As the rate of new COVID-19 cases has started to slow down in New Hampshire, businesses are cautiously opening their doors.

Despite this positive and welcome news, one thing is for certain: there are very few businesses that have been immune to COVID-19’s impact.

The road to recovery for our state’s small businesses will take some time as owners, who have had little to no income the last few months, will have to continue to figure out how to pay for operating expenses, such as rent and payroll, while also ensuring that their employees are protected in the case that they do contract COVID-19.

Healthcare affordability and access have long been a major concern for small business owners in our state — even before this health pandemic.

As businesses now try to recoup financial loss, maintain jobs, and keep employees and themselves healthy, access to affordable care is more important than ever.

Our lawmakers need to make smart policy decisions to protect the small businesses, which support the backbone of our local, regional, and national economy.

Fortunately, our representatives in Congress are no strangers to bi-partisan work. Just last year, our elected officials from New Hampshire worked closely with their Republican colleagues in Washington to help deliver a major victory for small businesses.

They partnered with colleagues from across the aisle to lead efforts to repeal an onerous tax, known as the health insurance tax (HIT), which raised the cost of premiums for small business owners, their employees, and their families.

For nearly a decade, businesses and nonprofits throughout our state were forced to pay an additional tax of roughly $500 on every insurance plan they purchased for each of their employees.

To put that in perspective, a small business employing 50 people would see their yearly taxes increase $25,000, all because they provided health insurance to their employees.

With many companies operating on razor thin margins while trying to grow and keep up with an increasingly competitive marketplace, this tax was just too much for them to absorb and small businesses often had to make cuts elsewhere, such as postponing hiring, or delaying bonuses, in order to pay for this tax.

Last year, the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce hosted a round table discussion where local businesses shared their concerns about the HIT tax directly with members of the New Hampshire Congressional delegation.

It was encouraging to see our members’ concerns were heard. Thanks to the leadership of our federal delegation and their Republican counterparts, the HIT was finally repealed.

Now, the more than 133,000 small New Hampshire businesses, employing more than 291,000, can rest assured that their premiums won’t go up in the middle of a pandemic because of this tax.

Small businesses need help, now more than ever. In the same cooperative spirit that led to the repeal of the HIT tax, Congress needs to work together to provide small businesses with relief to ensure they can continue to survive, thrive, and to be the backbone of our economy.

Bi-partisan cooperation will be the key to keeping the American Dream alive.

Donna Morris is the President of the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce and Ashley Haseltine is the President of the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.

 

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