New Hampshire has experienced widespread economic hardship due to the COVID–19 pandemic. Local businesses have had to temporarily close and lay off workers, and reduce their capacity as we work to re–open safely. Our health care systems have been strained as we respond to this crisis in the face of shortages of essential supplies and lost revenue from elective procedures.
Record numbers of Granite Staters have lost their jobs and lost income as a result. Although these unprecedented times have challenged us, Laconia like the rest of New Hampshire, is resilient and focused on recovery. Now is the time for Congress to understand the burdens states and smaller communities are shouldering. It’s imperative Congress invest the resources necessary so we can keep our residents safe and our city poised for a strong economic recovery.
As local leaders, we are committed to continuing to do all we can to support our communities as we move forward. The city of Laconia has worked hard to ensure essential services continue to be provided to our residents. Unfortunately, the sharp economic downturn will impact local and state revenues and this will continue to challenge us.
The governor has predicted that the state may face a $500 million budget shortfall this year — and the city of Laconia and too many other municipalities will be forced to deal with this economic reality. As we prepare to face the reality of decreased revenues, it's critical Laconia be able to access federal funds — important funds that Washington has denied small cities like Laconia in the CARES Act.
And while revenue is falling, costs are up. Overtime pay, supplies such as personal protective equipment, and increased demand for social services will strain state, county and city budgets. Essential services currently provided for by the state are at risk of being terminated or the costs associated with them downshifted to local communities.
Without assistance local governments may be forced to make difficult choices to balance their budgets. It’s critically important to our community that essential services like public safety, education and infrastructure continue to receive necessary resources. We’re prepared to make these decisions and continue serving our community but there is no doubt that federal assistance being extended to our local governments would be invaluable, and would put our city in the best position possible to help our residents make it through these hard times.
But so far cities like Laconia, and all municipalities across New Hampshire, have been left behind by the relief packages our federal government has passed because no current federal relief funding addresses revenue replacement for local governments for towns, cities, or counties with fewer than 500,000 residents. In New Hampshire, where none of our communities meet this arbitrary threshold, none of our towns or cities is eligible for federal funding.
Because of this inequity we worked together to call on House leadership to provide robust funding for small and mid–sized local governments moving forward — and they listened. Changes made in the Heroes Act would bring an estimated $1.5 billion to cities, towns and counties, and $3.5 billion to the state government. Laconia would receive an estimated $8,142,092 in aid — and on top of that the bill includes additional funds that would directly fund testing and treatment, support for small businesses, increased aid for substance use disorder programs, and funds for local election officials to run safe, accessible, and secure elections this fall.
The federal government cannot stand by as local governments across our state and our nation are forced to confront hard choices to balance their budgets. The House has stepped up to support our local governments — and we need the Senate and the president to support it as well.
Local governments need support now to maintain funding for essential services – our schools, emergency services, and health care services — so we can keep our communities safe and healthy as we continue to respond to this crisis.
Manchester Democrat Chris Pappas represents NH's First Congressional District in Washington. Andrew Hosmer is mayor of Laconia.