By Kim Jarrett | The Center Square
Deep cuts will need to be made in New Hampshire’s budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday as he also announced schools will be closed until the end of the school year.
The state is expected to be about $200 million short by June and possibly another $250 million to $500 million short from June of this year to June of 2021, the governor said.
“None of the CARES Act money is designed right now to come in and replace any of those revenues,” Sununu said. “There will be massive budget cuts across the state.”
Sununu created four new funds during the pandemic with state money – one to help struggling hospitals, one for domestic violence programs and one for child abuse programs.
On Tuesday, he announced front-line health care workers at Medicaid-funded long-term care facilities or home health care agencies would receive an additional $300 a week. The money will come from the state’s general fund with the anticipation federal funding will come later, the governor said. An executive order creating the “Long Term Care Stabilization Program” was signed Thursday.
Democratic legislative leaders have filed a lawsuit against the governor for creating a new department to oversee $1.25 billion on state aid from the CARES Act, saying their Joint Fiscal Committee should oversee the funds.
Sununu said lawmakers will be involved in any decisions about cuts.
“The COVID crisis is completely separate, and it needs and demands moment by moment ability for the governor to act,” Sununu said. “The Legislature decided not to be in session. They went away at the beginning of March.”
The lawsuit is expected to be heard in Hillsborough County Superior Court on Monday.
Sununu praised parents, school officials and employees for their move to remote learning four weeks ago in a letter addressed to education leaders, saying he knows it was “far from easy.”
“For the remainder of this school year, I encourage you to embrace flexibility and consider measures such as potentially forgoing formal grading and instead adopting a pass/fail model to assist students and parents as they undertake remote learning for this extended period,” Sununu said in his letter.
New Hampshire residents are under a “stay at home” order that expires May 4.
Seven new COVID-19 cases were reported on Thursday, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 1,211. Two additional deaths of New Hampshire residents were reported and 34 people in the state have died since the pandemic began.