Sen. Dan Feltes: ‘Stop the politics, start fixing unemployment’

For the Monitor
Published: 4/30/2020 6:00:09 AM

Recently, I spoke out about the tens of thousands of Granite Staters crushed by job loss that have yet to receive a single unemployment check. Some have waited for weeks. Some to this very day. Many haven’t gotten one single check.

That’s because Gov. Chris Sununu hasn’t dedicated the resources to make adequate modifications to the unemployment insurance computer system to reflect expanded COVID-19 benefits. When expanding unemployment to cover COVID-19 related job losses, other governors immediately and adequately adjusted their computer systems, Governor Sununu did not.

I fought for workers and working families during the last crisis – the Great Recession – as a legal aid attorney, and I am not going to stop fighting for them now, regardless of the political rhetoric it provokes.

In this paper, one of the chief Sununu-Trump defenders tried to characterize my speaking out as a “rant [that] is an insult to state workers,” and that “no one could have prepared for the economic carnage visited on the world by a corrupt Communist Chinese government.” Other state’s governors have addressed the latter, I’ll address the former.

Unlike other governors, Gov. Sununu failed to dedicate the resources to make adequate adjustments in the computer system for COVID-19. As I wrote when I expressed my concerns for the thousands of people falling through the cracks: “There are good people working for the state. There are good people at New Hampshire Employment Security. They are working overtime, sometimes double-time. This needed to be a priority from the onset of this crisis. But, instead, Gov. Sununu did not make it a priority.”

These state employees and national guardsmen and women are working incredibly hard, and they need a computer system that works for the current situation. It needs to be fixed.

We’re all in this together. Like any good team, we need to hold each other accountable. Holding Gov. Sununu accountable doesn’t mean state employees have failed – quite the opposite. Prioritizing adequate changes to the unemployment computer system helps support our state employees, easing their frustrations and giving them the tool they need to be more efficient.

The disappointing efforts by some to use state employees as a shield for Gov. Sununu’s failed management is a disservice to our state employees, to the entire state, and to the thousands still waiting for the benefits they deserve as the next month’s bills start to pile up.

The reality is Gov. Sununu – for well over a year – has refused to agree to a contract with state employees. In doing so, Gov. Sununu even refused to adopt a neutral fact-finder recommendation on a contract. Our hard-working state employees help all of us, especially now, and many are on the front lines of COVID-19 in public health and public safety. They deserve more than our thanks, they deserve a fair contract now.

I’m going to continue to advocate for them and for the tens of thousands of folks falling through the cracks every day. In response, politicians can call it a “rant,” or talk about China, or play other political games to try to deflect from the real issues. My message is this: Stop the politics, start fixing unemployment. It’s that simple.

(Dan Feltes of Concord serves as state senator for Concord, Henniker, Hopkinton, Penacook and Warner, and as the Senate’s majority leader. In the 2020 election, he is running to serve as governor.)


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