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Executive Council reverses course on COVID funding

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
December 02, 2021
REGION — Earlier this fall, the Executive Council voted not to accept $22.5 million in federal aid for vaccination and COVID mitigation efforts in New Hampshire.

The money is to aid vaccine providers in the state by utilizing the state's immunization information system to better track vaccination data. In rejecting the proposed American Rescue Plan Act funding, the Council's Republican contingent expressed concern that to accept would trigger an obligation on the part of the state to adhere to any vaccination mandates issued by the federal government.

Gov. Chris Sununu reminded the Council that none of the language regarding COVID funding from the federal government has changed, and that the Council had previously accepted those funds. Sununu was in favor of accepting the federal funds. A notice was sent out by New Hampshire's Attorney General, stating that the contracts would not require New Hampshire to submit to federal pandemic policies, including quarantines and vaccines.

While reversing course, the Council only did so by including a resolution that condemns mandates. This resolution however is not law, just an official statement.

Executive Councilor for District 1, Joe Kenney, said, "It's simple — the Council voted for the $22.5 million contract, after the Governor agreed to our resolution against the federal mandate that included isolation and quarantine enforcement."

The Council voted 4-0 to accept the funds, with one member abstaining. That member was Ted Gatsas, who said attaching a resolution may set a "negative precedent."

After the Council finally agreed to accept this funding, they went on to accept close to $5 million in vaccine funding from another source. Further, the Council approved $6 million to aid health care workers in rolling out more vaccination shots.

After acknowledging that the initial rejection caused a delay in booster shots as well as vaccinations for children at the state level, Sununu said, "My administration worked with the Council to find a solution to move forward in a bipartisan manner and ensure we got these funds out to help with vaccine distribution and a variety of other issues, as well."

Councilor Cinde Warmington of District 2, and also a health care attorney noted that the resolution is "meaningless" and only used to provide political cover to those who voted wrong the first time.

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