New Hampshire policy responses to coronavirus

Apr 01, 2020

BY: Citizens Count

On March 13, 2020 New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu declared a state of emergency due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the cause of a worldwide outbreak of respiratory illness.

Click here to learn more about the governor’s powers during a state of emergency, including limits on those powers. 

Click here to visit the New Hampshire government website on COVID-19.

Here is a summary of all the policies Gov. Sununu and his departments have implemented during the state of emergency.

Stay-at-home order

On March 26 Gov. Sununu announced a "stay-at-home" order.  All non-essential businesses must close until May 4.  Sununu also closed all state beaches.

Prior to March 26 the state had banned gatherings of more than 10 people.

Click here for the governor's list of "essential" businesses.

The governor is also asking everyone coming to New Hampshire from out-of-state for an extended period to voluntarily self-quarantine.  This is a request and not an executive order.

Expanded unemployment benefits

Individuals who are unable to work or who have reduced hours due to the coronavirus outbreak can apply for unemployment benefits, thanks to a March 16 order from Gov. Sununu. That includes employees who have to stay home to take care of children during remote learning.  Learn more from the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security.

On March 30 Gov. Sununu announced a further expansion of unemployment benefits for workers impacted by the pandemic.  That expansion includes:

  • An increase in minimum benefits from $32 to $168 per week
  • An additional $600 per week, from federal funding
  • An extension of benefits from 13 weeks (3 months) to 39 weeks (9 months)

Small business loans

The U.S. Small Business Administration approved New Hampshire’s application to provide emergency business loans during the COVID-19 outbreak. The loans offer up to $2 million for small businesses and may be used to cover payroll and other bills.  Click here for more information on how to apply for a loan.  

Other business regulations

On March 16 Gov. Sununu ordered all restaurants and bars to offer takeout or delivery only. In a follow-up order on March 18, Gov. Sununu allowed restaurants to offer beer and wine with takeout and delivery.

State liquor stores are staying open, and on March 31 the governor announced a 10% pay increase for people working in liquor stores.

A March 21 order requires grocery stores to use disposable shopping bags.  Reusable shopping bags are more likely to carry disease.

On March 23 Gov. Sununu issued an order to temporarily allow online notarization.

The same day he issued an order to allow pharmacies to make and sell hand sanitizer, and to allow pharmacists to do more work remotely.  Another order allows out-of-state pharmacies to act as mail-order pharmacies in New Hampshire.

On March 30 Gov. Sununu announced the state was pushing the business tax deadline for most businesses to June 15, 2020.

Flexible licensing

As part of his emergency declaration on March 13, Gov. Sununu loosened various licensing requirements. For example, out-of-state emergency personnel responding to COVID-19 can operate in New Hampshire without being licensed by the Granite State. The Department of Health and Human Services can also waive some requirements for day care facilities, for example to allow daycare at the site of critical employers.

On March 27 Gov. Sununu issued an order that allows criminal background checks to take place without fingerprinting.

Funding for health care

On March 19 the governor announced a $50 million fund to give grants or loans “to provide emergency relief to all aspects of the New Hampshire healthcare system.” The money will come from the general fund of all tax revenue. Gov. Sununu has advised legislative leaders that the economic impact of COVID-19 may require big budget changes.

Mandated insurance coverage for COVID-19 tests

On March 10 the New Hampshire Insurance Department ordered all New Hampshire insurers to cover costs associated with COVID-19 tests, without cost sharing. The order also requires health insurers to make other accommodations for the coronavirus, such as allowing customers to refill prescriptions early.

In a later order, on March 18, Gov. Sununu ordered health insurers to provide equal coverage for telemedicine. In other words, health insurers cannot require people to meet with their health care providers face-to-face to get coverage for an appointment.

No visitors for residential facilities

As part of his emergency declaration on March 13, Gov. Sununu prohibited visitors to any assisted living facilities, long term care facilities, nursing facilities, residential care facilities, and any other similar facilities for “elderly or infirm patients.”

Transition to remote learning

Beginning March 16, Gov. Sununu ordered all schools in New Hampshire to transition to remote learning until at least April 3.  That order has since been extended until May 4.  Click here to access remote learning resources from the state Department of Education.  

In a follow-up order on March 18 Gov. Sununu gave schools more flexibility to use software that may not have been fully vetted for privacy purposes.

On March 30 the governor announced the government will not administer statewide standardized tests this school year.  Students looking to take the SAT or other college entrance exams will have the opportunity to do so this summer.

The state university system has transitioned to remote learning for the rest of the semester.

No utility shut-offs

On March 16 the governor forbade providers of electricity, gas and other fuel, water, telephone, cable, VOIP, and internet from disconnecting customers during the state of emergency.

No evictions, foreclosures

On March 16 Gov. Sununu prohibited landlords from starting the eviction process during the state of emergency. The governor also prohibited foreclosures from moving forward.

DMV and Toll Changes

Starting March 23, the DMV will offer limited in-person appointments at just five locations: Concord, Dover, Manchester, Newport, and Twin Mountain.  On March 27 the governor issued an executive order allowing six-month driver's license renewals without someone coming in for a vision test.  Anyone renewing a disability placard or license plate is also granted a six-month extension without an in-person examination.

The March 27 order also makes some changes to driver education.  For now the classroom portion of driver education can take place completely online.  Students may complete the mandatory six hours of observation with a parent driving.  The order does not change the required ten hours of driving time with an instructor.

Starting Monday, March 30 the Department of Transportation will only accept exact change at toll plazas.  Drivers without exact change may drive through E-ZPass lanes, then pay online or by telephone within seven days.  Click here for more information.

Other remote government services

The New Hampshire Legislature suspended legislative activity until May 4.  They are exploring options to meet remotely.

The New Hampshire judicial branch similarly suspended most in-person court proceedings.

On March 23 Gov. Sununu waived many in-person requirements for public meetings under the right-to-know law.  There must still be some way for the public to access the meeting remotely, for example by calling in.

On March 24 Gov. Sununu announced three websites to connect New Hampshire residents with volunteer opportunities during the emergency.  NHResponds.org provides an online registration portal for medical and non-medical volunteers. VolunteerNH.org connects residents with nonprofits looking for volunteers.  Lastly, NHEconomy.com/PPEHelp shows businesses what supplies the state needs and how to provide them.

Federal policy impacting New Hampshire

President Trump has signed three bills aimed at the coronavirus. The first bill set aside close to $7.8 billion to combat the spread of the virus. Funding went to everything from medical supplies to local emergency preparation.

The second bill, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, does the following:

  • Requires free coronavirus testing, regardless of insurance coverage.
  • Requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide two weeks of paid sick leave if an employee is quarantined, experiencing symptoms, or caring for a family member. Employers will get a tax credit to offset costs.
  • Expands unemployment grants to help states cover higher unemployment claims.
  • Expands funding and eligibility for various food programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The third bill sets aside over $2 trillion dollars in funding for businesses, state and local governments, and individuals impacted by COVID-19.  Learn more here.

Several states have reopened their online health insurance exchanges to let more people enroll in health insurance.  New Hampshire uses the federal health insurance exchange website, so it depends on the federal government to reopen the exchange for sign ups.  In March Gov. Sununu requested a special enrollment period from the federal government, with no response yet.

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