Weekly N.H. News Roundup: March 27, 2020 | New Hampshire Public Radio

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: March 27, 2020

Mar 27, 2020

Governor Sununu issues a stay-at-home order until May 4th, and announced schools will remain closed until that date. The federal government is set to enact a $2 trillion stimulus package to support the economy as the coronavirus continues to have widespread impact on the country. And testing challenges for COVID-19 remain in New Hampshire, as healthcare facilities prepare for even more cases. 

Read all of NHPR's coronavirus coverage. 

Air date: Friday, March 27, 2020

GUESTS:

  • Dan Barrick - NHPR's News Director. 
  • Josh Rogers - NHPR's Senior Political rRporter. 
  • Taylor Caswell - Comissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs. 
  • Katie Merrow - Vice President of Community Impact at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. 

Transcript

  This is a machine generated transcript and may contain errors.

Peter Biello:
From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Peter Biello and this is the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on the Exchange.

Peter Biello:
Governor Chris Sununu issued a stay at home order to start at 11:59 this evening and run until May 4th in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Peter Biello:
And he announced that schools also would remain closed and operating remotely until May 4th. Today on the program, we'll take your questions on this and how the federal coronavirus bill could impact New Hampshire. Listeners, How have you been impacted by the coronavirus so far? And what are your questions about it and about the stay at home order?

Peter Biello:
Now, before we get into the details of the stay at home order, here's a quick update on the latest statistics about coronavirus in New Hampshire. As of yesterday evening, health officials announced 21 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 for a statewide total of 158 cases.

Peter Biello:
So far, one person has died. With us this morning for all the information that you may need. Josh Rogers NHPR's senior political reporter. And Dan Barrick NHPR's news director. Dan's joining us by Skype. Thanks to both of you for being here today.

Josh Rogers:
Good morning.

Dan Barrick:
Thank you, Peter.

Peter Biello:
So stay at home order because it's on a lot of people's minds. Let's get into the details of this right away. And again, if you have questions about it still, if you're wondering if you can or can't do a certain thing, give us a call, we'll try to get an answer for you. Governor Sununu explained the details of the stay at home order in his press conference yesterday.

Audio Clip:
This is not a shelter in place. We are not closing down transportation. I'm not closing our borders and no one will be prevented from leaving their home. I want to be clear. No governor can shut down their border. No governor can prohibit another state's residents from entering their state.

Peter Biello:
But governors can close beaches, as he did and announced yesterday at the press conference.

Audio Clip:
Additionally, the state will be closing all state beaches along the seacoast effective midnight on Friday. We cannot stress this enough. You should stay at your house unless absolutely necessary. Of course, it will not prevent you from leaving your home to go on a walk or when heading to the store, or if you need groceries or simply going to work but beyond essential necessities. You should not be leaving your home.

Peter Biello:
And this morning on NHPR's Morning Edition, Governor Sununu expanded on the idea of enforcing such a stay at home order.

Audio Clip:
On the enforcement side, We I don't think anyone in law enforcement wants to be in a position or put themselves in a position where you're forcing people to do X Y and Z. So we're just gonna possibly be reminding folks what the rules are. I think that's probably more what it's going to be. You don't. They haven't had any problems with this in other states, and we don't anticipate that here.

Peter Biello:
So Governor Sununu speaking a little bit about the stay at home order he issued yesterday that goes in place at midnight tonight. Josh Rogers, the governor's resisted issuing such an order for more than a week now. Why was he so resistant?

Josh Rogers:
Well, it was his view that the circumstances in New Hampshire didn't dictate taking that step, which, you know, is a significant step. There was obviously a great number of public health advocates saying that it was the thing to do, particularly if the state is projecting, you know, surge in cases in the next few weeks. And also, I think there was a sense that it was time for New Hampshire to come in greater accord with neighbors, particularly Massachusetts. And if you look at the content of this order, it pretty nearly replicates what's what was issued by Charlie Baker a few days ago. And, you know, I think the governor was hesitant to use this, which is really kind of the last you know, he said you can't really he believes he lacks the power to do anything more severe than this. And so I think he wanted to wait until he felt it was absolutely necessary before taking this step.

Peter Biello:
And what is the difference between a stay at home order and a shelter in place order? This is a stay at home order.

Josh Rogers:
Well, I think it's largely a semantic difference. On the West Coast, some of the orders issued in and around San Francisco were more particular about prohibiting certain people, older people, people with underlying conditions were directed more sternly to not go out. But there are exemptions in all these policies across the country for people to acquire food, for people to acquire medical services, for people to get gas and visit banks. And so, you know, the sort of stay at home versus shelter in place. I mean shelter in place sounds more ominous. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was resistant to using that term for that reason. So I think it's largely a semantic issue. But what the important thing to know is what's what's now the governing policy here in New Hampshire is very much in keeping with what is going on in a lot of states across the country.

Peter Biello:
And what else stood out to you, Josh, about this stay at home order?

Josh Rogers:
Well, you know, some of the decisions the governor made. I mean, certainly a lot of the, you know, there're economic effects to all of this that, you know, are unknowable at this point. Some of the some of the designations about what are essential and nonessential businesses are something that we're still really scrutinizing. You know, you have the Business and Industry Association, for instance, they said they were neutral on this concept, but were concerned prior to the issuance of this order about what businesses would and wouldn't be covered. You know, this morning, the Retail Merchants Association, for instance, they're asking for greater flexibility for nonessential retailers to potentially get permission to sell things curbside or by preorder. And, you know, it's gonna be interesting to watch because the governor is also stressing that this is a living document. So, you know, people can make requests that, you know, perhaps they should be considered essential or perhaps or some way they could safely operate. And so it's gonna be interesting to watch what happens on that front.

Peter Biello:
Dan Barrick, can I turn to you for your impression on the stay at home order?

Dan Barrick:
Sure. I mean, I mean, I think Josh is right that in terms of how the governor got here, if you've been following the governors progress on this issue over the last two weeks, it's been, you know, in some parts very deliberate in terms of saying that a certain step wasn't yet necessary.

Dan Barrick:
He wasn't quite comfortable with it. And then as other states adopted it, taken that same step for New Hampshire, whether it be closing the schools, closing restaurants and bars to in-person dining and now this stay at home order. I mean, the governor did take great pains to try to specify that in his view, this was not the same as a shelter in place. What the practical difference between those two terms are is is really difficult to see. But I think he he went to great pains to emphasize that, you know, that this order was not going to be something that would be enforced. You know, at by local police that it was in his term in keeping with kind of more of an emphasis, a series of recommendations and in urging folks to use their own, you know, their own common sense in their behavior. And that's how he really sees and I think hopes that this order will be will be carried out by folks.

Peter Biello:
So this is not going to be a situation where police are stopping people out on the street or pulling them over, asking, hey, where you going, where you going there? Show us some kind of you know, I want to say, like Hall Pass right to, to say that you are allowed to be to be going wherever you happen to be going.

Dan Barrick:
Well, that's you know, the governor was asked that explicitly both yesterday at the press conference and this morning on our air by by Rick Ganley And he said, no, that is not what he intending that police will not be harassing people, that folks will, you know, the order still does allow people to go to go exercise, to go for walks, to even visit, check in on family and friends, but that he does not expect it will be enforced by police. But the order does the order that he signed and released late last night does say specifically that that division of public health and state or local police, quote, shall have the authority to enforce this order. So I'm just curious to I think there are some questions about what whether, in fact, we will see any kind of any kind of enforcement whatsoever? We've not seen, you know, in other states, you know, widespread reports of, you know, sort of police having to get involved to try to limit behavior. But you know that nationally we're still sort of really in the first few days of really trying to understand how these how these orders from state to state are reshaping public life.

Peter Biello:
Josh Rogers, what is the impact of this stay at home order, if any, on the state legislature?

Josh Rogers:
Well, the state legislature announced yesterday that the suspend the current suspension on legislative activities extended in keeping with the stay at home order through May 4th. And you know, in a joint release sent out by House Speaker Steve Shurtleff and Senate President Donna Soucy, they said that the general court has extended the suspension of all legislative activities. The state house and legislative office building will remain close to legislative members, legislative staff and visitors through May 4th. And so, you know, this is a busy time of year typically at the legislature. And, you know, at some point the legislature and the governor are going to have to get together to discuss impacts on state services. You know, prior to his declaration of a state of emergency, the governor had wrote written to top lawmakers saying that, you know, the budgetary impacts on the state were going to be large and that that he had directed state agency heads to prepare plans to reduce spending, to freeze hiring, to limit nonessential activities by the state, and that he was reserving the right to not implement policies that didn't seem practicable. And so, you know, this is something to watch. And, you know, there's hope certainly that federal dollars are going to offset some losses at the state level. But, you know, the governor is has not been shy about saying that this is going to have a catastrophic effect on the state's finances. And a lot of the revenues that come into the state are dependent on things like the rooms and meals tax. You know, liquor stores are still open, but there's a lot of tourism related money. And certainly when businesses close, businesses can't pay business taxes very well. And so, you know, all of that remains unknowable right now.

Peter Biello:
We got a note from Martha in Alexandria who who says, I live in a very rural area. I'm in my 80s under the stay at home order. May I go outside to one walk my dog with no interaction with other people and two work in my garden?

Josh Rogers:
Absolutely.

Peter Biello:
Those two things are OK, Penelope in Alexandria. Also, ask us regarding the stay at home order. I have a private art studio outside that and I interact with absolutely nobody there. Can I still go? Seems like that would also be a yes.

Josh Rogers:
I would think so. I mean it. I mean, I guess it would depend on the location. But I mean, if you're in Alexandria, I'm assuming this is on the grounds of her property.

Peter Biello:
Yep. Outside the home. So...

Josh Rogers:
Yes, that would be fine.

Peter Biello:
So, of course, we're in a tricky position, Josh.. Asking you to interpret this 11 page document of exempt, exempt in places and professions that are that are essential people and the reasons that people can go outside. I'm sure people have a lot of questions about that.

Dan Barrick:
But Peter, we should note that the order does include, I guess, what you could call an appeal process where somebody feels that their business has been improperly or unfairly excluded from this, that they can they can e-mail and call the state. And I'm assuming that that same process will allow for clarification for for folks like this. So people who who are confused or not sure or want to make sure they stay on the right side of this order should should certainly take advantage that they can find a link to the order in our coverage on our Web site.

Peter Biello:
NHPR dot org's the place to go for that. Then, of course, we'll we'll answer your questions as best as we can if you have them. Josh, you mentioned that the the federal help that that may plug holes in the budget. Dan, I wanted to ask you a little bit about this 2 trillion dollar stimulus package or emergency relief package that's designed to help lessen the economic impact of this coronavirus outbreak. The House is expected to take it up as early as today. Dan, what will this package do for individuals and households?

Dan Barrick:
You're right. It's a vast package and it's meant to cover a lot of ground, small businesses, the health care sector and individual taxpayers. So as written right now, the bill would would send direct payments from the federal government to individuals. Folks who earn less than seventy five thousand dollars a year would get a check for twelve hundred dollars. That would double to twenty four hundred dollars for couples who are under one hundred fifty thousand dollars a year. Families with children under the ages of 16 or younger would get an additional five hundred dollars per payment per per child. Those payments would phase out the higher you go in the income scale. So those who earn more than ninety nine thousand dollars a year for an individual would would not be getting any. And that would be based off of your most recent IRS tax filing, federal tax filing.

Peter Biello:
Ok. And is there anything being done in this package for small businesses?

Dan Barrick:
Yeah, there's a that's a big part of it. There's about Three hundred twenty five billion dollars kind of earmarked to support small businesses defined I believe that 500 employees or less. At the heart of it makes eligible around 8 weeks of I guess you call cash flow assistance through federal loans to help those businesses keep workers on the payroll to cover payroll costs and other interests on mortgage obligations, rent, utilities that and it's meant to incentivize business to keep folks on the payroll, that it's that a good chunk of those loans would be forgiven if they're used to cover payroll cost and some of those other expenses that I mentioned. And it also would be retroactive to the middle of February, February 5th. So that's, I think, in theory companies that bring back workers who had already been laid off. They bring you back on the payroll that they could they could still be eligible for that assist for that loan assistance.

Peter Biello:
And how about hospitals, health care workers? Are they going to need any assistance from this stimulus package or relief bill?

Dan Barrick:
Yeah, that's a big part of it as well. I think there's about 130 billion dollars earmarked for the health care system across the country. You know, anticipating, you know, a real rise in patients heading to those facilities. And already what we're seeing in some parts of the country, a real, you know, hitting the capacity, exceeding the capacity of these facilities that treat patients. The governor has also announced a separate 50 million dollar emergency fund for hospitals just in New Hampshire. So, you know, that could be some money coming, you know, towards those facilities. But, you know, that could offset what we've already seen. A lot of hospitals that are that are forgoing or delaying elective surgeries, which are revenue generators for hospitals as they've had to push those off into the future to make make that space for four COVID-19 patients that, you know, a lot of hospitals are concerned about their bottom lines in the coming months. But, you know, one of the big, big concerns facing those institutions is really just the equipment that they feel they need to to treat patients, you know, not only bed space, but the personal protective gear. We've been hearing about masks, very basic stuff like that, as well as more more, you know, sort of dire things like ventilators and other lifesaving equipment. That is obviously part of a much bigger national conversation about how to rush those to the places that need them most.

Peter Biello:
We got this comment from Michelle in Lee. She writes, My son and I went to the grocery store yesterday and it was a joke. We walked in with gloves on with the intention of staying six feet away from people. There was no way to do that. And other than a couple of people wearing face masks, people seemed to be acting like it was business as usual. On the way home, I was listening to the governor commending people on how well they are practicing social distancing in grocery stores. I understand that he needs to put a positive spin on things, but he obviously is not out in the real world and is putting our state's economic health above our personal health. We can recover from an economic hit, but we can't bring back the dead. He needs to pull the band aid off and have us shelter in place instead of this slow bleed method he is currently using. That's the comment from Michelle. And we want to put that to you, Josh. Have you been hearing this sentiment from other people in your reporting on Governor Sununu's comments?

Josh Rogers:
Well, there's certainly lots of people concerned about the public health implications of continued circulation. You know, I think the governor would say that he's actually far more limited than some members of the public would believe in terms of actually enforcing behaviors.

Peter Biello:
So he couldn't issue a shelter in place.

Josh Rogers:
Well, but I mean, what would that what would that mean? It would still allow for exemptions to go to the supermarket. And yes, I suppose private supermarkets could be more stringent about enforcing policies about social distancing. And I was in the supermarket yesterday. And, you know, while it's easy to lapse into one's typical marketing mode, I will say in the instance that I was at a market basket, I was watching people endeavor to mostly stay six feet away. There were people give each other space at the checkout and there were there were signs up encouraging people. I mean, this is you know, this is not something that businesses have experienced. It's certainly not something that, you know, New Hampshire state government has experienced before or the federal government in, you know, a century, really. And so it's you know, people are learning as they go. And it is interesting, when I was driving back from the governor's press conference, for instance, I was driving it was up at the safety academy and driving back down to downtown Concord. And, you know, the governor just issued this order effective this evening. And I'm driving by Concord skate park. And there are kids skateboarding and there are people certainly closer than six feet together sitting there looking rather carefree. And, you know, a lot of this is on people individually. You know, so it's it's a tough situation and certainly put people's public health concerns are entirely warranted.

Let's go to Sis in Goffstown. Sis, Thanks for calling. What's on your mind?

Caller:
What's on my mind is I believe they're being given a grace period to pay income taxes to the state. I know we are federal and I can't get my I can't have my taxes done now. I can't get out to do it.

Peter Biello:
Ok, yeah. Good question. Thank you very much. Dan, Josh, have you heard anything on that front?

Dan Barrick:
Yes, the governor the governor has said that he is. He is delay Well, is I believe contemplating much. He's actually issued the order yet, but contemplating similar to the federal move, putting off various tax state tax deadlines that are coming up for that very reason. I'm not sure that order has come out yet.

Dan Barrick:
Josh, do you know.

Josh Rogers:
I don't think this has come out. And I know Sis mentioned the term income tax and obviously people are paying taxes that are derived potentially from their income. But I mean, I don't know whether you're talking about, you know, a business tax that you know. Well, it can be seen as that way. But I mean, the governor would be pretty strenuous in saying, you know, New Hampshire doesn't have a broad base income tax.

Peter Biello:
Right, but some with dividend income, for example, would have to pay that and there's a deadline for that.

Dan Barrick:
I mean, that's the governor did you know, he said earlier this week that he's exploring it and it his language he essentially it sounds as though this is something that he would likely to do.

Josh Rogers:
It's likely.

Dan Barrick:
Yeah. Yeah.

Peter Biello:
Well, listeners, we're endeavoring to get answers to your questions about the stay at home order and anything else having to do with the coronavirus life under the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peter Biello:
We're going to talk a little bit more in the hour about the business climate, what this means for the economy here in New Hampshire. And we'll also take your questions as they come in. I'm Peter Biello. We'll be right back.

Peter Biello:
This is the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on the Exchange on NHPR. I'm Peter Biello. Right now, we're talking, of course, about the Coronavirus and where we are in this moment in time. We want to hear from you about your questions, your concerns, your stories of how your life has been disrupted by this. Talk with us now, Josh Rogers NHPR's Senior political reporter and Dan Barrick joining us by Skype. He's NHPR's news director.

Peter Biello:
We got this comment from Judy, who writes, My husband has this idea about distancing in supermarkets. The aisles could be made one way so that people wouldn't have to pass each other so close.

Peter Biello:
You know what, Judy? I would recommend that for times when we are not under a pandemic, that might be a good idea. Let's also talk to Nick in Derry. Nick, thanks very much for calling. What's on your mind?

Caller:
Oh, yeah. I just have to work from home and my wife has been classified an essential worker. She's a social worker. But we've got two small kids, kindergarten and pre-school the one the son has an IEP for speech therapy. So those schools closed there, although learning is remote, but remote learning, they don't have like a teacher online. He could even get the kids to focus online for kindergarten. So while we're still working, I there's still the kids aren't getting any education because there's there's no way that I don't have time to teach them. And when I get off of work, I pick them up from daycare, I get them back home and there's pretty much an hour or two before they have to go to bed. So.

Peter Biello:
So a little bit challenging to to make sure your kids stay on on the path that they were on in this new virtual reality they have to be educated in. Nick, thanks very much for your call. Really appreciate that. Josh, Dan, you're both parents. I don't know how old your children are or whether or not they're they're in preschool or school. But how how is it how's it for you guys?

Josh Rogers:
Depends on who you ask.

Josh Rogers:
You know, really are the challenges of adjusting to so-called distance learning that we're all navigating. Some, like Nick, have challenges that may extend beyond those many parents face. I mean, certainly the implementation of IEPs independent education programs at a distance is a challenge that state education officials acknowledge and you know, we're hoping to potentially address by providing services that that could involve actually in-person support. I know that that, you know, we are still early on on a distance learning from. But those are those are clearly big challenges.

Peter Biello:
Dan, how about you?

Dan Barrick:
Yeah. I mean, I think what Nick's voice is probably something I'll be very familiar to many parents in the state right now, regardless of, you know, kind of how old their kids are or what their specific needs are. You know, schools closed officially two weeks ago. The first week was was meant as kind of a preparatory period for teachers and districts to to gather curriculum and get it out to to families. You know, the the idea of distance learning is one thing. How well different, you know, what kind of that resources families have. Do they have Internet in their home? Do they have access to the, the technology that much of the remote learning relies on, both the governor and the state education commissioner Frank Edelblut have emphasized that, you know, not all remote learning needs to be happening through a computer screen, that there are you know handouts and packets and books, all of which is true. But but, you know, the sheer fact is all of this work is happening in homes, in situations in which families, you know, many parents are already they're, either working from home or still working at now essential businesses and under environments that are that make it very challenging to oversee the work of children.

Dan Barrick:
I think, you know, our reporters are starting to to, you know, gather, you know, talk to folks about what this looks like in some cases. You know, some real success stories and others, lots of frustration. I think now, especially with the governor extending school closures into May and and very possibly through the end of the school year, we were really, really just at the tip of this, just understanding what this means for the quality and the equity of education being delivered across the state. And what'll it mean for just the progress, progress on school kids? You're not only here in New Hampshire, but across the country. We still really don't understand how well this is being played out, implemented family by family, household by household.

Peter Biello:
Listeners, if you're just tuning in I want to recap what we're talking about. We're getting the stay at home order. Governor Sununu issued the stay at home order that goes into effect tonight. Sununu says the move won't force people to remain inside or empower police to confront people who are outside their homes. But it will close nonessential businesses until at least May 4th. Sununu also ordered all state beaches closed and extended the closure of public schools in New Hampshire to at least May 4th. We've got more details on this, including a link to the list of what is considered by the state to be essential workers at NHPR dot org. Let's talk to John in Somersworth. John, thanks very much for calling. What's on your mind?

Caller:
Hi. So I just have a couple of questions. First, you know, with the whole stay at home order, you know, everyone. First off, I'm a driver for an insurance company, so I am technically considered a logistics worker, which is considered one of the essential jobs. You know, everyone that I know that is in that department or whatnot is, you know, technically still working. But I'm the one that's really on the road more often, not because of what I do. I mean, I'm seeing like state troopers and, you know, sheriffs and stuff sitting underneath underpasses on the highways and stuff.

Caller:
And, you know, with the whole stay at home order coming, you know, I just I get a little concerned over, you know, are these are these cops and stuff are going to be starting to take people off the side of the road with like different license plates and whatnot and being like, what are you doing here?

Peter Biello:
Like out-of-state license plates, like, why are you in New Hampshire? That kind of thing? Is that what you're asking?

Caller:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I see a lot of Massachusetts plates feel all right for some reason. I've seen a lot of Virginia plates today. So, I mean, I don't know if that's just government stuff or what's going on, but I mean, I'm just it's concerning, you know, because I drive almost down to the Mass border and back, you know, every day. So I just as as a driver, I don't want to be pulled over and, you know, have to explain myself 50 times over to somebody, especially a police officer. I'm just concerned about it. You know, cause the whole stay at home order basically says that he can't work or you don't work or you can't because you're not an essential worker. You need to stay home. So what's really stopping them from doing that?

Peter Biello:
Yeah, well, it seems like thanks for your call, John. Really appreciate it. But Josh, remind me if I'm if I'm misremembering this, but I think the governor said explicitly, like, we're not going to get pulled over for for seemingly no reason just for being out.

Josh Rogers:
Yes. I mean, the governor has been quite clear that he does not intend this order to lead to this sort of behavior that the caller is concerned about, although, you know, the order does give state and local law enforcement the ability to enforce it. But the governor said he's not anticipating law enforcement, asking people, you know, what are you up to? Where are you going? And that he lacks the power to, you know, police interstate travel.

Peter Biello:
We got this note from Jessica in Franklin, she wrote, saying using an example at gas stations which could close the store portions or move, say one attendant no in-store cash service credit card at the pump, only no prepared food. How much power does the governor have to mandate actions that could protect, in that instance, workers at the stations and attending the public in general? Can he enforce any kind of cleanliness standards for businesses like, for example, requiring hourly sanitation of doors or three people inside a drug store at a time? Is that within the governor's power, Josh? Enforcing standards of cleanliness?

Josh Rogers:
You know, I'm not an expert in this. I do think, though, that under the you know, under a state of emergency, the governor has pretty broad powers.

Peter Biello:
Let's turn now to Taylor Caswell. He is on the line with us now. He is with the state based business and commissioner of the state business and economic development. Thank you very much for speaking with me. I really appreciate you being on the line with us.

Taylor Caswell:
Happy to do it, Peter.

Peter Biello:
So tell us about your concerns a little bit. You've been focusing in on businesses you've been looking at. I imagine the types of essential workers who who can do their jobs during this. Where's your focus right now in this moment?

Taylor Caswell:
Well, I mean, as far as my concern goes, I'm you know, I'm sitting here in a position where a month ago we had a very strong economy with a really low unemployment rate. We had a lot of, you know, one of the highest labor participation rates in the country. You know, you and I have spoken about that over the year to have seen where we're headed now in this situation that we're in. This is literally mind-boggling from someone in my position. But what we're trying to do is really do what we can to help continue to support the business community in the midst of a public health crisis. And we are doing that in a number of ways. All of that. We've got a Web site up that I really want to. I don't I can't under promote, which is NH economy dot com slash COVID-19. That's for businesses to access information as well as our business support center staff. We're doing that virtually just to sort of help the social distancing issues. So there's a link there for people to be able to get some questions answered. But what we're really focused on here is communication with our business community, support policies that we can move forward and enact and take advantage of existing programs and so on. And then just support the overall state emergency response at this point.

Peter Biello:
And one of the parts of the state response has been the unemployment situation. Do you feel like the that has been handled in a way that that is really supportive of the economy?

Taylor Caswell:
Well, I mean, given the situation. Yes, I think it's as supportive as we could. We could do at this point. We're lucky to have a very solvent unemployment insurance pool that we can use for this type of just this type of situation. But the numbers of people that are taking advantage of this is staggering. We're trying to do what we can to help people stay in a position to get through whatever period that this is going to go on for and then be in a position to rebuild everything as quickly as we can. I have absolutely no sense as to how that's going to go or how long we're gonna be in for this. But given the situation, I think right now we're managing it reasonably well.

Peter Biello:
Is there in a geographic area of the state that is going to be more impacted by this business wise than others?

Taylor Caswell:
I don't I can't, but I don't really think so. I think, you know, you. The number of businesses that are being impacted by this is pretty universal. You know, maybe just because of the sheer number of businesses being in the southern and south central part of the state that that from an economic standpoint, that might be the defining factor. But overall, there's there's no region of the state that's necessarily immune from what's gone on at this point.

Peter Biello:
We get this note from... Oh, go ahead, Dan.

Dan Barrick:
Peter, this is Dan. I just wonder if I could jump in.

Peter Biello:
Certainly.

Dan Barrick:
Commissioner Caswell as want to turn to the actual order issued by the governor last night and the list of essential businesses that accompanies it. It is quite long. And I know, you know, a lot of states are working off a similar template. New Hampshire's includes some services that have not been deemed essential in other states are looking particularly at manufacturing. Other states, including Massachusetts and California, have limited, defined, you know, what they call critical manufacturing can remain open, but others can't. New Hampshire is essentially seems all manufacturing, food and beverage manufacturers, gun manufacturers, construction. Can you tell me why? Why that distinction for New Hampshire why to keep almost a blanket exemption from manufacturing for defined them as essential?

Taylor Caswell:
Yes, we were very deliberate about that.

Taylor Caswell:
Thank you for pointing that out that we really consider our manufacturing industry the bread butter of our economy in a lot of ways and that I think that you have to being able to continue those operations is important for the companies operationally. Some of these companies are not things you just turn off and turn back on again. And we wanted to be able to give them the opportunity to continue to operate even at a minimal at a minimal sort of activity level, just to keep things moving in the supply chain when they become necessary to be, to be able to be implemented. And I think second to that, it's related to the just incredible response that we've had from the manufacturing community to help us access personal protective equipment and other critical materials for the state's response to this crisis. So we wanted to make sure we were leaving all our options open and to be pretty, pretty substantial and pretty broad in our interpretation of manufacturing here in New Hampshire.

Dan Barrick:
Other states have drawn that distinction and made clear that manufacturers involved in the medical supply chain could stay open, but defined it more narrowly. I mean, just given the nature of manufacturing, where many of them employ large work forces operating in close proximity and in the same room. Do you have any concerns about the public health implications of essentially allowing every manufacturer in the state to continue working at full capacity?

Taylor Caswell:
Well, I don't think many of them are working at full capacity at the moment. But, you know, part of the part of what goes with this at the beginning of the order is a reiteration of the fact that any business that continues to operate must continue to do so under the CDC guidelines, that that includes social distancing and taking and taking every possible step to keep facilities clean and operational. You see that in a number of settings, grocery stores and other places where they're making accommodations to the way that they do business, in the way that they staff things and so on in order to accommodate that, so that with this order it isn't just like go full bore, as you always have. You still have to operate within the within the guidelines that the rest of us operate.

Peter Biello:
Taylor Caswell, we've got to. Go ahead. Go ahead, Dan... Sorry.

Dan Barrick:
Sorry. Just one other question on this sort of just on the the specific ways in which so this was drawn up, as I said, it is it is quite long and quite expensive. If you give any other insight commissioner into how some of the specific businesses that were industries that were exempted in New Hampshire, I'm thinking, you know, some things like golf courses were exempted, landscaping, greenhouses. Could you just just talk about just you know, what the explanation for why some of these were exempted and allowed to remain operative as fine as essential businesses at this time?

Taylor Caswell:
Sure. Sure. What we what we wanted to do, was two things. One is we used a lot of the recommendations that had come from Massachusetts and not because we always copy Massachusetts, but just because so much of our economy is in a lot of ways connected to the industry, particularly in eastern Massachusetts.

Taylor Caswell:
So we wanted to have some level of consistency for businesses that are on both sides of the border. As with some of the others, what we did was we had a over the past couple of weeks we've been working with a multi agency team that includes representatives to basically every department in the state to go over portions of this list and to to make sure that we weren't missing anything from their perspective. So things like, as you know, the nurseries and some of The others, those were recommendations from, I believe, Department of Agriculture in our discussions with them. And so here is a little bit of a step away from the typical template that you see around in some of the states.

Taylor Caswell:
But we were doing this in the sense that if you're landscaper and you're out running a lawn mower or a couple of lawn mowers outside and you're able to maintain a golf course, you don't. I mean. The difficulty, I think, for people who own golf courses and people who want to golf is we get to a point in August that we're able to allow these places to open. We wanted to be able to have them not have to have a huge cost at getting that course ready to go. So we've included them as well. So there's there's a lot of sort of really sort of detailed level of discussion that went on to try to accommodate. And I think I should also note that, you know, we're we are looking at opportunities, other places where we haven't included, but those could be included. So there is a way for people to come to us and say, well, you know, you've you've missed something here. We think this should be essential. And we are already considering a few of those. And for people who want to do that, there's an e-mail address that at the end of this document that allows for a consideration of those requests. It's essential at nh economy dot com that you can find that on our Web site at the end of this document. So. Yeah, that's it. It was it was quite a process. And.

Peter Biello:
Well, if I could jump in Taylor Caswell, because I think part of the gist of the questions that I'm seeing, a few similar questions sent in by email about we got an e-mail about the golf course maintenance thing, for example. We're also getting questions about liquor stores being considered essential without going into every detail of questioning everything on the list you've put. You've described it as broad. Is it, in your view, so broad as to be effectively meaningless when it comes to trying to slow the spread of this? Because it seems like there are a lot of exceptions and people can still go out and do their jobs in the way that they they they normally would. A lot of people can still do that. Is it a effectively meaningless if so many people can still do what they normally do at work.

Taylor Caswell:
No I don't think so at all. And I think, you know, when we have now upwards of 35000 people that have been put out of work by orders, most of that probably in our hospitality industry. I think, you know, that's a lot of people that aren't out there working because of the, you know, these sorts of decisions that we're forced to make. So, yeah, I think what we're trying to do is really kind of continuously try to walk the line of number one and above all. And I cannot stress this enough. Every decision that's made is made in the context of public health. And every conversation that took place involved consideration of public health and the involvement of the public health community that we work with stateside in these decisions so that the number one factor here. So when we come at this, I see 90 percent or more of this list is not indifferent from what Massachusetts has done or really for any other state that the governor has been speaking at length with the governors of the states in New England to try to retain some level of consistency across them. I mean, six New England states are smaller than Texas. So we're trying to walk a public policy line here that that is seated exclusively in public health, but also has to take into consideration some of these other economic factors along the way. And that's not to say that as we go through the rest of the next couple of however long that's going to be that things are going to change on this list or things are going to change in the way that the governor addresses this crisis. I can't say. But for now, this is this is, I think, a good representation of where we want to be the state.

Peter Biello:
We've got, on the line. We've got Hassan in Manchester with the question Hassan Thanks for calling. What's your question? Hassan Excuse me.

Caller:
Yeah, my question is on Uber driver. Can they still work?

Peter Biello:
Uber and Lyft drivers, can they still work? Taylor Caswell. What you think?

Taylor Caswell:
Yes, I think they are included in this under some of the transportation, under the transportation sector.

Peter Biello:
So people can still buses will still be running taxis and Uber drivers, Lyft drivers, they can still go out and do their thing.

Taylor Caswell:
I mean, I'm going to have to double check that, but I'm pretty certain included logistics and transportation. You had somebody on before this was talking about that. So let me let me double check that one. But I do think that if we did include that.

Peter Biello:
We got this comment from Alex in Concord. Alex writes, Seems like at this point everyone and their mom is essential. At what point do we actually start having people stay home. Get the sentiment. Alex, really appreciate that. But the question you ask, at what point do we actually start people having having people stay home? Taylor Caswell, what is the state looking at? What kind of what set fact or set of facts is the state looking at to make that determination? You're not there yet.

Taylor Caswell:
You know, we're not there yet. And I think, you know, this is obviously a decision that that the governor ultimately has to make. And we're making decisions on an hourly basis and monitoring and working with our fellow state surrounding states, try to remain, as I said, some level of consistency across them. And I think between Vermont New Hampshire Maine and Massachusetts at least right now, I think there is a level of consistency on these types of definitions. And and I do think that for the most part, you've got to remember, a lot of people are working from home and a lot of people are remote. So we've got a number of industry sectors here that you don't necessarily need to continue having people on site. But for the most part, they're they're taking it. They're using the CDC guidelines and whether or not that's that's going to present a problem. But I think for right now, the number one thing is consistency and the decisions that are being made and with the best knowledge from the standpoint of public health. And that's, I think where we are right now.

Peter Biello:
We've got this note from Molly in Bedford who writes, My son works for a two man company and the owner claims they are an essential business and expects my son to go to work each day. The issue is his job requires him to go into people's homes and install audio and video equipment. My husband and I are now working from home and we are concerned that he will be exposed to the virus and bring it home. What can he do to convince his boss that he should not be working at this point? Good question from Molly.

Taylor Caswell:
Yeah, that is a good question. I think in that instance, what I would recommend for people in that situation is to call the 2-1-1 line to get guidance on what their options are. Because that probably involves some of our employment security people to sort of make a decision on that kind of question. But yeah, I would say give a call to the two one one line.

Peter Biello:
Is that is that for exclusively employment related questions? 2-1-1.

Taylor Caswell:
No. That gets you into the general into the general calling center and they'll make sure you get to the right person from there. I wouldn't want to send somebody extra to the unemployment line that isn't there for that purpose.

Peter Biello:
Yes, because the question there seems to point at the fact that, you know, some bosses are less concerned about health than maybe some employees are. And employees may say, you know, this is too dangerous for me. I don't want to do this right now. I feel like this is putting me at risk. And a boss may say, you know what? If you're not going to do it, you're fired. And if you're fired, you may not qualify for unemployment benefits. I'm not sure if that's the case, but there are some workers making that calculus right now. If I disobey my boss's orders and I have to go to work. I'm putting myself at risk for a paycheck. Do you know of any safety net the state offers for people who are fired because they go against their bosses orders in case looks like cases like this.

Taylor Caswell:
Well in the first point, I do believe that they would be eligible under the current unemployment benefits package. But the other thing is that, you know, it just appeared I hear so many of these stories. And it just it's really difficult. I understand we're we're in a we're in a really difficult situation in a crisis level right now. And I'm trying we're all trying to be as accommodating as we can. But also understand, you know, again, that the public health issue is number one and there are no easy decisions. Unfortunately, we're all sort of having to go through this together and there's not a straight line for many of us. So now I need people to really just sort of do what they can follow the rules that are out there to the extent that they can. And when they're issued, we'll do everything we can to help. But it's not going to be an easy road for the next couple of weeks.

Peter Biello:
Taylor Caswell, commissioner of business and economic affairs for the state of New Hampshire, thank you very much for speaking with us.

Taylor Caswell:
You bet. Peter, thank you.

Peter Biello:
This is the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on the exchange on NHPR. I'm Peter Biello. We're taking your questions and comments about this moment in time in the Coronavirus pandemic may have a lot of them were trying to get to as many as we can. I'm Peter Biello. We'll be right back.

Peter Biello:
This is the exchange on NHPR. I'm Peter Biello. Yesterday, Governor Chris Sununu issued a stay at home order. If you're just tuning in, let me recap. Sununu says the move will not force people to remain inside or empower police to confront people who are outside their homes. But it will close nonessential businesses until at least May 4th. Sununu also ordered the state beaches closed and extended the closure of public schools in New Hampshire to at least May 4th. The state has issued a list, rather long list of the businesses and workers considered essential and would not be required to stay at home. They can still go to work as normal. You can find a link to that at NHPR dot org. Right now, we're going to turn to Katie Merrow. She is with the New Hampshire New Hampshire Charitable Foundation Community Impact Department. She oversees the charitable foundation's community impact. So let's talk to her. Katie, thank you very much for speaking with me. Really appreciate it.

Katie Merrow:
Thank you, Peter, I'm pleased to talk to you all today.

Peter Biello:
Yesterday the governor announced a Community Crisis Action Fund in partnership with the New Hampshire Charitable Institute. Can you talk a little bit about that? What are what are the details of that?

Katie Merrow:
Sure. And I really, Peter, wanted to take a minute to start by thanking people on the front line. We're all thinking of our health care workers at this time and also the nonprofits and all of our communities.

Katie Merrow:
I mean, at the foundation, we just see them responding to the crisis with the resilience, strength and unwavering commitment to the people that they serve. And our donors and all of us at the foundation and across our communities are really behind them. And I just want to thank them to start.

Peter Biello:
Thank you for. Sure.

Katie Merrow:
Yeah. We'd like the community crisis acting funding that Sandy sent a few weeks ago. We've been humbled by the generosity of our donors and others across this community. We've raised 1.6 million in the first week and more contributions are coming in every day. There's also other local crisis funds that have been launched and I'll speak a little bit about those later. There's lots of ways to give right now and all of it is needed. At the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation our goal with our funds are twofold. First, to reduce the pain and hardship for the most vulnerable. And then secondly, to work with state and other partners to reduce the strain on our social service and community health system. Third, more working, more to systemic level. And I just want to say it with these goals. We are one part of a much larger effort. We are a small part of that larger effort as everyone responds to this crisis and we're looking for if This is where we think the foundation can be most helpful towards this, toward these efforts with funds from the Community Crisis Action Fund as well as foundation existing funds. We hope to move about five and a half million dollars over the next few weeks to the community to meet these goals and to strengthen New Hampshire's nonprofits during this time of crisis.

Peter Biello:
So so can I ask you to define most vulnerable because you said this fund is designed to help the most vulnerable in New Hampshire. Who would that be?

Katie Merrow:
It and OK. Great question. So it's families in need. Elders, it's folks with disabilities. It may be any community. You know, in your lo, any population in your local community, who needs extra help and assistance? I can tell. Let me talk about some of the grants that we've moved already to give you a sense of that work. So this week, we both grants to different food and soup kitchens across the state in Claremont in Nashua in Keene the Newport got lunch program. These folks already have new families showing up for additional food. All of their meals have to be packaged and delivered. They have increased costs of paper products, transportation. And these are brave nonprofits that are staying open, offering food in his time, Meals on Wheels programs as well. Extra grants to those organizations as their demand surges, but their volunteers decrease really helps them keep the doors open and keep operations. Another example, Peter, would be housing, transitional housing, elder care. We've made grants to the Upper Valley Haven, Twin Pines. Other Elder Care, another elder care group where they have increased costs associated with technology and communication to keep operations going, as well as developing more outside programs for elders at this time. You're just a couple of examples for us. These are just the beginning, the early grant. We expect to continued to move much more grants over the coming weeks and especially in the next two to three weeks as organizations respond to the crisis.

Peter Biello:
So so both organizations and people can apply to this. Yes?

For this fund, this is the charitable foundation, New Hampshire charitable foundation grants are going to organizations. There are individuals and families that need help right now. The local United Ways, particularly Granite United Way is setting up a fund to address that. And we would encourage folks to give there as well. Their website is u w n h dot org. And you can find out more about that there.

Peter Biello:
To what extent is this Community Crisis Action Fund or anything else done with the New Hampshire Charitable Institute right now affecting child care? Are you are you helping with child care, especially considering the schools are going to be remaining remote until May 4th at least?

Katie Merrow:
You ask a great question, Peter. So let me talk a little bit about that. The so we're doing immediate grants to small local organizations helping the most vulnerable. We're also working, as I said, with strategic grants at a more systemic level. And our two priorities there right now are emergency child care and support for homeless people and families. And I'll tell you about both. The charitable foundation working in partnership with the NH Department of Health and Human Services will be leading an emergency health care collaborative, working with child care professionals, businesses advocate to establish a system of emergency child care for New Hampshire's most essential workers during the crisis. The state child care centers that you likely know and our local communities, they operate on very slim margins and support from the Community Crisis Action Fund, as well as leadership from the state, will help meet immediate needs associated with operating during crisis. Targeting that aid to centers that can serve emergency workers and helping them keep the doors open. So that's one really important initiative. And we're pleased to be working with the state and local local leaders on that effort.

Katie Merrow:
Secondly, the homeless, there's critical needs and in all our all our communities, local shelter, supporting families and individuals for homeless. We're working as a philanthropic partner in that case really supporting state and local leadership on that issue as they work to support those individuals and families, including addressing the challenge of safely housing those who may be affected by the virus or at risk in other ways. So health care and homelessness are priorities right now. I'll tell you, Peter, those are really our initial priorities in that area. As this crisis evolves, the charitable foundation will be listening to nonprofits and communities and adapt to the changing needs. And I do want to mention, as we all, you know, looking ahead, we will be thinking about the longer term. We do know that there are going to be needs and changes in the nonprofit community at the community level. If we all pull out of this crisis over the longer term and the charitable foundation, will be looking to address resources to that as well as we work together.

Peter Biello:
Well, Kate Merrow, vice president of Community Impact at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

Katie Merrow:
And Peter, can I say one last thing?

Peter Biello:
We are we are running up against the end of the show Kate. So I do have to let you go. But we will put a link to the New Hampshire Community Foundation at our Web site, NHPR dot org, so that they can get in touch with you. So thank you very much, Katie. Really appreciate you being here.

Katie Merrow:
And it's a good time to give thanks to everyone for all they're doing.

Peter Biello:
You have a great day. Listeners, This conversation will, of course, continue online at NHPR dot org and on our Facebook page. Of course, there are a lot of questions that we probably didn't have time to answer today, but we hope to get to your question at some point as our reporting on the coronavirus pandemic continues. Want to thank NHPR news director Dan Barrick and NHPR senior political reporter, Josh Rogers, for joining us today. I think you're both on the line. Yes. Thank you very much you guys, really appreciate it.

Dan Barrick:
Thank you Peter.

Josh Rogers:
Good to be with you, Peter.

Peter Biello:
And as we end the show, we'd like to go out with something a little bit different. The Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra. They've been performing living room concerts on Facebook live. So we wanted to play you out today with a little bit of their performance on Sunday from for their virtual audience. The show's producers are Jessica Hunt and Christina Phillips. Senior producer is Ellen Grimm. Michael Brindley is our program manager. Our regular theme music was composed by Bob Lord. Engineer is Dan Colgan. I'm Peter Biello. Thank you very much for listening and have a great weekend.

The views expressed in this program are those of the individuals and not those of NHPR its board of trustees or its underwriters. If you liked what you heard, spread the word. Give us a review on Apple podcasts to help other listeners find us. And thanks.