Final reopenings announced, grant money given out

Gov. Chris Sununu set a reopening date for the remaining businesses and activities with the last ones on June 29 to be movie theaters, performing arts centers and amusement parks.

CONCORD — As Gov. Chris Sununu ended the ban on gatherings of more than 10, he also announced his stay-at-home order will expire Monday, meaning all employers can now require anyone to return to work.

Sununu said Thursday he studied setting a new limit on gathering sizes, but decided any other number would be “arbitrary” as long as people are heeding the state’s advice to wear a mask while in public and to maintain social distance.

Monday will also be when many other activities and businesses can resume — including gyms, pools, road races, funeral homes, tourist trains and charitable gaming — each with restrictions and guidelines.

“Given what we have seen in other parts of the country, we feel very confident in taking some additional steps forward,” Sununu said.

The final businesses that can open will be indoor movie theaters, performing arts centers and amusement parks, on June 29.

“Those were clearly the toughest decisions to make due to the risk involved, but we felt our numbers were good enough to set the date,” Sununu said. “Frankly I never thought before that we could get here by June 29, but it’s a testament to the steps we took to control the spread of the virus and the tremendous response we got from the public.”

Sununu also announced other decisions he’s made to spend some of the $1.25 billion New Hampshire received from the federal CARES Act.

The new spending programs are:

• Housing: $35 million. Sununu said this will support two programs, one-time grants for households to cover the limited income loss or expenses from the virus and short-term rental assistance to help families cope. In conjunction with this grant, Sununu said on July 1 that he would lift a current moratorium on rental evictions and housing mortgage foreclosures.

• Broadband: $50 million to build what Sununu called the “last mile” of fiber optic cable to rural homes and businesses that still lack access to high-speed internet service.

• Homeless shelters: $15 million to expand the capacity as the pandemic has revealed there isn’t enough space for those without a permanent home to safely reside, Sununu said.

• Private higher education: $10 million for private colleges that have endowments of less than $300 million. Sununu said he learned that there are federal and state law restrictions on colleges using their endowment surpluses to cover college operating expenses.

• Local chambers of commerce: A $2 million grant program to create a data-sharing information system between these business groups and state government. Sununu said these chambers have been unable to get other government assistance because they are classified as trade organizations and nonprofits.

Sununu said this leaves about $250 million to spend from the federal grant by the end of 2020.

The state should keep some money in reserve to address the potential for a “second wave” of the virus this fall, the governor said.

On Thursday, the state revealed there were 34 new cases of the novel coronavirus for a total of 5,209.

There were seven new deaths, all connected to a long-term care setting. The total fatalities is now 308.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette reported one new nursing home outbreak at the Bedford Hills Center, where nine residents and 11 staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Monday, July 13, 2020