NH to replace federal unemployment boost with work incentive
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire will end its participation in all pandemic-related federal unemployment compensation programs next month but will offer “summer stipends” totaling $10 million to encourage people to find jobs, Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday.
About 35,000 people are currently collecting unemployment benefits, all of whom are getting $300 per week supplemental payments either from the state or a federal program created during the pandemic. Those extra payments will end June 19 now that the unemployment rate has dropped and given the abundance of available jobs, Sununu said.
The state was among the first to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits when the pandemic first struck. Between March and April 2020, its unemployment rate jumped from 2.7% to over 16% but as of this month, was back down to 2.8%.
“We’re very proud of that, we have a very robust economy and a lot of workforce opportunity, and wages are far and away higher than anything we’ve ever seen,” Sununu said. “There are tens of thousands of jobs — high paying jobs — and they’re available today.”
Starting Tuesday, unemployed workers who find full-time jobs will get $1,000 bonuses after completing eight weeks of work, and part-time workers will get $500 until the $10 million fund is depleted. The stipends will be available for those earning $25 or less per hour.
Connecticut is offering a similar incentive, though it is maintaining the $300 supplemental payments for those who remain on employment.
In other coronavirus developments:
New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services isn’t completely on board with the latest federal mask guidelines.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that fully vaccinated people can skip face coverings and social distancing in virtually all situations, except crowded indoor locations such as airplanes, buses, hospitals and prisons.
Sununu lifted New Hampshire’s statewide mask mandate last month, though requirements remain in place in some communities and within individual businesses. And the latest state guidelines issued Tuesday continue to recommend mask use and social distancing indoors regardless of vaccination status unless gathering in small groups of fully vaccinated people.
“Frankly the CDC guidance was difficult, if not impossible, for businesses and organizations to figure out how to implement,” said Dr. Benjamin Chan.
“The CDC guidance is looking at the perspective of individual risk,” he said. “We have to take the population health perspective and taken into account our local context and local situation, what it means with our level of vaccination and our level of COVID19 in the community, to pull back on some of these restrictions.”
SUBSTANCE USE TREATMENT
New Hampshire is getting nearly $10.7 million in federal grants through the American Rescue Plan to support efforts to combat substance use disorder and increase access to mental health services, the state’s congressional delegation said Tuesday.
The funding comes in addition to $16.3 million provided in the emergency COVID-19 relief package that was signed into law in December for substance use disorder treatment and mental health care.
The funds are coming from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“The pandemic has placed an enormous strain on Granite Staters and underscored the urgent need to provide support for those grappling with mental health challenges and substance use disorders,” U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan said in a statement.
More than 97,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 139 cases announced Tuesday. One new death was announced, bringing the total to 1,334.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has decreased over the past two weeks, going from 240 new cases per day on May 2 to 139 new cases per day on Sunday.
Associated Press Writer Kathy McCormack contributed to this report.