CONCORD — More than 50,000 of New Hampshire’s unemployed got $300 in additional weekly benefits Thursday — a total of $81 million, but Gov. Chris Sununu confirmed that extra help has already ended unless Congress approves another COVID-19 stimulus bill.

New Hampshire was the first New England state to take advantage of President Donald Trump’s executive order that committed federal backing for an extra $300 of enhanced benefits as long as states were paying those same individuals at least $100 on their own.

All 57,000 who were unemployed in New Hampshire on Aug. 1 qualified for up to five weeks of these enhanced benefits.

The extra money is for those weeks those individuals were out of work, dating back to the beginning of August.

But Trump set aside only $44 billion for the payments, to come from the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

More than 40 states have signed up to offer these benefits and the fund is “already tapped out” so the extra money only ran through Sept. 5, Sununu said.

On Thursday, the Republican-led U.S. Senate failed to advance a $300 billion stimulus plan that would have extended the $300-per-week benefits through the end of the year.

The slimmed-down stimulus measure of Senate GOP leaders also included $110 billion for public school reopenings, $10 billion for the Postal Service and COVID-19 liability protections for private businesses.

Senate Democratic leaders had called the liability protection a “poison pill.”

The 52-47 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster.

‘Incredibly disappointing’

“The message is an imperative message to get it done, do your job,” Sununu said, calling the congressional impasse “incredibly disappointing.”

House and Senate Democratic leaders have demanded the next stimulus total more than $2 trillion and that it must contain another round of checks for consumers along with direct aid to state and local governments.

“This was a real streamlined bill; there wasn’t as much in it as the Democrats would have seemed to like. They are letting the good be the enemy of the great,” Sununu said.

All Senate Democrats, including New Hampshire senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, opposed the measure.

“Unfortunately because nothing is happening in Washington, that seems to be the strategy and that isn’t working for the people of New Hampshire,” Sununu said. “We’re not just talking about being bipartisan but really working in a bipartisan way.”

The two-term Republican governor said there was “a little hope” a compromise could be reached, but Congress has about three weeks to reach a deal before members head home for good until the Nov. 3 election.

Trump provided the $300 benefit last month after Congress had failed to extend the $600-per-week supplemental payments that had been going to all unemployed workers since the pandemic began last spring.

Congressional Democratic leaders want any stimulus bill to restore the $600, while GOP leaders maintain that benefit is too much of an incentive for many to not return to work.

Saturday, September 19, 2020