Gov. Chris Sununu held a press conference on March 20 that included an update on the state’s efforts to provide economic assistance to businesses and their employees.
New Hampshire is among the first states in the country to obtain a disaster declaration through the U.S. Small Business Administration, allowing NH businesses to access loans for working capital to cover such costs as fixed debt, payroll and accounts payable. Businesses can access loans of up to $2 million at a rate of 3.75% with repayment terms of up to 30 years, said Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the NH Department of Business and Economic Affairs (BEA).
Gov. Sununu said the state had created a $50 million fund to provide low-interest loans to hospitals and health care facilities to ensure solvency and cash flow during this crisis. Sununu said many hospitals had stopped performing elective procedures, a significant source of revenue, to focus resources on fighting COVID-19.
Businesses can access information about the loans and submit applications for loans at SBA.gov/disaster.
The state launched a portal on its website providing businesses and residents with information and resources they need to contend with the pandemic. Caswell said the portal is in its early stages and more resources will be added.
Caswell said businesses can also reach out to BEA specialists with questions. There is also a rapid response team in place to assist businesses considering layoffs.
BEA officials have been meeting with chambers of commerce, the Business & Industry Association, and businesses statewide to discuss the needs of business and government responses, Caswell said.
Gov. Sununu said the Trump administration signed a bill ensuring unemployment insurance will remain solvent as it experiences an unprecedented drawdown. Applications for unemployment assistance in NH can now be done online.
The state’s unemployment website has received three times more hits than ever before, including during the previous recession, Sununu said.
Sununu was part of a call among governors and the Trump administration and he said among the topics discussed was further relief for small businesses. Sununu said he hopes there will be flexibility built into the federal loans being made to small businesses and he and other governors are pushing for more relief efforts for small businesses. Sununu said the loans would not be the final federal response to helping small businesses.
Sununu said he has also been in discussions with manufacturers in the state about adjusting their production to produce medical devices needed to combat COVID-19. “Businesses across the state are looking to stand up and help. Everyone understands it’s an all-hands on deck effort,” Sununu said.
Sununu also said he is not closing down daycares as other states have done as they are critical to keeping workers on the job, especially those in health care.
In addition to the governor's announcement, the NH Small Business Development (SBDC) is encouraging small businesses to reach out to them regardless of whether a business is already an NH SBDC client or now. The SBDC is also in the process of adding more webinars to its extensive online learning program to help businesses dealing with the economic uncertainty of the pandemic.
As employers navigate new challenges created by COVID-19, one way to help maintain their trained workforce is the state's WorkShare program. Employers can temporarily reduce their workforce in a particular unit, shift or company 10% - 50% and avert a layoff. They can then recall the employees when business increases.
As employees are retained, morale, productivity and flexibility in the workplace are maintained. Affected employees have a softer landing as their hours are reduced rather than eliminated, and they keep their health insurance and can collect wages for hours worked plus unemployment compensation benefits for the reduced hours.
WorkShare plans may be submitted by any New Hampshire employer whose taxes are currently up to date and who is in good standing with the NH Department of Labor.
For more information on the NH WorkShare program, visit NH Employment Security's website https://www.nhes.nh.gov/nhworking/stay/index.htm.
We will add to this article as more resources become available.