Weekly N.H. News Roundup: April 24, 2020

Apr 23, 2020

Two top state lawmakers fill us in on what they've been working on these weeks, with the Statehouse shuttered and the economy on hold because of COVID-19.  Despite this, there has been some political activity and some turmoil, with top Democrats suing Governor Sununu over who should control huge sums of money the federal government is sending for coronavirus relief. This week, a judge ruled the Democrats do not have standing to sue the governor.   Meanwhile, there's bipartisan concern over the damage this crisis is doing to the state budget -- but differences of opinion when it comes to solutions. 

Air date: April 24, 2020. 

GUESTS:

  • Senator Jeb Bradley - Republican State Senator from Wolfeboro. 
  • Josh Rogers -  NHPR Senior Political Reporter
  • Senator Donna Soucy -   N.H. Senate President. Democrat from Manchester. 

Transcript:

This is a computer-generated transcript and may contain errors.   

Peter Biello: 
The New Hampshire statehouse has been closed for weeks, legislative work suspended out of an abundance of caution. Still, there has been activity as state lawmakers track the economic and health impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic. Certain lawmakers have been meeting and voting remotely, and some top Democratic lawmakers recently sued Governor Sununu over who should control federal coronavirus relief funds. A superior court judge this week ruled that the Democrats lacked standing to pursue the case. But there is agreement among lawmakers of both major parties and Governor Sununu that state revenues will plummet due to the coronavirus crisis. What to do about that has been under debate. Today on the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup. We talk with two top state senators. Senate President Donna Soucy, Democrat from Manchester, joins us by phone. And Senator Jeb Bradley, Republican of Wolfeboro, joins us by Skype. Later in the hour, NHPR's senior political reporter, Josh Rogers will share his insights with us. Senator Bradley. Senator Soucy, welcome to the program.

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Good morning. I hope you are well and all your listeners as well.

Peter Biello: 
Thank you very much. Appreciate you being on the program today. Lots to talk about. We'll start with some of the scary news that we heard this week, because over the past few days, state officials reported more than 180 new positive Covid 19 cases and nine deaths. Wednesday was the deadliest day so far. Ninety nine confirmed cases, six deaths. Senator Bradley, when you hear about these kinds of numbers, I don't know if you'd call it a spike. What crosses your mind?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, obviously, the human toll on people that have contracted the coronavirus and succumb to it is staggering, not only in New Hampshire but across our nation, and our heart goes out to everyone and everyone's family who has had to deal with this situation. Clearly, that's the case. The one thing I think that needs to be remembered is we're also ramping up the number of tests that we're doing in New Hampshire. The state epidemiologist, Dr. Chan, talked at a press conference with Governor Sununu yesterday and said that we've doubled the number of tests that we're doing. So obviously, more positives are going to come back. And there was an interesting study that was on the news yesterday about the number of tests that were done randomly in New York cities, that the penetration of the virus for people that didn't really have significant symptoms was, I believe, something approaching 20 percent. So I think as we do more testing, we're going to see more positives.

Peter Biello: 
And Senator Soucy, how about you? When you hear numbers like that, what goes through your mind?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, certainly the human toll is extraordinary, the number of people that are severely ill is just painful for those individuals, for their family, for all of us in the community. And we have to continue to work to ensure that we as policymakers enact policies and provide guidance to keep people as safe as possible and to try to minimize as much as possible the spread of this very virulent and deadly disease.

Peter Biello: 
And Senator Bradley, do you know if the state is still expecting a surge?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, I think that according to what Dr. Chan again and the governor said, we are at a more of a plateau situation like a lot of other states have plateaued. I don't think yet our cases are starting to trend downward, but more at a plateau. That being said, Boston and the environs of Boston are one of the nation's hot spots right now, so I think it bears watching as we start to contemplate what businesses can safely reopen. I think we need to be pushing toward reopening, but it needs to be done safely and I think we can do that. But also knowing, that Boston's a hot spot, which up in my neck of the woods is why, you know, I'm getting so many phone calls about whether campgrounds should open on May 4th. Well, no, they could be open now. And so people are pretty concerned about that situation clearly up in the Lakes region, and the Mount Washington Valley.

Peter Biello: 
Liisteners, we will be talking at some point in this hour about the conditions under which it would be safe to reopen this day. And if things were opened up, would you as a citizen feel comfortable going out into the world? Would that make sense for you? Give us a call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 or e-mail exchange at NHPR dot org. Senator Soucy, I wanted to ask you about Manchester's Covid 19 cases. They've now climbed to 348. You were once chair of the Manchester Fire Commission. What are you hearing from the city's first responders, if anything?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I'm hearing an awful lot and keeping in touch with the mayor. Manchester is fortunate in that we have excellent city department heads and employees who are working really diligently. Manchester opened our own emergency operations center very early on, coordinated by our fire chief police chief and our health director. Manchester has its own help line. We are doing everything we can and we continue to face challenges, certain populations that have greater struggle, certainly the homeless population in Manchester has great struggles at this time. And our ability to try to keep people safely socially distant and segregated from each other, particularly when they test positive, continues to be a challenge. We have people that are now moving to tents and camps outdoors along the Merrimack River. That's of great concern. But I have to say, the response in the city of Manchester, not just by our public employees, but also by community leaders and businesses that have stepped up, has just been extraordinary.

Peter Biello: 
Would you say that that first responders in Manchester have what they need to deal with the large number of cases in Manchester?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I think every community in Manchester is no different is still struggling with personal protective equipment, PPE. Some pieces are more easily obtainable than others. There's there's a constant change of what's needed. I hear that right now, gowns are what most in shortage, but we continue to do the best that we can. First responders certainly are on the frontlines of picking people up and of responding in their homes and are really in grave danger and need to make sure that they have the equipment that they need. The situation here is not as bad, but I know that it continues to change on a nearly daily basis.

Peter Biello: 
And Senator Soucy, earlier this month, DHHS announced 37 residents and 13 staff members at Hanover Hill Nursing Home tested positive for Covid 19. Four people have died. Coronavirus related deaths in long term care facilities, including nursing homes, have really soared across the country. To your knowledge, who's keeping track of conditions at these facilities here in New Hampshire?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
My understanding is that the department has been working with each of the nursing homes and trying to ensure that all of them and I believe to the best of their ability are maintaining safety precautions. There are struggles, though, significant struggles with PPE. That's one of the things I hear most often is that a lot of nursing homes find that their employees are having to re-use PPE. There are extraordinary struggles within a facility like that to properly segregate. I think they are doing the very best that they can, but it is such an insidious disease once it gets in from the outside and the problem is that so many people present as asymptomatic before they they do have symptoms and can be carrying and can be spreading the disease. And we believe that's potentially the case in some of our facilities that it may have been brought in. But I think probably one of the greatest tragedies with particularly long term care facilities is that some of these people, when they do contract the disease and are suffering and have passed, have been without loved ones. The nursing homes have tried, have banned people from visiting. Obviously, you know, somebody is end of life, they try to make exceptions. But there have been many instances where loved ones are literally outside of window, standing in the rain, watching someone as they passed and as they suffer. And that's just an extraordinary tragedy.

Peter Biello: 
So it's certainly a tough aspect for those families involved there. Let's talk a little bit about health care. That's been a major focus during this coronavirus pandemic. Senator Bradley, you are on the health care reform oversight committee, which met this week. The discussion got pretty technical. But what should health care consumers know about the presentation by the insurance department, especially since we're in the midst of this pandemic?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, that was an application for a waiver to the state's Medicaid plan for the individual insurance market so that we can actually reduce the cost to people that have an individual insurance plan. So it really doesn't apply persay to the corona virus. I think the governor and the insurance department did a really good job of presenting this. There was bipartisan support for it. In fact, it was unanimous support. I can spend 10 minutes just talking about how we got to the place that we're at. I think what people should know about how Covid related insurance is working is that insurance companies are going to pay the costs of testing and treatment as part of, you know, how people are insured. And so if you have insurance, clearly these are going to be covered expenses. And I think that should provide some relief. Now, that being said, with over one hundred thousand people in New Hampshire having lost their jobs, a number of those people are also going to have lost their health insurance coverage as part of that. So that's something that we're clearly going to have to deal with on an ongoing basis. And another reason why we've got to get our economy started up again is safely but as quickly as possible.

Peter Biello: 
And Senator Soucy, you attended a meeting recently of the governor's office of Emergency Relief and Recovery. And leaders in the health care industry spoke, including hospital and nursing home officials. What struck you about that meeting? Were there any surprises?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
The challenge that hospitals face was really quite extraordinary in that we have done a great deal to prepare for a significant surge and we expected our hospitals to be overflowing. We've set up surge centers separate from the hospital in case we need those extra spaces. So in one respect, from the public health point of view, I think we are doing a good job of trying to manage. And I think people in general are very responsible, wearing masks, staying at home, doing all of those important things. But in order to clear out the hospitals, they had to forego all elective procedures. They had to purchase equipment, stock up, get ready for that surge. And when the surge hasn't happened, it's created on the one hand, a public health outcome that's good in that fewer people need the service. But beyond that, it's created an extraordinary financial burden on the hospitals and they are losing upwards of 200 to 250 million dollars a month. The nursing homes are also in a very critical time because admissions are down. There's a concern that people are are foregoing some of the needed care and they're having a great deal of difficulty, certainly because people that typically would enter a long term care facility simply for rehabilitation post surgery are not able to have the surgery, therefore not going in for the treatment that they need. We are going to have, I believe, a significant amount of pent up health care needs. What were procedures that were deemed elective at the time are becoming more chronic over time. So when we do sort of transition back into allowing hospitals to perform other types of procedures, I think we're going to see a significant number of people that have much more chronic health conditions than they did back in early March. And that's going to be another burden on the health care system. It's going to be significant for us to overcome.

Peter Biello: 
Listeners, give us a call if you have questions or comments for Senators Bradley or Soucy. Our number, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. We're still going to talk about small businesses in just a little bit, but we want to stay on the subject of health and health policy for for another moment, because Barbara wrote in to say, it seems to make sense and it would be great for Governor Sununu to call for a policy requiring the wearing of masks, making it mandatory. I'd love to get your take on it, Senator Bradley and Senator Soucy, we'll start with you. Senator Bradley, what do you think?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, I think that in New Hampshire, certainly as I'm going out to supermarkets, which is largely about the only thing that Karen and I do right now, virtually everybody is wearing a mask without a requirement. And so I think that the public health officials, starting with Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci in the Corona Virus Task Force in the White House to commission lori shibinette, and Dr. Chan and Governor Sununu have done a really good job across the country of educating people about the need for masks. I don't know that we have law enforcement resources to enforce mandatory mask wearing. That being said, virtually everybody that I'm seeing out and about is doing it if they're within any kind of proximity of that 6 foot guideline. I think that one of the reasons that I believe that we'll be able to open businesses and other things over time and safely is because people are learning. Businesses are learning. And so it's those six foot rule, the hygiene rule, the wearing the mask, the wearing the gloves. People are adapting to this in New Hampshire in the live free or die spirit. And I think that's what you're seeing. And I think it's working fairly well, which is why we have not seen the spike in cases that was predicted two or three weeks ago. It's still bad, but it could have been a heck of a lot worse.

Peter Biello: 
I respect your experience there, seeing most or I guess all people you've seen have been wearing masks.

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Not all people, but most people. I mean, I think it depends on exactly where you are. If you're, you know, in the parking lot walking into the supermarket, it's not necessary to wear a mask. Once you get into the supermarket, it's certainly a lot smarter to wear the mask. And I think most people are wearing the masks at that point. Because remember what the guidelines say it's a mask when you're potentially closer than six feet. So if you're staying away six feet or more, it's not as necessary according to what the CDC guidelines say.

Peter Biello: 
Fair enough. I will say, too, that I have seen people without masks at a few different places around Concord ends. I'm just curious, like, do you think that maybe a mandatory policy would, it wouldn't, of course, capture everybody, but it would maybe force a few of those people who aren't wearing masks to maybe put one on and change their behavior a little bit. And that may flatten the curve or maintain the plateau or even drop the number of cases that we're seeing.

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, again, I think, you know, based on my own experience and certainly, you know, as I'm talking to people throughout the state and I'm sure Senator Soucy is doing that, too, most people are wearing masks. You don't have to have an N95 mask, a cloth mask works. I have a business in my district that makes hiking gear Ragged Mountain in Conway. They do an incredible job. People aren't buying a lot of hiking gear right now, so they are making masks, cloth masks that are very easy to use. You're seeing more and more people using that type of mask for the CDC guidelines. Again, if you make it mandatory, you're going to be asking our first responders, and Senator Soucy was exactly right about that. They're overstressed right now, just trying to do everything else that they have to do. And forcing a mask policy becomes difficult. And I think one of the key things and I think Senator Soucy hit on that is it's not just our first responders. It's all of our essential service workers, people at grocery stores, people in the post office, at gas stations, the hardware stores. They are stepping up big time to serve the rest of us and to try to take care of their friends and neighbors who are abiding by the stay at home orders for the actual vast majority of the time. They deserve a huge thank you.

Peter Biello: 
Senator Soucy, I wanted to get your opinion on the issue Mandatory masks and mask policy.

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
You know, I have the same concern Senator Bradley has about trying to enforce it. I really am secluding significantly at home. I've gotten delivery. People have come with masks and gloves to deliver food, groceries. But I am seeing and when I go out and walks from my home, I am seeing a significant amount of compliance. I am seeing, you know, all families walking together, wearing masks, separating. I do think that we need more of a push, though. Obviously, this past weekend, the rally that occurred in front of the state house was very concerning. If even a few of those people were wearing masks. But there are a lot of people still that don't seem to be complying. And I think we should do something to give them a little more of a push if they don't want to protect themselves, they shouldn't be exposing others.

Peter Biello: 
So what what would could that push be, if not a mandatory order to wear masks in public?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
I think that a mandatory. But the enforcement component would be the the challenge.

Peter Biello: 
Because Governor Sununu has promised the public, too, that he's not going to enforce in any way the stay at home order.

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Correct. Correct. And yet I think most people comply with that, but it is in order and I think we could do something similar with respect to masks where it's an order. Most people comply with the law when there's an order. It certainly, I think would increase the number of people that do wear them in public.

Peter Biello: 
Just to note the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, UFCW, which represents grocery store workers, has asked the CDC to issue mandatory guidelines protecting grocery stores and other workers they represent, asking for mandatory mask wearing. So far as far as we know, there hasn't been a response. Let's talk to our listeners. We'd love to get listener comments here on the show and talk to Tim in Portsmouth. Tim, thanks for calling. What's on your mind?

Tim (caller): 
Good morning, thanks for taking my call. I'm calling from Portland. But I actually I live in Mount Vernon and I am as a selectman over in Mount Vernon. And on Monday night, we had Zoom meeting and we had our emergency management director, who is also our police chief, talked to us about everything covod. And he brought us up to date. As of Monday, he told us the state was testing 440 people a day. You have to be symptomatic to get the test. And he also told us, and this was a shock to me, that there was a six thousand test backlog in the state of New Hampshire. And I mean, this is as of Monday. That that would mean that if we did the arithmetic four hundred tests a day, a Six thousand tests backlog, that that would mean that it could take fifteen days to get the results for a test. And this doesn't sound right. So I'm hoping your guests can bring us up to date on that situation with the testing backlog in the state. That's all. Thanks.

Peter Biello: 
Sure. Thank you very much for the question time. Really appreciate it. Let me start with you, Senator Soucy. What do you make of Tim's question?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
The six thousand number strikes me as having to do with the number of tests that we were going to do for long term care facility employees in Rockingham and Hillsborough County, that's been particularly hit. That was the number I heard of employees that were attempting to test. My understanding is that since Dartmouth Hospital has come online with their testing capabilities, that our backlog has significantly decreased. To my knowledge, we do not have a backlog that significant either at the public health lab or at Dartmouth. And we have other entities the state is contracted with convenient MD and and there are other private providers that are doing it. So I can't speak specifically to where the police chief got his information. I don't believe it's accurate at this time. But certainly on the issue of testing, there's a lot more that needs to be done. I think we do need to do more significant testing, and I think that's a critical component if we are going to get back into, you know, what life was like before, how our transition works. Our transition will be dependent upon our ability to do more testing.

Peter Biello: 
Senator Bradley, what do you make of Tim's comments about testing?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, I think it's old data. We have doubled the amount of testing that's occurring every day in New Hampshire, it's about eight hundred to nine hundred per day and it's ramping up. Senator Soucy is right. Dartmouth Hospital has done a great job of getting their lab up to speed. The public health lab of the state is churning out more tests right now too and as our nation has more testing capability that is obviously going to come to New Hampshire. For the first few weeks of the pandemic, I think it was absolutely essential that we test people on the front lines, you know, health care workers, long term care workers, hospitals, first responders. That's what we did. As well as people that were showing symptoms. But now. as we're wrapping it up, we're going to be able to test more people in the coming weeks, and that is a key ingredient of how we're going to be able to open up our economy. We're going to have to have adequate protective gear, which we're making a lot of progress on. We're gonna have to show that our downward trajectory of new cases based on the amount of testing is not growing. And then we're gonna have to have adequate hospital capacity and adequate testing capacity. And I think, you know, Governor Sununu is doing a really good job of bringing all of this together. And I think, as you know, the governor leads the state in this effort. This is going to be the key ingredient for getting our economy back on track. People are scared to death right now that the shutdown is going to just last forever. They're going to lose their small business. They're not going to be able to pay their rent, their mortgage, their food bill, all things that Senator Zusi and I are very, very concerned about. And we have got to be able to move through this and and get people back to work again.

Peter Biello: 
We're speaking today with top Republican and Democratic lawmakers about the state's response to covered 19. Also taking a look back at the week in COVID 19 news. And coming up after a break, we're going to talk a little more about small businesses, the experience of small businesses out there. The P.P.P, the Paycheck Protection Program. And we want to know your experience. If you're a small business owner or if you work at a small business, what's it been like for you? And what would you like to see from state lawmakers about the situation that the Covid 19 pandemic has put you in? The number is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Or e-mail exchange at NHPR dot org. I'm Peter Biello. This is the weekly New Hampshire news roundup. We will be right back.

Monday on the exchange, how the arts and artists are faring during the pandemic, even in the best of times, making a living as an artist can be a challenge. Now arts groups have been canceling and postponing events, closing galleries and studios, but also finding new ways to connect with each other and their audiences. If you are an artist, a dancer, a writer, a painter, a musician. Let us know how you're pressing on during the pandemic. Our e-mail address is exchange at NHPR.org And tune in for that show live at 9:00 on Monday morning on NHPR. Right now, we're talking with a few lawmakers about the week's news. Most of it covid 19 related. On the line with me. Senate President Donna Soucy, Democrat from Manchester. And on Skype with us, Senator Jeb Bradley, Republican of Wolfeboro. Listeners, your questions and comments are welcome. We're going to be talking about small businesses. We're going to be talking about the courts. And we're going to be talking about when it's safe to reopen the New Hampshire economy and how to go about doing that. But first, we want to go to the calls and let's talk to Frank in Bedford. Frank, thank you very much for calling. What's on your mind?

Peter Biello: 
Are you with us, Frank. Oh, I guess you're not there, Frank, sorry about that. Oh I think we might have you after all. Frank, what do you have to say? No, I guess not. Sorry about that. 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 is the number to call if you've got a question or a comment or email exchange at NHPr.org. Let's talk a little bit about small businesses, small businesses, a big part of the state's economy. We know that the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, ran out of money last week for this program. Senator Bradley, what have you been hearing from small businesses about how they feel about the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, I think that people broadly support the payroll protection program, I'm glad to see that Congress finally came together after it ran out of money a week ago. And let's remember, it had only been about a week that money was available to pass a second bite at the apple in terms of payroll protection. That legislation also included more money for testing, which I think is a good thing, and more money for hospitals, which I think is a good thing, which is why it enjoyed bipartisan success in Washington. There are a couple of things that I do think would be helpful to change in the payroll protection plan that would help New Hampshire businesses. And that is you have to expend all the money by June 30th. And so if you're a restaurant or a seasonal type business that's already closed right now and all restaurants are, it's going to be very hard to utilize that by June 30th. I would like to see our federal delegation try to extend that date so that it could be used a little bit longer. I think that would help businesses as they start starting up again. But generally speaking, I think, you know, it has certainly helped people through this crunch. And you're right, Peter. Small businesses, are the backbone of New Hampshire. And we are going to have to be the most business friendly state to get our small businesses back online, because let's face it, with one hundred thousand people in New Hampshire out of work, many of whom work for small businesses, that has got to be a top priority for all of us.

Peter Biello: 
And Senator Soucy, what about you? What have you been hearing from businesses in your district about the PPP or other government response to the coronavirus pandemic?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Certainly have heard an appreciation for the PPP program. Although there were some issues with getting started in the application process, it was a little cumbersome, I think, for some businesses to get in. But I've also heard that it's it's unfortunately not a one size fits all. There are some businesses as Senator Bradley said, particularly restaurants. We heard the other day, hotels in particular, that really can't benefit from this program because the design of the program sort of precludes them from making good use of the funds. So they're looking for alternatives. I think from the state and we're going to have to be creative about how we supplement and enhance some of the services that we're able to provide, particularly to small businesses. The longer this goes on, unfortunately, some businesses I think will continue to struggle. Some may even dissolve, which would be a terrible tragedy for the people that that work for them. But we know that the federal delegation has obviously put more money into the program, which is great, that there are additional resources that I think over time we will be able to assist with. But it is a particular struggle and businesses have had to be innovative. And certainly there's a great deal of innovation here in New Hampshire. I was glad that we were able to help sort of inform the order that the governor had allowing retailers and small booksellers to continue to operate online and provide curbside pickup and delivery. A lot of our businesses have been able to innovate in that way and still provide an important service. But to do it in a safe way for both them and their employees and their customers is is another important part of what's going on. But the transition out of this crisis for small businesses in particular is is going to be a challenge. And I think the challenges are unique for each business sector within the community.

Peter Biello: 
This is the exchange on NHPR. We're speaking with Senators Donna Soucy and Jeb Bradley about the state's response to the Corona virus pandemic. If you've got questions for them, now's the time to call the phone number 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. And let's talk to Pamela and Milton Berle. Thank you very much for calling, Pamela. What's on your mind?

Pamela (caller): 
Good morning. My experience has actually been really different from the representative's experience that you've been talking to. Here in the Lakes region and the Merideth Moultonboreau, Tamworth OSsipee area, the shopping experience that I've had and my neighbors I've been discussing this with, is that less than half of the employees that are both handling, bagging, cashiering, stocking and in the drug stores as well are not wearing any type of protective gear, and this is as recent as yesterday. And so my question is, as employees, can an employer provide some level of, even if it's a bandana, and say, look, if you're going to show up for work, you're dealing with the public, our expectation is that you will be wearing some level of protective gear.

Peter Biello: 
Thank you very much. Really appreciate it. Senator Bradley, Senator Soucy, what do you think?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Clearly, as a condition of work, I think an employer in a pandemic could ask an employee to wear a cloth mask. I think that is very reasonable.

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Absolutely, as a matter of public safety, I think that's a work requirement. Not just for the protection of the public, but for the protection of the individual employees themselves. And we want to make sure that people remain as safe as possible.

Peter Biello: 
This week, Congress passed another I think it was a half trillion dollars worth of assistance. The president is expected to to sign the bill today. Senator Bradley, Senator Soucy, to what extent are you confident that this is going to be sufficient for New Hampshire businesses?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I think that it continues to be incremental. It's hard and staggering to believe that 1.25 billion dollars is not enough to address the concerns and needs of businesses and industries here in New Hampshire But I think the federal government will have to continue to revisit this issue because we have a lot of unknowns. And the longer we stay closed, the way we do, our transition back to allowing businesses to reopen is going to require, I think, additional assistance to get our economy moving back and to get some of these businesses back online. I think one of the other particular challenges that we need to address is some of our supports for workers, for example, child care, childcare is going to be a huge obstacle for people returning to work because children aren't in school, because many child care facilities have closed. And that will be a significant challenge that we are going to need to work to help address. If we are going to transition back into allowing businesses to reopen and to re-engage their workforce.

Peter Biello: 
Let's go to the phones and talk to Alex in Portsmouth. Alex, thanks very much for calling.

Alex (caller): 
Thanks for having me. So my question is, I'm a small business owner, a restaurant in Portsmouth, and we were obviously shut down and are doing takeout delivery. We happen to be a brewpub, so we're able to make some beer and be able to do that as well out the door, which is fortunate for us. I know a lot of other people didn't have that ability. My question is we were able to get the money the PPP loan, but I've been told by my accountant and bank that I need to hire back the same full time headcount that I had before this all started. But I don't have that much work for everyone. And if I was only to bring back a couple of people that that money wouldn't be forgiven, especially the 25 percent that was allocated for rent and utilities. Could you answer some questions regarding that and what's being done to maybe change these policies?

Peter Biello: 
So. So, Alex, you would prefer to not hire everybody back or only pay people for for whom there is actual work rather than pay people to essentially not do all that much? Is that would you prefer.

Alex (caller): 
Not necessarily to not be able to bring everybody back but not everyone feels safe coming back. We're a small restaurant and I don't have as much work to put six people back to work full time. But I could bring back maybe two or three people full time and then be able to increase maybe some delivery options and things of that nature. But the question was, if I didn't bring back all those six people, that that money wouldn't be forgiven.

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
So my understanding is you would have to bring back 75 percent of your full time equivalents in order for the loan to be turned into a grant. Clearly, this was a way to preserve jobs so that people didn't have to go on unemployment, even if there wasn't perhaps as much work for the business owner. One of the other things that I hope Congress can change about the payroll protection program is the 25 percent that a business can use to pay the interest on their loans, their rent and their utility fixed costs and broaden that a little bit so that things like insurance or property taxes or even restocking inventory could fall under that. And maybe some liberalization of, instead of only 25 percent, 40 percent, say, so that it's not just about payroll, which is what it is primarily now for the small business owner, but also about the fixed costs that a business has, because that's going to help the business owner be able to get started effectively if the date is extended, that would help also. And that would save the business and the jobs would be there for people when they come back online in terms of the business opening again. I think those two reforms, if Congress were to work on that, certainly from all the business owners I've been talking to, would be key to making the payroll protection plan work more effectively. Look, let's face it, it was a crisis, having served in Congress dealing with a crisis you just can't think about everything. We have to make adjustments to it after the fact. I think, you know, given the speed that it's happened and now the second tranche of money, it's actually very quick in doing that. But I think these reforms would help make it more effective, at least in New Hampshire's case and I suspect around the country, too.

Peter Biello: 
We're speaking with Democratic and Republican lawmakers today about the state's response to Covid, 19. And we're going to talk about the state budget when we come back, because we've heard dire warnings about what the coronavirus pandemic will do to state finances. To what extent are you concerned about the state's finances? What do you think lawmakers should do about it? Give us a call. We'll try to get into the conversation, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Or send us an email addresses exchange at an HP bar. Not worry. This is the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on the exchange on NHP. I'm Peter Biello. We'll be right back.

Peter Biello: 
This is the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on the exchange on NHP. I'm Peter Biello. On the line with me. Senate President Donna Soucy, Democrat from Manchester. And with us by Skype, Senator Jeb Bradley, Republican from Wolfeboro. Listeners, your questions and comments are welcome. We want to know, where do you stand on reopening New Hampshire economy? What are your concerns about the state budget? Anything else related to Cauvin 19 that you'd like to put to these two lawmakers? Let us know the phone number 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Just a short time left, but let's see what we can talk about in that short time. Of course, we wanna talk about the state budget, $13 billion state budget signed into law last September after a long standoff that was hard won. Recently, Governor Sununu warned of a huge shortfall in revenues in the inevitable budget cuts amounting to half a billion dollars. Senator Soucy, what do you see as being in store for the state budget?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I think we're going to have to evaluate revenues soon. That's becoming a little bit harder because of the necessary delays that were afforded or the extension for business tax payers. But we are going to have to keep a close eye on revenues because not only does it impact the provision of state services, but I'm certainly hearing from local communities that there there is a significant impact to them as well. Take, for example, rooms and meals tax, which generates money, that significant amount of money that's going to be off because restaurants are closed. That money also goes toward direct aid to cities and towns and cities and towns locked in their budgets, many of them, the towns back in March and they were dependent on state revenues. So there is going to be a significant burden felt at the local level if we aren't able to do something to address some of those revenue losses. So we need to evaluate them quickly. The legislature is prepared to do so. We are transitioning into doing some online platform and phone platform meetings of some of our legislative committees. We still have a challenge because we have such a very large legislature of meeting back in full session, but we are doing a great deal of work and we'll continue to work to respond to the needs of New Hampshire citizens and make some budget adjustments through our legislative fiscal committee as needed.

Peter Biello: 
And what before I move on to you, Senator Bradley, I want to just dig in a little deeper, Senator Soucy, about what you might propose as far as how helping the state, as far as revenue is concerned, is there a way to to add a little bit of revenue without impeding the economy as it returns?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I think a significant bone of contention with the guidance that came down from Treasury just this week is that we are not able to, according to them at this time, backfill the budget. I know Senator Hassan did write a letter to Treasury signed by senator Shaheen, Senator Romney, I think there were a couple others, who had been governors in the past. There's no question that the loss of revenue, particularly in meals and rooms, is directly attributable to covid 19. So I think we are hoping for more flexibility from the federal government to try to supplement some of those revenue losses that we incurred. But we have to be very mindful of the fact that we negotiated a good bipartisan budget and there were some priorities in that budget that came from both sides of the aisle. We need to make sure that we are protecting children in particular, that we are working to ensure that our communities don't bear the entire brunt of the loss of revenue. We are going to have to take a very hard look at where those dollars flow from, things like mental health and substance use disorders I would argue are going to be in even greater need as we transition out of this crisis. So those are things we will not be able to sacrifice.

Peter Biello: 
And Governor Sununu has now said publicly that he is not in favor of those business tax cuts, that that would be rolled back. He doesn't want them to be rolled back, even though revenue targets aren't going to be met. What do you think about those business tax cuts?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I don't think that we know yet whether they're even going to occur. We have to evaluate the revenue stream. It's a little bit more challenging because the deadlines for tax payments have been pushed back. But I don't see whether there will be tax cuts or increases immediately. I don't have a crystal ball and can't tell you that we're going to do that anytime soon. So I think we need to rely on the Department of Revenue Administration and those in state government to help give us a better picture of our economic forecast.

Peter Biello: 
And Senator Bradley, what do you see as looming for the state budget?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, I think Governor Sununu has been very clear there is going to be a big revenue shortfall. We are going to have to make some adjustments. I think Governor Sununu has really led effectively during this crisis. He's pumped up money for child abuse during the pandemic. I mean, I think that's something that his leadership has been very effective about. And none of us are going to want to see child abuse and neglect undermined. But at the same time, we also have to recognize that small businesses are being devastated by the pandemic as are hardworking, our friends and neighbors, hardworking New Hampshire citizens. And so, you know, if we open New Hampshire back up for business, the last thing that we need to do is increase the payroll tax that every small business owner has to pay right now: Yeah, you're open again, but we're raising your taxes. We're going to have to figure out how we make all this work. There is talk in Washington of a fourth stimulus plan that would have some moneys for states to allow backfilling of a budget. But the one point two five billion dollars that New Hampshire has gotten from the first CARES Act, I mean, Senator Soucy sort of accurately summed it up at the beginning of this hour. The hospitals are losing $200 million a month. We've got to start small businesses. Our unemployment trust fund is going to be depleted. Food pantries are going to need help. This one point two five billion. The governor is doing a great job along with Commissioner Little and the eight legislators, Senator Soucy is one of them, that are making recommendations on how to spend this money. It has to go out quickly. It has to go out effectively. It is relief for hardworking New Hampshire businesses. We need to get that done. And then, you know, as we're recovering from the pandemic and businesses are open, assess the state budget. But let's not, you know, open back up for business and say welcome back to New Hampshire small business owners, now you're going to pay higher taxes. I don't think that's going to work. That could be the death knell that businesses are faced with.

Peter Biello: 
I appreciate your insights, both of you. The Senate president, Donna Soucy, Democrat from Manchester, and Senator Jeb Bradley, Republican from Wolfeboro. Really appreciate you being here. Thank you very much for answering our questions. It's been great.

Sen. Soucy & Sen. Bradley: 
Thank you. Thank you very much. And I hope everybody safe and is well and healthy and wears a mask when they're out in public voluntarily.

Peter Biello: 
Masks, Hand sanitizers, certainly, perhaps a lot of listeners out there have cracked hands from all the washing of hands. I certainly had that for a little while there. Then I get some moisturizer. I'm good now. Thank you very much. Really appreciate it. Let's turn now to NHPR's, Josh Rogers, who's been listening into the conversation. Josh, thanks very much for being here. Josh, what strikes you about the conversation you just heard? What does it suggest about what we might expect in the weeks and months ahead?

Josh Rogers: 
Well, there's a lot we don't know, obviously, the money, the $1.25 billion has arrived in New Hampshire's treasury. You know, this week there was at least a ruling in the court fight between Democrats, including senator soucy also the House speaker and top Democratic budget writer and the governor over who has the power to approve the acceptance of federal aid and its spending. Judge David Anderson ruled that in a state of emergency, the governor essentially has that power, although I guess he didn't really rule that, he ruled that Democrats lacked standing to sue. And so, you know, there's still kind of a territorial question over who's really in charge. And you could certainly hear in both Senator Soucy and Senator Bradley that they're informed and engaged. But, you know, the legislature hasn't been able to meet for some time. And, you know, apart from direct COVID stuff, we had, you know, dozens of bills out there, policy priorities for both parties that, you know, we don't know what's going to happen to them. And, you know, meanwhile, the governor is by dint of his position really in charge of the relief efforts. The governors, GOFERR committee, that's what he calls it, it's an acronym, that's going to be doling out this money. There are advisory roles for lawmakers, but that's run out of his office. And so we have 1.5 billion dollars that needs to be spent in eight months. We obviously have wide needs and potential differences of opinion over how that money can be spent. The federal guidance from Treasury needs to be sorted out. So, there's a lot up in the air.

Peter Biello: 
And, you know, in terms of impacts to the budget, they appear to be pretty big, certainly this is unprecedented. When it comes to the budget. Are we in store perhaps for any permanent changes in state government policies or even how it operates?

Well, I think that's a good question. You know, if you listen to Governor Sununu yesterday during his briefing, he was asked about the university system and he indicated that this was gonna be a chance for the university system to potentially, you know, the implication was permanently rethink its operations regarding distance learning, the capacity for students to meet on campus, create a viable revenue model, basically. And you look at the public schools under distance learning. I mean, Commissioner Frank Edelblut is real advocate of kind of nontraditional education and you can see that he sees this disruption in the school year as as a way to test policies. And so, you know, that's one thing it's going to be interesting to look at, as is when things get more back to normal. And senator soucy is absolutely right. Nobody has a crystal ball in terms of the forecasting of state revenues. But the indications are there are going to be hundreds of millions of dollars that that may not be there. And that's going to require different ways of looking at how the state deliver theits services. There's a lot we don't know about what still could come from Washington. But you could you could hear Governor Sununu talking about higher education yesterday that, you know, perhaps he's looking at systemic changes. And, you could you could point to any number of large like kind of big ticket budget items. Obviously, healthy human services needs don't go away dDuring a pandemic. But, you know, the costs need to be borne. And there's a there's a lot we don't know and a lot's going to come out in this governors kind of GOFERR process. You know, the role of the legislature is still a bit murky at this point.

Peter Biello: 
And so what would be the legislature's biggest challenges at this point, especially if they're unable to resume normal activities for some time.

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I would've been curious to hear from Senator Soucy exactly what the Senate, the 24 members, they could plausibly meet. You know, the House is a different ballgame we're talking 400 members. And, you know, when this Covid disrupted business as usual is really one of the busiest times of the year for the legislature when they were trading bills, about to trade bills from one chamber to another. The House finished most of its work. There were many, many bills coming out of the Senate that were top priorities for Democrats that they were hoping to get back on Governor Sununu's desk. And it's unclear if and when that's going to happen. And these ran the gamut in terms of issues that were, An issue dear to Senator Soucy of raising the minimum wage. We know what the governor thinks about that. But there were bills on topic after topic area. And who knows if they're going to reemerge.

Peter Biello: 
So really quickly, Josh, what we'll be watching for in the next couple of weeks.

Josh Rogers: 
Well, I mean, I beat my full time beat is basically covering Governor Sununu, I'm going to the briefings trying to get a handle on the GOFERR committee process, going to be scrutinizing the federal guidance. You could hear Senator Soucy hoping for more flexibility there than Governor Sununu seems to be envisioning. So it's going to be the effects of covered on state and local governments.

Peter Biello: 
NHPR senior political reporter, Josh Rogers. Thank you very much for joining us.

Josh Rogers: 
You're welcome, Peter.

Peter Biello: 
And that's it for today. But the conversation about the state's response to covid, 19, continues online at our Facebook page, which is NHPR Exchange, as well as our Web site, NHPR.org. The show's producers are Jessica Hunt and Christina Phillips. Senior producer is Ellen GRIMM. Michael Brinley is our program manager. And our regular theme music was composed by Bob Lorde engineer, today is Dan Colgin. I'm Peter Biello. Thank you very much for listening and have a great weekend.

Peter Biello: 
The New Hampshire statehouse has been closed for weeks, legislative work suspended out of an abundance of caution. Still, there has been activity as state lawmakers track the economic and health impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic. Certain lawmakers have been meeting and voting remotely, and some top Democratic lawmakers recently sued Governor Sununu over who should control federal coronavirus relief funds. A superior court judge this week ruled that the Democrats lacked standing to pursue the case. But there is agreement among lawmakers of both major parties and Governor Sununu that state revenues will plummet due to the coronavirus crisis. What to do about that has been under debate. Today on the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup. We talk with two top state senators. Senate President Donna Soucy, Democrat from Manchester, joins us by phone. And Senator Jeb Bradley, Republican of Wolfeboro, joins us by Skype. Later in the hour, NHPR's senior political reporter, Josh Rogers will share his insights with us. Senator Bradley. Senator Soucy, welcome to the program.

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Good morning. I hope you are well and all your listeners as well.

Peter Biello: 
Thank you very much. Appreciate you being on the program today. Lots to talk about. We'll start with some of the scary news that we heard this week, because over the past few days, state officials reported more than 180 new positive Covid 19 cases and nine deaths. Wednesday was the deadliest day so far. Ninety nine confirmed cases, six deaths. Senator Bradley, when you hear about these kinds of numbers, I don't know if you'd call it a spike. What crosses your mind?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, obviously, the human toll on people that have contracted the coronavirus and succumb to it is staggering, not only in New Hampshire but across our nation, and our heart goes out to everyone and everyone's family who has had to deal with this situation. Clearly, that's the case. The one thing I think that needs to be remembered is we're also ramping up the number of tests that we're doing in New Hampshire. The state epidemiologist, Dr. Chan, talked at a press conference with Governor Sununu yesterday and said that we've doubled the number of tests that we're doing. So obviously, more positives are going to come back. And there was an interesting study that was on the news yesterday about the number of tests that were done randomly in New York cities, that the penetration of the virus for people that didn't really have significant symptoms was, I believe, something approaching 20 percent. So I think as we do more testing, we're going to see more positives.

Peter Biello: 
And Senator Soucy, how about you? When you hear numbers like that, what goes through your mind?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, certainly the human toll is extraordinary, the number of people that are severely ill is just painful for those individuals, for their family, for all of us in the community. And we have to continue to work to ensure that we as policymakers enact policies and provide guidance to keep people as safe as possible and to try to minimize as much as possible the spread of this very virulent and deadly disease.

Peter Biello: 
And Senator Bradley, do you know if the state is still expecting a surge?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, I think that according to what Dr. Chan again and the governor said, we are at a more of a plateau situation like a lot of other states have plateaued. I don't think yet our cases are starting to trend downward, but more at a plateau. That being said, Boston and the environs of Boston are one of the nation's hot spots right now, so I think it bears watching as we start to contemplate what businesses can safely reopen. I think we need to be pushing toward reopening, but it needs to be done safely and I think we can do that. But also knowing, that Boston's a hot spot, which up in my neck of the woods is why, you know, I'm getting so many phone calls about whether campgrounds should open on May 4th. Well, no, they could be open now. And so people are pretty concerned about that situation clearly up in the Lakes region, and the Mount Washington Valley.

Peter Biello: 
Liisteners, we will be talking at some point in this hour about the conditions under which it would be safe to reopen this day. And if things were opened up, would you as a citizen feel comfortable going out into the world? Would that make sense for you? Give us a call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 or e-mail exchange at NHPR dot org. Senator Soucy, I wanted to ask you about Manchester's Covid 19 cases. They've now climbed to 348. You were once chair of the Manchester Fire Commission. What are you hearing from the city's first responders, if anything?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I'm hearing an awful lot and keeping in touch with the mayor. Manchester is fortunate in that we have excellent city department heads and employees who are working really diligently. Manchester opened our own emergency operations center very early on, coordinated by our fire chief police chief and our health director. Manchester has its own help line. We are doing everything we can and we continue to face challenges, certain populations that have greater struggle, certainly the homeless population in Manchester has great struggles at this time. And our ability to try to keep people safely socially distant and segregated from each other, particularly when they test positive, continues to be a challenge. We have people that are now moving to tents and camps outdoors along the Merrimack River. That's of great concern. But I have to say, the response in the city of Manchester, not just by our public employees, but also by community leaders and businesses that have stepped up, has just been extraordinary.

Peter Biello: 
Would you say that that first responders in Manchester have what they need to deal with the large number of cases in Manchester?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I think every community in Manchester is no different is still struggling with personal protective equipment, PPE. Some pieces are more easily obtainable than others. There's there's a constant change of what's needed. I hear that right now, gowns are what most in shortage, but we continue to do the best that we can. First responders certainly are on the frontlines of picking people up and of responding in their homes and are really in grave danger and need to make sure that they have the equipment that they need. The situation here is not as bad, but I know that it continues to change on a nearly daily basis.

Peter Biello: 
And Senator Soucy, earlier this month, DHHS announced 37 residents and 13 staff members at Hanover Hill Nursing Home tested positive for Covid 19. Four people have died. Coronavirus related deaths in long term care facilities, including nursing homes, have really soared across the country. To your knowledge, who's keeping track of conditions at these facilities here in New Hampshire?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
My understanding is that the department has been working with each of the nursing homes and trying to ensure that all of them and I believe to the best of their ability are maintaining safety precautions. There are struggles, though, significant struggles with PPE. That's one of the things I hear most often is that a lot of nursing homes find that their employees are having to re-use PPE. There are extraordinary struggles within a facility like that to properly segregate. I think they are doing the very best that they can, but it is such an insidious disease once it gets in from the outside and the problem is that so many people present as asymptomatic before they they do have symptoms and can be carrying and can be spreading the disease. And we believe that's potentially the case in some of our facilities that it may have been brought in. But I think probably one of the greatest tragedies with particularly long term care facilities is that some of these people, when they do contract the disease and are suffering and have passed, have been without loved ones. The nursing homes have tried, have banned people from visiting. Obviously, you know, somebody is end of life, they try to make exceptions. But there have been many instances where loved ones are literally outside of window, standing in the rain, watching someone as they passed and as they suffer. And that's just an extraordinary tragedy.

Peter Biello: 
So it's certainly a tough aspect for those families involved there. Let's talk a little bit about health care. That's been a major focus during this coronavirus pandemic. Senator Bradley, you are on the health care reform oversight committee, which met this week. The discussion got pretty technical. But what should health care consumers know about the presentation by the insurance department, especially since we're in the midst of this pandemic?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, that was an application for a waiver to the state's Medicaid plan for the individual insurance market so that we can actually reduce the cost to people that have an individual insurance plan. So it really doesn't apply persay to the corona virus. I think the governor and the insurance department did a really good job of presenting this. There was bipartisan support for it. In fact, it was unanimous support. I can spend 10 minutes just talking about how we got to the place that we're at. I think what people should know about how Covid related insurance is working is that insurance companies are going to pay the costs of testing and treatment as part of, you know, how people are insured. And so if you have insurance, clearly these are going to be covered expenses. And I think that should provide some relief. Now, that being said, with over one hundred thousand people in New Hampshire having lost their jobs, a number of those people are also going to have lost their health insurance coverage as part of that. So that's something that we're clearly going to have to deal with on an ongoing basis. And another reason why we've got to get our economy started up again is safely but as quickly as possible.

Peter Biello: 
And Senator Soucy, you attended a meeting recently of the governor's office of Emergency Relief and Recovery. And leaders in the health care industry spoke, including hospital and nursing home officials. What struck you about that meeting? Were there any surprises?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
The challenge that hospitals face was really quite extraordinary in that we have done a great deal to prepare for a significant surge and we expected our hospitals to be overflowing. We've set up surge centers separate from the hospital in case we need those extra spaces. So in one respect, from the public health point of view, I think we are doing a good job of trying to manage. And I think people in general are very responsible, wearing masks, staying at home, doing all of those important things. But in order to clear out the hospitals, they had to forego all elective procedures. They had to purchase equipment, stock up, get ready for that surge. And when the surge hasn't happened, it's created on the one hand, a public health outcome that's good in that fewer people need the service. But beyond that, it's created an extraordinary financial burden on the hospitals and they are losing upwards of 200 to 250 million dollars a month. The nursing homes are also in a very critical time because admissions are down. There's a concern that people are are foregoing some of the needed care and they're having a great deal of difficulty, certainly because people that typically would enter a long term care facility simply for rehabilitation post surgery are not able to have the surgery, therefore not going in for the treatment that they need. We are going to have, I believe, a significant amount of pent up health care needs. What were procedures that were deemed elective at the time are becoming more chronic over time. So when we do sort of transition back into allowing hospitals to perform other types of procedures, I think we're going to see a significant number of people that have much more chronic health conditions than they did back in early March. And that's going to be another burden on the health care system. It's going to be significant for us to overcome.

Peter Biello: 
Listeners, give us a call if you have questions or comments for Senators Bradley or Soucy. Our number, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. We're still going to talk about small businesses in just a little bit, but we want to stay on the subject of health and health policy for for another moment, because Barbara wrote in to say, it seems to make sense and it would be great for Governor Sununu to call for a policy requiring the wearing of masks, making it mandatory. I'd love to get your take on it, Senator Bradley and Senator Soucy, we'll start with you. Senator Bradley, what do you think?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, I think that in New Hampshire, certainly as I'm going out to supermarkets, which is largely about the only thing that Karen and I do right now, virtually everybody is wearing a mask without a requirement. And so I think that the public health officials, starting with Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci in the Corona Virus Task Force in the White House to commission lori shibinette, and Dr. Chan and Governor Sununu have done a really good job across the country of educating people about the need for masks. I don't know that we have law enforcement resources to enforce mandatory mask wearing. That being said, virtually everybody that I'm seeing out and about is doing it if they're within any kind of proximity of that 6 foot guideline. I think that one of the reasons that I believe that we'll be able to open businesses and other things over time and safely is because people are learning. Businesses are learning. And so it's those six foot rule, the hygiene rule, the wearing the mask, the wearing the gloves. People are adapting to this in New Hampshire in the live free or die spirit. And I think that's what you're seeing. And I think it's working fairly well, which is why we have not seen the spike in cases that was predicted two or three weeks ago. It's still bad, but it could have been a heck of a lot worse.

Peter Biello: 
I respect your experience there, seeing most or I guess all people you've seen have been wearing masks.

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Not all people, but most people. I mean, I think it depends on exactly where you are. If you're, you know, in the parking lot walking into the supermarket, it's not necessary to wear a mask. Once you get into the supermarket, it's certainly a lot smarter to wear the mask. And I think most people are wearing the masks at that point. Because remember what the guidelines say it's a mask when you're potentially closer than six feet. So if you're staying away six feet or more, it's not as necessary according to what the CDC guidelines say.

Peter Biello: 
Fair enough. I will say, too, that I have seen people without masks at a few different places around Concord ends. I'm just curious, like, do you think that maybe a mandatory policy would, it wouldn't, of course, capture everybody, but it would maybe force a few of those people who aren't wearing masks to maybe put one on and change their behavior a little bit. And that may flatten the curve or maintain the plateau or even drop the number of cases that we're seeing.

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, again, I think, you know, based on my own experience and certainly, you know, as I'm talking to people throughout the state and I'm sure Senator Soucy is doing that, too, most people are wearing masks. You don't have to have an N95 mask, a cloth mask works. I have a business in my district that makes hiking gear Ragged Mountain in Conway. They do an incredible job. People aren't buying a lot of hiking gear right now, so they are making masks, cloth masks that are very easy to use. You're seeing more and more people using that type of mask for the CDC guidelines. Again, if you make it mandatory, you're going to be asking our first responders, and Senator Soucy was exactly right about that. They're overstressed right now, just trying to do everything else that they have to do. And forcing a mask policy becomes difficult. And I think one of the key things and I think Senator Soucy hit on that is it's not just our first responders. It's all of our essential service workers, people at grocery stores, people in the post office, at gas stations, the hardware stores. They are stepping up big time to serve the rest of us and to try to take care of their friends and neighbors who are abiding by the stay at home orders for the actual vast majority of the time. They deserve a huge thank you.

Peter Biello: 
Senator Soucy, I wanted to get your opinion on the issue Mandatory masks and mask policy.

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
You know, I have the same concern Senator Bradley has about trying to enforce it. I really am secluding significantly at home. I've gotten delivery. People have come with masks and gloves to deliver food, groceries. But I am seeing and when I go out and walks from my home, I am seeing a significant amount of compliance. I am seeing, you know, all families walking together, wearing masks, separating. I do think that we need more of a push, though. Obviously, this past weekend, the rally that occurred in front of the state house was very concerning. If even a few of those people were wearing masks. But there are a lot of people still that don't seem to be complying. And I think we should do something to give them a little more of a push if they don't want to protect themselves, they shouldn't be exposing others.

Peter Biello: 
So what what would could that push be, if not a mandatory order to wear masks in public?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
I think that a mandatory. But the enforcement component would be the the challenge.

Peter Biello: 
Because Governor Sununu has promised the public, too, that he's not going to enforce in any way the stay at home order.

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Correct. Correct. And yet I think most people comply with that, but it is in order and I think we could do something similar with respect to masks where it's an order. Most people comply with the law when there's an order. It certainly, I think would increase the number of people that do wear them in public.

Peter Biello: 
Just to note the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, UFCW, which represents grocery store workers, has asked the CDC to issue mandatory guidelines protecting grocery stores and other workers they represent, asking for mandatory mask wearing. So far as far as we know, there hasn't been a response. Let's talk to our listeners. We'd love to get listener comments here on the show and talk to Tim in Portsmouth. Tim, thanks for calling. What's on your mind?

Tim (caller): 
Good morning, thanks for taking my call. I'm calling from Portland. But I actually I live in Mount Vernon and I am as a selectman over in Mount Vernon. And on Monday night, we had Zoom meeting and we had our emergency management director, who is also our police chief, talked to us about everything covod. And he brought us up to date. As of Monday, he told us the state was testing 440 people a day. You have to be symptomatic to get the test. And he also told us, and this was a shock to me, that there was a six thousand test backlog in the state of New Hampshire. And I mean, this is as of Monday. That that would mean that if we did the arithmetic four hundred tests a day, a Six thousand tests backlog, that that would mean that it could take fifteen days to get the results for a test. And this doesn't sound right. So I'm hoping your guests can bring us up to date on that situation with the testing backlog in the state. That's all. Thanks.

Peter Biello: 
Sure. Thank you very much for the question time. Really appreciate it. Let me start with you, Senator Soucy. What do you make of Tim's question?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
The six thousand number strikes me as having to do with the number of tests that we were going to do for long term care facility employees in Rockingham and Hillsborough County, that's been particularly hit. That was the number I heard of employees that were attempting to test. My understanding is that since Dartmouth Hospital has come online with their testing capabilities, that our backlog has significantly decreased. To my knowledge, we do not have a backlog that significant either at the public health lab or at Dartmouth. And we have other entities the state is contracted with convenient MD and and there are other private providers that are doing it. So I can't speak specifically to where the police chief got his information. I don't believe it's accurate at this time. But certainly on the issue of testing, there's a lot more that needs to be done. I think we do need to do more significant testing, and I think that's a critical component if we are going to get back into, you know, what life was like before, how our transition works. Our transition will be dependent upon our ability to do more testing.

Peter Biello: 
Senator Bradley, what do you make of Tim's comments about testing?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, I think it's old data. We have doubled the amount of testing that's occurring every day in New Hampshire, it's about eight hundred to nine hundred per day and it's ramping up. Senator Soucy is right. Dartmouth Hospital has done a great job of getting their lab up to speed. The public health lab of the state is churning out more tests right now too and as our nation has more testing capability that is obviously going to come to New Hampshire. For the first few weeks of the pandemic, I think it was absolutely essential that we test people on the front lines, you know, health care workers, long term care workers, hospitals, first responders. That's what we did. As well as people that were showing symptoms. But now. as we're wrapping it up, we're going to be able to test more people in the coming weeks, and that is a key ingredient of how we're going to be able to open up our economy. We're going to have to have adequate protective gear, which we're making a lot of progress on. We're gonna have to show that our downward trajectory of new cases based on the amount of testing is not growing. And then we're gonna have to have adequate hospital capacity and adequate testing capacity. And I think, you know, Governor Sununu is doing a really good job of bringing all of this together. And I think, as you know, the governor leads the state in this effort. This is going to be the key ingredient for getting our economy back on track. People are scared to death right now that the shutdown is going to just last forever. They're going to lose their small business. They're not going to be able to pay their rent, their mortgage, their food bill, all things that Senator Zusi and I are very, very concerned about. And we have got to be able to move through this and and get people back to work again.

Peter Biello: 
We're speaking today with top Republican and Democratic lawmakers about the state's response to covered 19. Also taking a look back at the week in COVID 19 news. And coming up after a break, we're going to talk a little more about small businesses, the experience of small businesses out there. The P.P.P, the Paycheck Protection Program. And we want to know your experience. If you're a small business owner or if you work at a small business, what's it been like for you? And what would you like to see from state lawmakers about the situation that the Covid 19 pandemic has put you in? The number is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Or e-mail exchange at NHPR dot org. I'm Peter Biello. This is the weekly New Hampshire news roundup. We will be right back.

Monday on the exchange, how the arts and artists are faring during the pandemic, even in the best of times, making a living as an artist can be a challenge. Now arts groups have been canceling and postponing events, closing galleries and studios, but also finding new ways to connect with each other and their audiences. If you are an artist, a dancer, a writer, a painter, a musician. Let us know how you're pressing on during the pandemic. Our e-mail address is exchange at NHPR.org And tune in for that show live at 9:00 on Monday morning on NHPR. Right now, we're talking with a few lawmakers about the week's news. Most of it covid 19 related. On the line with me. Senate President Donna Soucy, Democrat from Manchester. And on Skype with us, Senator Jeb Bradley, Republican of Wolfeboro. Listeners, your questions and comments are welcome. We're going to be talking about small businesses. We're going to be talking about the courts. And we're going to be talking about when it's safe to reopen the New Hampshire economy and how to go about doing that. But first, we want to go to the calls and let's talk to Frank in Bedford. Frank, thank you very much for calling. What's on your mind?

Peter Biello: 
Are you with us, Frank. Oh, I guess you're not there, Frank, sorry about that. Oh I think we might have you after all. Frank, what do you have to say? No, I guess not. Sorry about that. 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 is the number to call if you've got a question or a comment or email exchange at NHPr.org. Let's talk a little bit about small businesses, small businesses, a big part of the state's economy. We know that the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, ran out of money last week for this program. Senator Bradley, what have you been hearing from small businesses about how they feel about the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, I think that people broadly support the payroll protection program, I'm glad to see that Congress finally came together after it ran out of money a week ago. And let's remember, it had only been about a week that money was available to pass a second bite at the apple in terms of payroll protection. That legislation also included more money for testing, which I think is a good thing, and more money for hospitals, which I think is a good thing, which is why it enjoyed bipartisan success in Washington. There are a couple of things that I do think would be helpful to change in the payroll protection plan that would help New Hampshire businesses. And that is you have to expend all the money by June 30th. And so if you're a restaurant or a seasonal type business that's already closed right now and all restaurants are, it's going to be very hard to utilize that by June 30th. I would like to see our federal delegation try to extend that date so that it could be used a little bit longer. I think that would help businesses as they start starting up again. But generally speaking, I think, you know, it has certainly helped people through this crunch. And you're right, Peter. Small businesses, are the backbone of New Hampshire. And we are going to have to be the most business friendly state to get our small businesses back online, because let's face it, with one hundred thousand people in New Hampshire out of work, many of whom work for small businesses, that has got to be a top priority for all of us.

Peter Biello: 
And Senator Soucy, what about you? What have you been hearing from businesses in your district about the PPP or other government response to the coronavirus pandemic?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Certainly have heard an appreciation for the PPP program. Although there were some issues with getting started in the application process, it was a little cumbersome, I think, for some businesses to get in. But I've also heard that it's it's unfortunately not a one size fits all. There are some businesses as Senator Bradley said, particularly restaurants. We heard the other day, hotels in particular, that really can't benefit from this program because the design of the program sort of precludes them from making good use of the funds. So they're looking for alternatives. I think from the state and we're going to have to be creative about how we supplement and enhance some of the services that we're able to provide, particularly to small businesses. The longer this goes on, unfortunately, some businesses I think will continue to struggle. Some may even dissolve, which would be a terrible tragedy for the people that that work for them. But we know that the federal delegation has obviously put more money into the program, which is great, that there are additional resources that I think over time we will be able to assist with. But it is a particular struggle and businesses have had to be innovative. And certainly there's a great deal of innovation here in New Hampshire. I was glad that we were able to help sort of inform the order that the governor had allowing retailers and small booksellers to continue to operate online and provide curbside pickup and delivery. A lot of our businesses have been able to innovate in that way and still provide an important service. But to do it in a safe way for both them and their employees and their customers is is another important part of what's going on. But the transition out of this crisis for small businesses in particular is is going to be a challenge. And I think the challenges are unique for each business sector within the community.

Peter Biello: 
This is the exchange on NHPR. We're speaking with Senators Donna Soucy and Jeb Bradley about the state's response to the Corona virus pandemic. If you've got questions for them, now's the time to call the phone number 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. And let's talk to Pamela and Milton Berle. Thank you very much for calling, Pamela. What's on your mind?

Pamela (caller): 
Good morning. My experience has actually been really different from the representative's experience that you've been talking to. Here in the Lakes region and the Merideth Moultonboreau, Tamworth OSsipee area, the shopping experience that I've had and my neighbors I've been discussing this with, is that less than half of the employees that are both handling, bagging, cashiering, stocking and in the drug stores as well are not wearing any type of protective gear, and this is as recent as yesterday. And so my question is, as employees, can an employer provide some level of, even if it's a bandana, and say, look, if you're going to show up for work, you're dealing with the public, our expectation is that you will be wearing some level of protective gear.

Peter Biello: 
Thank you very much. Really appreciate it. Senator Bradley, Senator Soucy, what do you think?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Clearly, as a condition of work, I think an employer in a pandemic could ask an employee to wear a cloth mask. I think that is very reasonable.

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Absolutely, as a matter of public safety, I think that's a work requirement. Not just for the protection of the public, but for the protection of the individual employees themselves. And we want to make sure that people remain as safe as possible.

Peter Biello: 
This week, Congress passed another I think it was a half trillion dollars worth of assistance. The president is expected to to sign the bill today. Senator Bradley, Senator Soucy, to what extent are you confident that this is going to be sufficient for New Hampshire businesses?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I think that it continues to be incremental. It's hard and staggering to believe that 1.25 billion dollars is not enough to address the concerns and needs of businesses and industries here in New Hampshire But I think the federal government will have to continue to revisit this issue because we have a lot of unknowns. And the longer we stay closed, the way we do, our transition back to allowing businesses to reopen is going to require, I think, additional assistance to get our economy moving back and to get some of these businesses back online. I think one of the other particular challenges that we need to address is some of our supports for workers, for example, child care, childcare is going to be a huge obstacle for people returning to work because children aren't in school, because many child care facilities have closed. And that will be a significant challenge that we are going to need to work to help address. If we are going to transition back into allowing businesses to reopen and to re-engage their workforce.

Peter Biello: 
Let's go to the phones and talk to Alex in Portsmouth. Alex, thanks very much for calling.

Alex (caller): 
Thanks for having me. So my question is, I'm a small business owner, a restaurant in Portsmouth, and we were obviously shut down and are doing takeout delivery. We happen to be a brewpub, so we're able to make some beer and be able to do that as well out the door, which is fortunate for us. I know a lot of other people didn't have that ability. My question is we were able to get the money the PPP loan, but I've been told by my accountant and bank that I need to hire back the same full time headcount that I had before this all started. But I don't have that much work for everyone. And if I was only to bring back a couple of people that that money wouldn't be forgiven, especially the 25 percent that was allocated for rent and utilities. Could you answer some questions regarding that and what's being done to maybe change these policies?

Peter Biello: 
So. So, Alex, you would prefer to not hire everybody back or only pay people for for whom there is actual work rather than pay people to essentially not do all that much? Is that would you prefer.

Alex (caller): 
Not necessarily to not be able to bring everybody back but not everyone feels safe coming back. We're a small restaurant and I don't have as much work to put six people back to work full time. But I could bring back maybe two or three people full time and then be able to increase maybe some delivery options and things of that nature. But the question was, if I didn't bring back all those six people, that that money wouldn't be forgiven.

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
So my understanding is you would have to bring back 75 percent of your full time equivalents in order for the loan to be turned into a grant. Clearly, this was a way to preserve jobs so that people didn't have to go on unemployment, even if there wasn't perhaps as much work for the business owner. One of the other things that I hope Congress can change about the payroll protection program is the 25 percent that a business can use to pay the interest on their loans, their rent and their utility fixed costs and broaden that a little bit so that things like insurance or property taxes or even restocking inventory could fall under that. And maybe some liberalization of, instead of only 25 percent, 40 percent, say, so that it's not just about payroll, which is what it is primarily now for the small business owner, but also about the fixed costs that a business has, because that's going to help the business owner be able to get started effectively if the date is extended, that would help also. And that would save the business and the jobs would be there for people when they come back online in terms of the business opening again. I think those two reforms, if Congress were to work on that, certainly from all the business owners I've been talking to, would be key to making the payroll protection plan work more effectively. Look, let's face it, it was a crisis, having served in Congress dealing with a crisis you just can't think about everything. We have to make adjustments to it after the fact. I think, you know, given the speed that it's happened and now the second tranche of money, it's actually very quick in doing that. But I think these reforms would help make it more effective, at least in New Hampshire's case and I suspect around the country, too.

Peter Biello: 
We're speaking with Democratic and Republican lawmakers today about the state's response to Covid, 19. And we're going to talk about the state budget when we come back, because we've heard dire warnings about what the coronavirus pandemic will do to state finances. To what extent are you concerned about the state's finances? What do you think lawmakers should do about it? Give us a call. We'll try to get into the conversation, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Or send us an email addresses exchange at an HP bar. Not worry. This is the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on the exchange on NHP. I'm Peter Biello. We'll be right back.

Peter Biello: 
This is the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on the exchange on NHP. I'm Peter Biello. On the line with me. Senate President Donna Soucy, Democrat from Manchester. And with us by Skype, Senator Jeb Bradley, Republican from Wolfeboro. Listeners, your questions and comments are welcome. We want to know, where do you stand on reopening New Hampshire economy? What are your concerns about the state budget? Anything else related to Cauvin 19 that you'd like to put to these two lawmakers? Let us know the phone number 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Just a short time left, but let's see what we can talk about in that short time. Of course, we wanna talk about the state budget, $13 billion state budget signed into law last September after a long standoff that was hard won. Recently, Governor Sununu warned of a huge shortfall in revenues in the inevitable budget cuts amounting to half a billion dollars. Senator Soucy, what do you see as being in store for the state budget?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I think we're going to have to evaluate revenues soon. That's becoming a little bit harder because of the necessary delays that were afforded or the extension for business tax payers. But we are going to have to keep a close eye on revenues because not only does it impact the provision of state services, but I'm certainly hearing from local communities that there there is a significant impact to them as well. Take, for example, rooms and meals tax, which generates money, that significant amount of money that's going to be off because restaurants are closed. That money also goes toward direct aid to cities and towns and cities and towns locked in their budgets, many of them, the towns back in March and they were dependent on state revenues. So there is going to be a significant burden felt at the local level if we aren't able to do something to address some of those revenue losses. So we need to evaluate them quickly. The legislature is prepared to do so. We are transitioning into doing some online platform and phone platform meetings of some of our legislative committees. We still have a challenge because we have such a very large legislature of meeting back in full session, but we are doing a great deal of work and we'll continue to work to respond to the needs of New Hampshire citizens and make some budget adjustments through our legislative fiscal committee as needed.

Peter Biello: 
And what before I move on to you, Senator Bradley, I want to just dig in a little deeper, Senator Soucy, about what you might propose as far as how helping the state, as far as revenue is concerned, is there a way to to add a little bit of revenue without impeding the economy as it returns?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I think a significant bone of contention with the guidance that came down from Treasury just this week is that we are not able to, according to them at this time, backfill the budget. I know Senator Hassan did write a letter to Treasury signed by senator Shaheen, Senator Romney, I think there were a couple others, who had been governors in the past. There's no question that the loss of revenue, particularly in meals and rooms, is directly attributable to covid 19. So I think we are hoping for more flexibility from the federal government to try to supplement some of those revenue losses that we incurred. But we have to be very mindful of the fact that we negotiated a good bipartisan budget and there were some priorities in that budget that came from both sides of the aisle. We need to make sure that we are protecting children in particular, that we are working to ensure that our communities don't bear the entire brunt of the loss of revenue. We are going to have to take a very hard look at where those dollars flow from, things like mental health and substance use disorders I would argue are going to be in even greater need as we transition out of this crisis. So those are things we will not be able to sacrifice.

Peter Biello: 
And Governor Sununu has now said publicly that he is not in favor of those business tax cuts, that that would be rolled back. He doesn't want them to be rolled back, even though revenue targets aren't going to be met. What do you think about those business tax cuts?

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I don't think that we know yet whether they're even going to occur. We have to evaluate the revenue stream. It's a little bit more challenging because the deadlines for tax payments have been pushed back. But I don't see whether there will be tax cuts or increases immediately. I don't have a crystal ball and can't tell you that we're going to do that anytime soon. So I think we need to rely on the Department of Revenue Administration and those in state government to help give us a better picture of our economic forecast.

Peter Biello: 
And Senator Bradley, what do you see as looming for the state budget?

Sen. Jeb Bradley: 
Well, I think Governor Sununu has been very clear there is going to be a big revenue shortfall. We are going to have to make some adjustments. I think Governor Sununu has really led effectively during this crisis. He's pumped up money for child abuse during the pandemic. I mean, I think that's something that his leadership has been very effective about. And none of us are going to want to see child abuse and neglect undermined. But at the same time, we also have to recognize that small businesses are being devastated by the pandemic as are hardworking, our friends and neighbors, hardworking New Hampshire citizens. And so, you know, if we open New Hampshire back up for business, the last thing that we need to do is increase the payroll tax that every small business owner has to pay right now: Yeah, you're open again, but we're raising your taxes. We're going to have to figure out how we make all this work. There is talk in Washington of a fourth stimulus plan that would have some moneys for states to allow backfilling of a budget. But the one point two five billion dollars that New Hampshire has gotten from the first CARES Act, I mean, Senator Soucy sort of accurately summed it up at the beginning of this hour. The hospitals are losing $200 million a month. We've got to start small businesses. Our unemployment trust fund is going to be depleted. Food pantries are going to need help. This one point two five billion. The governor is doing a great job along with Commissioner Little and the eight legislators, Senator Soucy is one of them, that are making recommendations on how to spend this money. It has to go out quickly. It has to go out effectively. It is relief for hardworking New Hampshire businesses. We need to get that done. And then, you know, as we're recovering from the pandemic and businesses are open, assess the state budget. But let's not, you know, open back up for business and say welcome back to New Hampshire small business owners, now you're going to pay higher taxes. I don't think that's going to work. That could be the death knell that businesses are faced with.

Peter Biello: 
I appreciate your insights, both of you. The Senate president, Donna Soucy, Democrat from Manchester, and Senator Jeb Bradley, Republican from Wolfeboro. Really appreciate you being here. Thank you very much for answering our questions. It's been great.

Sen. Soucy & Sen. Bradley: 
Thank you. Thank you very much. And I hope everybody safe and is well and healthy and wears a mask when they're out in public voluntarily.

Peter Biello: 
Masks, Hand sanitizers, certainly, perhaps a lot of listeners out there have cracked hands from all the washing of hands. I certainly had that for a little while there. Then I get some moisturizer. I'm good now. Thank you very much. Really appreciate it. Let's turn now to NHPR's, Josh Rogers, who's been listening into the conversation. Josh, thanks very much for being here. Josh, what strikes you about the conversation you just heard? What does it suggest about what we might expect in the weeks and months ahead?

Josh Rogers: 
Well, there's a lot we don't know, obviously, the money, the $1.25 billion has arrived in New Hampshire's treasury. You know, this week there was at least a ruling in the court fight between Democrats, including senator soucy also the House speaker and top Democratic budget writer and the governor over who has the power to approve the acceptance of federal aid and its spending. Judge David Anderson ruled that in a state of emergency, the governor essentially has that power, although I guess he didn't really rule that, he ruled that Democrats lacked standing to sue. And so, you know, there's still kind of a territorial question over who's really in charge. And you could certainly hear in both Senator Soucy and Senator Bradley that they're informed and engaged. But, you know, the legislature hasn't been able to meet for some time. And, you know, apart from direct COVID stuff, we had, you know, dozens of bills out there, policy priorities for both parties that, you know, we don't know what's going to happen to them. And, you know, meanwhile, the governor is by dint of his position really in charge of the relief efforts. The governors, GOFERR committee, that's what he calls it, it's an acronym, that's going to be doling out this money. There are advisory roles for lawmakers, but that's run out of his office. And so we have 1.5 billion dollars that needs to be spent in eight months. We obviously have wide needs and potential differences of opinion over how that money can be spent. The federal guidance from Treasury needs to be sorted out. So, there's a lot up in the air.

Peter Biello: 
And, you know, in terms of impacts to the budget, they appear to be pretty big, certainly this is unprecedented. When it comes to the budget. Are we in store perhaps for any permanent changes in state government policies or even how it operates?

Well, I think that's a good question. You know, if you listen to Governor Sununu yesterday during his briefing, he was asked about the university system and he indicated that this was gonna be a chance for the university system to potentially, you know, the implication was permanently rethink its operations regarding distance learning, the capacity for students to meet on campus, create a viable revenue model, basically. And you look at the public schools under distance learning. I mean, Commissioner Frank Edelblut is real advocate of kind of nontraditional education and you can see that he sees this disruption in the school year as as a way to test policies. And so, you know, that's one thing it's going to be interesting to look at, as is when things get more back to normal. And senator soucy is absolutely right. Nobody has a crystal ball in terms of the forecasting of state revenues. But the indications are there are going to be hundreds of millions of dollars that that may not be there. And that's going to require different ways of looking at how the state deliver theits services. There's a lot we don't know about what still could come from Washington. But you could you could hear Governor Sununu talking about higher education yesterday that, you know, perhaps he's looking at systemic changes. And, you could you could point to any number of large like kind of big ticket budget items. Obviously, healthy human services needs don't go away dDuring a pandemic. But, you know, the costs need to be borne. And there's a there's a lot we don't know and a lot's going to come out in this governors kind of GOFERR process. You know, the role of the legislature is still a bit murky at this point.

Peter Biello: 
And so what would be the legislature's biggest challenges at this point, especially if they're unable to resume normal activities for some time.

Sen. Donna Soucy: 
Well, I would've been curious to hear from Senator Soucy exactly what the Senate, the 24 members, they could plausibly meet. You know, the House is a different ballgame we're talking 400 members. And, you know, when this Covid disrupted business as usual is really one of the busiest times of the year for the legislature when they were trading bills, about to trade bills from one chamber to another. The House finished most of its work. There were many, many bills coming out of the Senate that were top priorities for Democrats that they were hoping to get back on Governor Sununu's desk. And it's unclear if and when that's going to happen. And these ran the gamut in terms of issues that were, An issue dear to Senator Soucy of raising the minimum wage. We know what the governor thinks about that. But there were bills on topic after topic area. And who knows if they're going to reemerge.

Peter Biello: 
So really quickly, Josh, what we'll be watching for in the next couple of weeks.

Josh Rogers: 
Well, I mean, I beat my full time beat is basically covering Governor Sununu, I'm going to the briefings trying to get a handle on the GOFERR committee process, going to be scrutinizing the federal guidance. You could hear Senator Soucy hoping for more flexibility there than Governor Sununu seems to be envisioning. So it's going to be the effects of covered on state and local governments.

Peter Biello: 
NHPR senior political reporter, Josh Rogers. Thank you very much for joining us.

Josh Rogers: 
You're welcome, Peter.

Peter Biello: 
And that's it for today. But the conversation about the state's response to covid, 19, continues online at our Facebook page, which is NHPR Exchange, as well as our Web site, NHPR.org. The show's producers are Jessica Hunt and Christina Phillips. Senior producer is Ellen GRIMM. Michael Brinley is our program manager. And our regular theme music was composed by Bob Lorde engineer, today is Dan Colgin. I'm Peter Biello. Thank you very much for listening and have a great weekend.