By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — The second advisory committee discussing the best use of $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act money is close to finalizing its recommendation to Gov. Chris Sununu.
The Stakeholders Advisory Committee to the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery will not make recommendations for how much money should be spent on which sectors as the Legislative Advisory Committee did, but instead created a framework for distributing the funds by its top priorities.
The stakeholders committee is also recommending funding support groups to help businesses, non-profits, individuals, or others impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic create substantive applications for aid.
“We want to make sure people understand they have a place to go,” said committee chair Donnalee Lozeau. “We want everyone to have the opportunity to go in with the strongest (application).”
The committee is also emphasizing the use of existing organizations and agencies like the Business Finance Authority, Community Development Finance Authority, the NH Charitable Trust, the Center for Nonprofits, the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and state agencies to distribute the funds rather than create one overall organization.
“It is helpful that there are different places for organizations to go and a little bit of self selection in some cases,” said Kathleen Reardon, CEO, NH Center for Nonprofits. “(The agencies) can help guide people as well.”
Concord Attorney Bill Ardinger said the committee has done a good job of finding the “potential failure points . . . as some of governor’s executive orders for protections are terminated.”
He said there have been no foreclosures or evictions and he believes 85 to 90 percent of the landlords and mortgage lenders will continue to be fair, but there is a good chance a group will not be so kind or fair.
Including NH Legal Assistance in the support groups will allow low- to middle-income renters or homeowners to receive good guidance an advice, he said.
“Our list is more programmatic and targeted than the work the legislative advisory board did,” Ardinger said, noting government resources are targeted to help people at the “breaking point.”
The group recommends the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery establish a single information site with links to agency application portals so businesses, nonprofits or others seeking aid have one place to begin the process.
The group has three categories of highest, higher and high priority with the highest being distributed within 60 days and the later rounds between 60 and 180 days.
Among the group’s highest priorities are grant and loan programs for businesses, nonprofits and housing programs for homeowners and renters impacted by the CIVID-19 pandemic, and for homeless.
Among the business programs are grants, loans and forgivable loans and help for the agriculture industry.
For nonprofits the group’s highest priorities are a relief and recovery fund for a wide range of nonprofits, and rebuilding food security and depleted food banks.
Also on the highest priority list are emergency funds for childcare response and protection and rebuilding services for the developmentally disabled.
On the higher category is aid to the University System of New Hampshire, the Community College System of New Hampshire and the private colleges and universities.
Also on the second tier is help for the recovery and reopening of childcare facilities and social services, a fund for rural hospitals and non-hospital health care providers, and loans to nonprofits to reduce long-term debt.
Other priorities are reimbursing cities and towns and the state government for pandemic costs, rebuilding the state’s unemployment fund, and an emergency property tax deferral fund for low-to-middle-income property owners.
Other concerns are kindergarten through 12th grade aid to schools due to the virus and the “build it back better’ childcare program.
The committee will review the document along with a narrative letter at its next meeting Tuesday.
On Thursday the advisory group also heard presentations from agricultural groups including Department of Agriculture Commissioner Shawn Jasper who said unless dairy farms receive aid, two-thirds are in danger of going out of business due to the milk price drop when schools and restaurants closed.
Losses are expected to be $5.2 billion through the end of the year for the dairy farms, Jasper said, while vegetable, plant and flower growers will need between $2.5 million and $3 million mostly for additional labor and changes to facilities to make them safer for employees and customers.
“This could change very rapidly,” Jasper said, “this is just a snapshot in time.”
The timber industry has been hit by both the domestic and international slowdown, as the price of timber has fallen.
NH Timberland Owners Association Executive Director Jasen Stock said a 20 percent reduction has a value of $55 million for sawmills and $4.8 million for landowners.
He said the next three months the impact will be more acute as loggers are able enter the woods after mud season.
The Payroll Protection Program has been very helpful to sawmill owners and those with more than five employees, Stock said, adding a $20 million to $30 million program would have a meaningful impact on the timber industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative does business, said its president Jim Titone.
Over the years ground fish have been replaced by lobsters as the Coop’s major catch.
He said right now fishing is slow, but in the next month thousands of lobster traps will be placed to begin the busiest season.
The cooperative lost its wholesale market and its members cannot go to Gloucester or Portland because they have the same problems.
Some fishermen are selling their catch at the dock, Titone said, but that will not be enough when the season begins in earnest.
He asked the committee for help with an advertising campaign, noting it would cost about $75,000 to $80,000.
The stakeholders committee meets again Tuesday at 1 p.m.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.