Story by The Laconia Daily Sun, a member of
CONCORD, NH — State and local officials have the monumental task of putting together new budgets after the COVID-19 pandemic stripped millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Gov. Chris Sununu on Thursday expressed frustration that Congress isn’t doing enough to make up for some of that lost money.
Federal pandemic relief money provided so far through the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act is not to be used for this purpose.
Sununu said in a news conference that promises were made that new legislation would contain money that could be used to backfill state and local budgets.
“Now the frustration is that the latest draft of the stimulus pulls the plug on Washington’s promise to support the state,” he said.
During questioning from reporters on other topics, Sununu said there is support from most parents and many teachers for a return to classrooms in September.
“Kids need to be back in the classroom if there is a way to do it safely,” he said. “With what we’ve been able to put together, parents should have confidence.”
He said there are overwhelmingly positive health aspects for children to return to a social environment.
There is one group that has been critical of back-to-school plans, Sununu said.
“Union bosses have been making demands and saying, ‘No, No, No,’ across the country,” he said.
The National Education Association-New Hampshire has been critical about state guidance documents that gave school districts broad discretion on how to proceed.
“They are asking everyone returning to a school building this fall to take part in an experiment to see how many COVID-19 safety standards can be ‘flexed’ at our schools before we get sick enough to close them again,” said Megan Tuttle, NEA-New Hampshire President. “Let me be very clear – we refuse to participate in that experiment.”
Her organization put out its own plan, which calls for a phased reopening, additional money and staff, a nurse for every school and indoor air-quality inspections, among other things.
On another topic, Sununu said an ambitious emergency broadband expansion project now looks like it will be able to tackle only “the low-hanging fruit” in terms of bringing high-speed Internet to more people.
He said $50 million in federal money for the program included a December project deadline that will make some of the more complicated work impossible.
The anticipated contract start date for projects under the program was supposed to be mid-July, but there’s been no public release about what work will go forward. Sununu said such an announcement is now planned for next week
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