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COVID-19: Sununu cites pandemic in vetoing minimum wage hike

  • Annabelle Horton, 2, from West Dover, picks blueberries at the Boyd Family Farm, in Wilmington, Vt., on Friday, July 24, 2020. (Kristopher Radder /The Brattleboro Reformer via AP) The Brattleboro Reformer — Kristopher Radder

The Associated Press
Published: 7/24/2020 9:57:02 PM
Modified: 7/24/2020 9:56:58 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu on Friday vetoed a bill that would have raised New Hampshire’s minimum wage, saying it creates negative unintended consequences that are only “exacerbated” by the economic situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sununu said in his veto message that a law can force an employer to pay a minimum wage, but it cannot force an employer to hire or retain a worker at that wage, or to continue offering the same number of hours to that worker.

“This bill would have meant fewer jobs and fewer available hours for our workers who are unemployed or underemployed. It would mean our employers who are fighting for survival would have one more burden placed on their backs as they try to recover,” he said in a statement.

“In our current economic environment, the greatest burden would fall squarely on entry-level workers, who need job skills to advance in their careers. Raising the minimum wage would create a barrier for these new workers, as well as those re-entering the job market from the criminal justice system at a time when unemployment remains high,” Sununu said.

The bill would have raised the wage from $7.25 an hour to $10 an hour in 2021 and $12 in 2023. Sununu vetoed a similar bill last year.

Senate President Donna Soucy, a Democrat from Manchester, called the veto a disappointment, pointing out that neighboring states all have a minimum wage of $10.

“This disparity continues to drive away the workers we so desperately need,” she said in a statement.

School reopening plans take shape in Vermont

At least 16 Vermont school districts are planning to start the upcoming school year using an at-home and in-school teaching system to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The schools in Addison, Chittenden and Franklin counties will have half of the students in school on Monday and Tuesday. The other half will attend Thursday and Friday. On Wednesdays, the school buildings will be cleaned.

All students and staff will wear masks and practice physical distancing while in the school buildings.

In a letter to parents, the South Burlington School District said the groups will be “thoughtfully created so they best support families, including grouping family members together whenever possible.”

“We know that no matter what decision we make, some people aren’t going to be happy with it,” said Superintendent Michael Clark of the Grand Isle Supervisory Union.

Jessie Mongeon, of South Burlington, who has a daughter going into second grade, said she wondered if the district would have a remote-only option for parents who are uncomfortable sending their children back to school.

“I feel like I can’t make a decision until (the school district gives) us more information,” Mongeon said.

Mask materials maker ramps up in New Hampshire

A company that produces material used in protective respirator masks is planning to ramp up production in New Hampshire during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lydall Inc., is expanding to house two new production lines in Rochester that will produce the part of N95 and surgical masks that traps bacteria, viruses, dust and other particles. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday.

The new lines are supported by a $13.5 million federal contract the company secured with departments of Defense and Health and Human Services, and funding provided through the federal CARES Act.

Once completed by May 2021, the company says this will be the largest U.S. site for what it refers to as meltblown filtration media production. It says it will produce enough of the material for 1.7 billion N95 respirators or 6.5 billion surgical masks per year.

Lydall is headquartered in Manchester, Conn.

Twin State virus numbers

As of Friday, 6,375 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of 59 cases. Two new deaths were announced, for a total of 407.

The Vermont Health Department on Friday reported eight new positive cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to 1,385.

The new Vermont cases were spread among six counties across the state. There are three people hospitalized.

— Wire reports

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