Catholic Medical Center

The New Hampshire Hospital Association estimated the VA owed a total of $137 million to New Hampshire providers earlier this year, from large hospitals like Catholic Medical Center (pictured) and Elliot Hospital, to small providers.

CONCORD — Despite receiving more than $300 million in federal aid, New Hampshire’s hospitals warn they could face record losses by year’s end without additional COVID-19 relief from Congress.

New Hampshire Hospital Association President Steven Ahnen said by the end of September, the hospitals’ losses will total $187 million more than all their revenues — after $329 million of COVID-19 assistance.

The hospitals expect to lose nearly another $100 million by the end of December, he said.

“We are going to need help to get us through to the other side,” Ahnen said.

But the Legislative Advisory Board of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Relief and Recovery decided Tuesday against earmarking any additional money for hospitals from the $1.2 billion CARES Act federal grant for now.

Legislative leaders said they want the Sununu administration to supply an updated estimate of how much money will be left unspent once 50 existing programs are completed.

“Out of that $1 billion, is it all out on the street and working already? That’s the question,” said Senate Republican Leader Chuck Morse of Salem.

According to the latest dashboard on the GOFERR website, Gov. Chris Sununu has signed off on grants totaling just under $1.1 billion.

As of last Friday, $277 million of those grants had yet to be spent.

GOFERR Executive Director Taylor Caswell said he will determine over the next few weeks how much money could be available to spend elsewhere.

The federal CARES Act requires states to return any grant money not spent by the end of the year.

Sununu named Caswell, the state’s commissioner of business and economic affairs, to the GOFERR post a few weeks ago, replacing Jerry Little, who has returned to his regular job as state banking commissioner.

“We have made very good progress on a number of other programs to get people in gear to get that money out the door,” Caswell said.

House Republican Leader Dick Hinch of Merrimack questioned whether hospitals would need more help since $50 billion of hospital relief included in the law passed by Congress hasn’t gone out yet.

Hinch said 64% of the hospitals’ losses came at two facilities: Catholic Medical Center in Manchester and St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua.

In the last round of grants to hospitals, only 10 of the state’s acute care hospitals applied for help, and just five were given awards, Hinch said.

Ahnen said it remains unclear how much New Hampshire hospitals would receive from the unspent federal dollars, but he remains optimistic Congress will provide more help.

“We are very hopeful they will do more once the election is over and Congress comes back,” Ahnen said.

Snowmobiles and schools

The GOFERR board did make one exception to its hold on new spending, voting to urge Sununu to give $154,000 to the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association.

Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said the money will give trail operators enough cash to repair and prepare trails that the 101 snowmobile clubs maintain across the state.

The board approved the request, 6-2, with Senate Finance Chairman Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, and House Finance Chairman Mary Jane Wallner, D-Concord, opposed.

Meanwhile, D’Allesandro wants the board to consider taking unspent money from a $50 million broadband internet program Sununu announced last spring and expanding aid to school districts.

Local officials have been forced to pay for personal protection equipment out of existing budgets after being led to believe the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be reimbursing schools.

Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, said no officials from any of his nine towns have complained about running out of money to deal with school reopening.

The costs for many school districts have been lower this year than last since many schools are “closed down,” Reagan said.

Caswell agreed to prepare a presentation for the board about the financial health of school districts in the wake of the pandemic.

Saturday, January 23, 2021
Friday, January 22, 2021