In a regular world these days when Zoom calls are the norm, the state's senators in Washington, D.C. once again offered virtual updates on how things are going at the federal level and what that means for the Granite State.
In a virtual call March 22, with members of The New Hampshire Commerce Corridor Chamber Coalition, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan offered legislative updates on the recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and other efforts that will be sending much needed financial support to New Hampshire's businesses, schools, communities and residents.
The American Rescue Plan contains various provisions to help businesses operate, including an additional $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has served as a lifeline for thousands of small businesses throughout the state, and $1.25 billion for the Shuttered Venue Operator Grant (SVOG) program. Independent entertainment venues can now apply for funds through both the PPP and SVOG programs, and restaurants will also be able to access direct relief through a new $29 billion grant program that Shaheen and Hassan helped secure.
The New Hampshire Commerce Corridor Chamber Coalition was formed in response to the pandemic and includes seven chambers of commerce including Manchester, Greater Derry/Londonderry, Concord, Nashua, Merrimack Valley, Salem and Hudson.
The mission of the group is to host collaborative efforts to support local businesses and also serve all the members of the representative chambers.
For Shaheen and Hassan, Monday's meeting was another opportunity to get the word out about the American Rescue Plan and what it means for New Hampshire's residents, businesses, schools and communities.
"We are very happy to be able to pass the American Rescue Plan," Shaheen said, "and to provide help to families and small businesses worrying about when they were going to get through this pandemic."
The plan calls for not only relief checks to many Americans, but also support for food distribution, schools and also money for nonprofit organizations.
Shaheen also touted help for getting children back in the classroom and for supporting childcare so that parents can work, and not worry about how their children are cared for.
Hassan said there are also provisions for new businesses that started up during the pandemic, to help support employment and make sure workers are kept safe and can pay their bills.
"It will help businesses thrive and retain employees," Hassan said.
The American Rescue Plan also includes money for vaccines, Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, and testing and contact tracing.
Hassan said there is still concern over a hesitancy to get a vaccine, but she encouraged everyone to get one.
"The science has been used for a long time," Hassan said, adding the vaccine isn't just a quick fix. The research has been there for years.
She is confident that the vaccine supply will continue to grow.
Shaheen offered kudos to all the workers manning the vaccine sites around the state.
"It's going well," she said, saying the effort is going "full speed ahead."
The senators also say there is support for infrastructure work in Washington, saying it's important to look at ways to be as energy-efficient as possible
Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce President Ashley Haseltine thanked the senators for all the support in keeping local business leaders and others updated on what's happening at the federal level.
"It's an ever-changing process as we go month to month," Haseltine said.
Both Hassan and Shaheen urged anyone with concerns or questions to contact their offices.