Here is a summary of all the policies Gov. Sununu and his departments have implemented during the state of emergency.
On December 11 Gov. Sununu issued an order requiring patients and health care providers to register COVID-19 vaccinations with the NH Immunization Information System, commonly known as a vaccine registry. Once the state of emergency ends, patients can request a removal from the registry.
Right now there is still a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines. New Hampshire has a plan to vaccinate groups in phases. The very first vaccines went to high-risk health workers, first responders, and older adults in residential care settings. New Hampshire is now vaccinating:
- Everyone over age 65 (following a new recommendation from the Trump administration to expand eligibility to that age group)
- Medically vulnerable people at “significantly higher risk”
- Residents and staff of residential facilities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
- Corrections officers and staff
- Any remaining first responders and health care workers
By March the state plans to start the second phase of vaccines, including K-12 school and childcare staff. After that comes people age 50-64, then medically vulnerable people under age 50, then everyone else. The state may modify this plan if there is a significant change in supplies or federal guidance.
A January 4 executive order allows pharmacy technicians to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
On November 19 Gov. Sununu announced a statewide mask mandate. The mandate applies everywhere indoors and outdoors where it is impossible to maintain six-foot social distancing.
The following people do NOT have to wear masks:
- Children under age 5
- Educators, students, and staff within K-12 schools
- Any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a mask or other face covering (they do NOT have to provide documentation or other evidence of a condition)
- Any person consuming food or drink or sitting at a restaurant or table
- Any person engaged in "strenuous physical activity"
- Any person giving a religious, political, media, educational, cultural, musical, or theatrical presentation or performance for an audience
- Any person who is deaf or hard of hearing, and any person while communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing or who has a disability, medical condition, or mental health condition that makes communication with that individual while wearing a mask or face covering difficult
- Any person obtaining or providing a service that requires the temporary removal of a mask or face covering
- Any person asked to remove a mask or face covering to verify an identity for lawful purposes
- Any public safety worker actively engaged in a public safety role and when a mask or face covering would seriously interfere in the performance of their public safety responsibilities.
The mandate does not include any specific fines or penalties. However, businesses can be fined for not following COVID-19 safety orders. Towns and cities may also pass their own mask ordinances with fines.
During most of the state of emergency, Gov. Sununu refrained from requiring masks in public. On August 11 Gov. Sununu announced New Hampshire would require anyone at a scheduled gathering of 100 or more people to wear a mask.
On March 26, 2020 Gov. Sununu announced a "stay-at-home" order, closing non-essential businesses. While the stay-at-home order expired June 15, Gov. Sununu still restricted various public gatherings. Most of these restrictions were drafted by the Economic Re-Opening Task Force.
Here is a summary of reopenings:
- Starting May 4, hospitals could offer more procedures and services.
- Starting May 11, golf locations could open to New Hampshire residents and private members. On June 5 Gov. Sununu opened golf to non-residents, as well.
- Starting May 11, retail locations could open to a limited number of customers at a time. Customers and employees must wear facemasks and follow other safety procedures.
- Starting May 11, barbershops and hair salons could open for basic hair services. Once again customers and employees must wear facemasks and follow other safety procedures.
- Starting May 18, restaurants could open limited outdoor dining areas. Starting June 15 restaurants could open for indoor dining with tables six feet apart.
- Starting May 22, non-contact youth sports could practice outdoors in groups of ten or less. Players must use their own equipment. Starting June 15 outdoor, non-contact amateur and youth sports could expand to groups of up to 50. On October 15 Gov. Sununu announced a two-week suspension for all youth hockey after several outbreaks. A month later he announced a ban on interstate youth hockey games.
- Starting May 29, behind-the-wheel driver's education could take place with instructors.
- Starting May 29, churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship could open for in-person services at 40% capacity. On June 19 Gov. Sununu bumped up that capacity to 50%.
- Starting June 1, fitness centers could offer small group classes with adequate social distancing.
- Starting June 1, personal care services such as acupuncturists and nail salons could open to a limited number of customers. There are other safety guidelines.
- Starting June 1, seacoast beaches could open for transient use, such as swimming, surfing, and running. State parking will be limited to 50%. On June 5 Gov. Sununu announced that the state would also allow sunbathing on beaches. There were some challenges managing crowds at Hampton beach; on June 29 Gov. Sununu announced a pay increase of $3 per hour for state park staff working in Hampton.
- Starting June 5, hotels and short-term rentals could resume service. According to the governor, "If you are coming from out-of-state to stay at a NH hotel or rental location, you must self-attest to having stayed in your home, only leaving for essential purposes, for the previous 14 days." An earlier executive order restricted hotels, motels, AirBnBs, and other short-term rentals to housing essential workers and "vulnerable populations," such as homeless individuals. The state never closed campgrounds, although they were limited to members and New Hampshire residents.
- Starting June 15, wedding venues, funeral homes, libraries, charitable gaming locations, bowling alleys, gyms, museums, race tracks and other outdoor attractions could open with restrictions (usually including 50% capacity limits).
- Starting June 22, day camps could resume operations within safety guidelines. Overnight camps could start June 28.
- Starting June 29, amusement parks, performing arts centers, and indoor movie theaters could open with capacity restrictions.
Quarantine after travel
Under current travel guidelines, anyone traveling outside New England must quarantine for 10 days after arriving in New Hampshire. A person can leave quarantine early if they test negative for COVID-19 after seven days.
If someone is at least fourteen days past the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccination they do not need to quarantine.
On August 13 Gov. Sununu issued an executive order clarifying the penalties for violating emergency rules and regulations related to the coronavirus. The fines are generally $1,000 for each violation or each day a violation continues.
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 included:
- 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)
The $600 per week, from federal funding, ended in July. However, on August 18 Gov. Sununu announced that the state would participate in a new federal program to boost benefits by $300 per week, with a $100 match from the state. That program ran out in September. The federal government renewed the $300 per week benefit at the end of December.
Remote learning and the 2020/21 school year
On July 14 Gov. Sununu announced the state's guidelines for K-12 schools in the fall of 2020. Desks should be at least three feet apart, students should have assigned seating, and districts should be prepared to pivot to remote learning. The guidelines are mostly recommendations rather than mandates. For example, local schools will have the power to decide whether to require face coverings. Click here to read the full guidelines.
On August 11 Gov. Sununu detailed how the state will handle a cluster or outbreak of COVID-19 cases in a school. The state will notify school officials of any positive case, as well as any close contacts of that case. If there is an outbreak, the state recommends the school transition to remote learning for 14 days.
Gov. Sununu ordered all schools in New Hampshire to transition to remote learning in mid-March 2020. That order continued through the end of the school year.
There were a few executive orders related to remote learning. An order on March 18 gave schools more flexibility to use software that may not have been fully vetted for privacy purposes.
On March 30 the governor announced New Hampshire would not administer statewide standardized tests for the 2019-2020 school year.
An April 28 executive order gave school districts more flexibility to spend outside their budget. That same order gave the Department of Education greater flexibility to waive requirements for schools.
On May 26 Gov. Sununu ordered every school district to hold Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team meetings to consider Extended-School Year services for each student with an IEP.
Small business and nonprofit 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.
On April 3 Gov. Sununu announced that the state was moving a large portion of cash reserves to small New Hampshire banks, with the goal of increasing loans to small businesses across the state.
On April 10 the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority and New Hampshire Business Finance Authority announced the New Hampshire Nonprofit Response Fund. Using donations from the business community, the fund will provide nonprofits up to $100,000 in loans and grants, with a focus on service providers. On May 15 Gov. Sununu announced an additional $60 million for nonprofits from the federal CARES Act money.
The same day Gov. Sununu announced a $400 million grant fund for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Click here to learn more.
On June 18 Gov. Sununu announced the Self Employed Livelihood Fund for self-employed individuals, which allows self-employed individuals to access some of the small business grants.
Lastly Gov. Sununu created the New Hampshire General Assistance & Preservation (GAP) Fund for businesses and nonprofits that did not qualify for previous grants. Click here to learn more.
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.
Starting May 18 restaurants could start offering outdoor seating; starting June 15 restaurants could offer some indoor dining. On August 21, Gov. Sununu announced he was lifting indoor capacity restrictions for restaurants in all ten counties.
Starting October 1, restaurants could seat people indoors less than 6-feet apart so long as there are physical barriers between parties.
On October 29 Gov. Sununu announced that restaurants will start collecting customer names and phone numbers to help with contact tracing in the event of a coronavirus exposure.
On April 3 Gov. Sununu announced the New Hampshire Grocers Association was launching an emergency operations center to support grocery stores during the pandemic. The state worked with the association to develop guidelines to keep grocery store employees and customers safe. Those guidelines include marking six foot spacing in checkout lines, installing plexiglass shields at cash registers, and more.
A March 21 order required grocery stores to use disposable shopping bags. Reusable shopping bags are more likely to carry disease. Gov. Sununu lifted that order on July 27.
State liquor stores stayed open throughout the pandemic, and on March 31 the governor announced a 10% pay increase for people working in liquor stores.
Other business regulations
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. An April 24 order forbids "pharmacy desk audits, field audits or other routine audits that may consume considerable pharmacist or pharmacy staff resources under short deadlines."
On March 30 Gov. Sununu announced the state was pushing the business tax deadline for most businesses to June 15, 2020.
An April 1 executive order allows construction to begin if local building officials are unable to meet and approve permit applications. A contractor still has to follow certain procedures, laid out in the executive order.
On April 9 Gov. Sununu issued an executive order that waives or extends deadlines and certification in several different areas, from asbestos licenses to tank operator certifications. Click here to see the full list from the governor.
On May 4 Sununu announced a program for businesses to get free masks from the state's stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE). Click here to access state help for businesses, including PPE.
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.
On April 1 Gov. Sununu addressed a different sort of license—marriage licenses. Any marriage license that would expire during the state of emergency is now extended 60 days from the end of the state of emergency.
On December 10 Gov. Sununu signed an order that allows senior nursing students to work as nurses under a temporary license. On December 30 he signed a similar order authorizing military service members and emergency medical technicians to work as nurses under a temporary license.
Stipends for front-line workers
On April 14 Gov. Sununu announced a $300 per week special benefit for front-line workers at Medicaid-funded longterm care facilities and in-home care environments. He said this benefit is intended to help facilities retain employees during the emergency.
On May 4 Gov. Sununu announced a similar $150 to $300 per week stipend for firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, and corrections officers.
Testing for COVID-19
On April 14 Gov. Sununu announced a program for all employees at long-term care facilities in Rockingham and Hillsborough county to get tested for coronavirus through ConvientMD.
On May 6 Gov. Sununu announced that anyone can get tested for coronavirus in New Hampshire, without a doctor's referral. There is a portal on the state government's COVID-19 website to register for a test. Click here to visit the website.
On May 8 Gov. Sununu also announced that anyone can get tested for coronavirus antibodies by making an appointment with ClearChoiceMD.
Expanding 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.” On May 15 Gov. Sununu announced an additional $50 for the fund, all from federal CARES Act money.
On April 3 Gov. Sununu announced the state had built 14 clinical surge flex facilities. In late May the state closed all but four of those facilities, in Manchester, Plymouth, Durham, and Littleton.
An April 30 executive order allows a surrogate to consent to experimental treatment if a patient is severely ill with COVID-19 and unable to consent.
On May 28 Sununu announced "the Governor’s COVID-19 Equity Response Team to develop a recommended strategy and plan to address the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Mandated insurance coverage
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.
An April 9 order requires insurers to cover services provided at alternative care sites as if they were in-network. Alternative care sites include temporary hospitals built in locations such as gymnasiums. Since patients without COVID-19 may be transferred or diverted to other hospitals or care sites to manage the flow of COVID-19 patients, the requirements for insurance coverage apply even if a patient is not being treated for COVID-19.
An April 24 executive order forbids signature requirements for prescription receipts, unless there are federal signature requirements for a controlled substance. The April 24 order also specifically requires health insurers to continue employer sponsored coverage for furloughed employees, if the employer wants to do so. Lastly, the April 24 order declares that, for worker's compensation purposes, it is presumed that a first responder's COVID-19 infection is occupationally-related.
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.” The state is tracking outbreaks at long term care facilities. Learn more here.
Mortgage and rent assistance
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. However, a later executive order made clear that tenants are still responsible for paying missed rent.
Gov. Sununu ended the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures July 1.
In June he announced that $35 million of CARES Act funds will go to housing assistance. This includes grants for households that suffered a limited short-term loss of household income or increased expenses during the coronavirus shutdowns. Click here to access housing assistance.
Another executive order extends the minimum notice period for eviction from 7 to 30 days.
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. That order expired July 15. Utilities must give customers the opportunity to pay back missed bills over six months.
On April 9 Gov. Sununu ordered state and local officials to work with the private sector to identify an isolation site for homeless individuals with COVID-19. The order also directs officials to work with shelters to increase social distancing.
Lastly, the April 9 order directs officials to provide non-congregate temporary housing for first responders and health care workers who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and cannot return home due to the risk of infecting others.
Resources for victims of violence at home
On April 1 Gov. Sununu established the COVID-19 Emergency Domestic and Sexual Violence Services Relief Fund. That fund includes $600,000 for domestic and sexual violence crisis centers to provide services to victims during the pandemic.
On the same day Gov. Sununu expanded various other programs aimed at family violence, including child abuse. For example, he authorized the Division of Children, Youth and Families to convert all Family Violence Prevention Specialist positions from part-time to full-time.
DMV and Toll Changes
Starting March 23, 2020 the DMV offered limited in-person appointments at their locations.
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 made 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 only accepted 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.
The state also announced it would close most rest areas and welcome centers starting April 5.
Local government changes
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 April 1 Gov. Sununu issued an executive order allowing municipalities greater flexibility in many areas during the pandemic:
- Local governing bodies can sign manifests outside public meetings, with electronic signatures.
- Local governing bodies do not have to follow meeting schedules or deadlines written in law. That includes holding planning board meetings and approving planning board applications. The executive order includes a process for contractors to start building projects if permits and inspections don't go forward.
- Towns that postponed their town meetings or elections do not have to repeat hearings.
- Local governments can spend money outside the regular budget to address the COVID-19 pandemic without a public hearing. The state Department of Revenue Administration must approve any expenditures.
- Many other local government functions can move online. For example, municipalities are allowed to move welfare applications and vital records requests online or by appointment only.
On April 3 Gov. Sununu also announced that municipalities may choose to waive interest on late property tax payments.
An April 24 order waives the 28-day waiting period before a retired government employee can start working in a different government position part-time.
On May 4 Sununu announced the state was sending $40 million to cities and towns from federal funds to cover coronavirus-related expenditures.
Other remote government activity
The New Hampshire Legislature suspended legislative activity in March. The House reconvened for two days in June at the Whittemore Arena on the UNH campus in Durham. The Senate met in Representatives Hall at the Statehouse. Click here to learn about the legislation they passed.
In 2021 the New Hampshire Senate is planning to hold committee meetings, public hearings, and voting days virtually. Senators are also planning to combine legislation into a limited number of "omnibus" bills. Click here to learn more.
The New Hampshire House met January 6, 2021 for a "drive-in" session at the University of New Hampshire. House Speaker Sherman Packard has yet to announce how the House will meet for future voting days. In the meantime, House committees will hold meetings and public hearings with both in-person and remote participation options.
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.
The New Hampshire Attorney General and Secretary of State released a memo on April 10 that said, "Any voter may request an absentee ballot for the September 2020 Primary and November 2020 General Elections based on concerns regarding COVID-19."
Secretary of State Bill Gardner later assembled a six-person committee to oversee the spending of $3.2 million from the federal government to plan for elections during the pandemic. That funding helped cover the cost of processing additional absentee ballots. The committee's June report laid out a plan to provide PPE to poll workers, pay for increased absentee ballot processing, and allow voters to register by mail.
On May 13 Gov. Sununu waived the requirement for voters to appear in person to change their party affiliation before the next primary election.
Gov. Sununu later signed HB 1266, a bill that revised various election procedures to accommodate the coronavirus, such as allowing voters to simultaneously request ballots for the primary and general elections. Those changes expire at the end of 2020.
Federal policy impacting New Hampshire
On April 3 the federal government approved a major disaster declaration in New Hampshire, which gives the state access to more federal resources.
President Trump has also signed four 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, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, sets aside over $2 trillion dollars in funding for businesses, state and local governments, and individuals impacted by COVID-19. Learn more here. New Hampshire is getting over $1 billion from the CARES Act, but federal guidance strictly limits that money to coronavirus-specific expenses. State and local governments will not be able to use those funds to cover general budget shortfalls if tax revenue plummets this year.
A fourth bill sets aside an additional $484 billion for coronavirus aid. In particular, the bill adds funds to the popular Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans for employers to cover payroll during the emergency. The fourth bill also provides additional funds for health care and coronavirus testing.
Congress passed a fifth relief bill in December 2020. After holding out over the size of individual payments ($600 per person instead of $2,000), President Trump signed the bill into law. The final bill includes more emergency rental assistance, funding for vaccine distribution, an additional $300 per week for unemployment benefits, and individual payments of $600 per person.
State management of federal money
On April 7 Gov. Sununu announced the creation of the Governor's Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR). That office and its director oversees the use of federal funding from the CARES Act. According to the governor, the office manages "the accounting, auditing, legal, and IT requirements" for the investments. An advisory board of legislative leaders has "a voice in investment activities."
Democratic legislative leaders sued Gov. Sununu for more formal legislative involvement, but Gov. Sununu won in court.
On May 15, following input from the GOFERR legislative advisory board, Gov. Sununu announced $595 million in new spending from federal CARES Act money, including:
- $50 million more for health care, with $30 million specifically for long-term care providers
- $60 million for nonprofits
- $25 million for childcare
- $400 million for small business grants
- $15 million for farms, the NH Food Bank, and the food supply
- $15 million for the university and community college systems
- $30 million for the Business Finance Authority to distribute other forgivable business loans
On June 11 Gov. Sununu announced the following additional spending:
- $35 million for housing assistance
- $50 million for broadband development
- $15 million for homeless shelters
- $10 million for private colleges and universities
- $2 million for Chambers of Commerce
Since then Gov. Sununu has also announced:
- $2 million for youth focused programs (e.g. PPE for youth summer fitness programs, training for teachers on remote learning strategies)
- $2 million for community organizations that work with youth, such as Girls, Inc. and the Police Athletic League
- $1 million for the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce
- $6 million for substance use disorder and mental health treatment
- $7 million for veterans assistance
- $1.5 million for Volunteer New Hampshire
- $19 million for the university system to go to facility modifications and protective equipment
- $6 million for the community college system to provide tuition assistance for new and continuing students impacted by COVID-19
- $8 million to expand the preexisting UNIQUE scholarship program
- $1.5 million for scholarships for students in grades K-12
- $4 million for a special education provider fund
- $40 million for an additional round of business relief
- $45 million for public schools to pay for PPE, chromebooks, and other coronavirus-related necessities