Legislation proposes reversing mask violation fines for New Hampshire businesses

By Sarah Downey | The Center Square

New Hampshire lawmakers are considering a bill that would refund any fines assessed to businesses for violating mask orders imposed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roughly $10,000 in fines have been issued to businesses for not following the mandate, the Concord Monitor reported.

“The state has been very judicious in its applications of these restrictions, and they’ve worked with businesses to bring about reasonable guidelines,” Bruce Berke, New Hampshire state director at the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), told The Center Square.

HB 63, proposed by Rep. Andrew Prout, R-Hudson, would put the onus back on the state to work with businesses on COVID-19 safety measures. It is among a half dozen bills sponsored by Prout relative to states of emergency.

“I think a lot of people feel like this all came at them fast, they don’t fully understand it, and even with the best intentions, they may get caught up in this, and that’s a terrible way to operate,” Prout said during a hearing of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, according to the Monitor. “That’s why so many businesses, even the ones that have not been impacted, are reaching out and liking this bill, because it’s more of a safety net. If they do get targeted by enforcement action, at least it’s temporary and they know they can move on once this pandemic has passed.”

Reopening and economic recovery are key components of new bills proposed by lawmakers across the country.

“Compared to states to our west, east and south, New Hampshire has worked with businesses, managers and employees to find the guidance that would be reasonable as it related to the public health concerns,” said Berke, a member of the state’s reopening task force.

With the exception of the hospitality sector, the number of bankruptcies and jobless claims in New Hampshire has continued to decline, Berke said.

“We’re at a 4% unemployment rate; we were 2.6 prior to pandemic, but we have been able to reopen pretty well,” Berke said.

Image courtesy of Public domain