says the nearly $4.7 million in federal aid will “support COVID-19 vaccine delivery” via community health centers and regional clinics.

But unlike the money rejected by the council, these funds do not include any language suggesting grantees could be bound to follow federal COVID policies, including vaccine mandates and quarantines.

Sununu and New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella both rejected that interpretation of the federal contract language, but it was a concern cited by critics of the federal vaccine policies, including Republicans on the Executive Council who opposed them as a bloc.

That 4-1 vote last week to turn away $27 million in aid, made New Hampshire the only state to pass up the federal vaccine help.

In a letter to the fiscal committee, Sununu noted that starting next month, more than 125,000 children in New Hampshire will become newly eligible for the vaccine, and pressure on state vaccination efforts will intensify.

Sununu wrote that the state costs to coordinate vaccine efforts will exceed seven million dollars over the next year. If the state doesn’t find that money, Sununu wrote “state run vaccine operations will come to a halt leaving Granite Staters to rely on federal vaccination efforts.”

Sununu asked lawmakers to consider the approval of the $4.7 million in fresh federal aid as a “first step.”