By Dave Lemery | The Center Square
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced a series of executive actions Tuesday designed to take on the coronavirus outbreak that has shut down much of the country.
The Republican governor instructed utility companies such as gas, electric and internet companies not to disconnect customers unable to pay their bills. He also imposed a ban on evictions of rental tenants and ordered a halt to foreclosure actions. And finally, he did away with the waiting period for unemployment benefits for those who lose their jobs because of the outbreak.
“Seeing what the lack of an appropriate response has resulted in around the world requires that we make some difficult decisions here in New Hampshire to ensure we stem the tide of this worldwide pandemic within our own communities,” Sununu said. “We are taking steps to help Granite Staters, ensuring they have the support and services for themselves, their families, and their businesses throughout this crisis.”
The moves follow an announcement Monday night from Sununu that directed restaurants and bars to close to the public, with the exception of takeout and delivery services and drive-through lanes.
According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, there have been 17 diagnosed cases of coronavirus infection in the state. Ten of the cases were discovered in Rockingham County. The state has tested 567 people, and 195 tests are pending.
Sununu’s office also disclosed that the governor had sent a letter to the federal Small Business Administration asking it to make loans available to small businesses in the state impacted by the crisis.
“The necessity of quarantining employees and remotely working has placed a strain on businesses of all sizes,” Sununu wrote.
In the meantime, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky called on the governor to convene a special meeting to address what he sees as shortcomings in the state’s response. Volinsky is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor.
“I have also asked the Governor to allow the Councilors to participate in the public health teleconference briefings so that we may keep our constituents up to date on developments,” Volinsky wrote. “Finally, I have also asked to participate in economic and business briefings. My hope is that the Governor will give us the opportunity to work as partners during this crisis.”
The next scheduled meeting of the Executive Council is set for March 25.