Gov. Sununu 'very confident' New Hampshire's economy can restart safely amid coronavirus outbreak

By Talia Kaplan | Fox News

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu told “Fox & Friends Weekend” on Sunday he’s “very confident” restaurants in his state can reopen safely for outdoor dining amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have a task force that’s continually looking at new opportunities to open up the economy so in every step that we take, we have new guidance documents [which are] reviewed by myself and the folks at the department of public health,” Sununu said, one day before restaurants there are allowed to restart outdoor dining.

Sununu explained that officials were taking “smart, sensible steps forward” that would help ensure the state won’t “go backwards.”

Retail stores, drive-in movie theaters, golf courses, barbershops and hair salons reopened last week under Sununu’s guidelines to a phased reopening.

The governor’s stay-at-home order is set to expire May 31.

As of Sunday, New Hampshire reported 3,556 coronavirus cases and 171 deaths, according to data compiled by Fox News.

“I had one of the strongest economies in the country, and then two months later, I’m at 15-percent unemployment managing a stay-at-home order in a ‘live free or die’ state,” Sununu said.

When asked what he’s hearing from small business owners, Sununu responded, “small businesses have been hurt, there’s no doubt about it.”

He continued, “As a former owner of hotels and restaurants myself, I get it, especially in the tourism industry… the one area where we’re having the most trouble opening.”

Sununu pointed out that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) created by Congress as part of the massive stimulus package for businesses with fewer than 500 workers has worked “very well.”  If companies spend at least 75 percent of the money from the loan on maintaining payroll, the government will forgive it, officials have said.

Sununu said the PPP “put a couple billion dollars in here, frankly, for a lot of businesses.”

However, he added, “There’s a lot of folks that didn’t get first in line, that might have fallen through the cracks.”

Sununu continued, “We put forth a $400 million program specifically for small businesses for the basic things, paying rent, keeping the lights on, paying their property taxes, whatever it might be to get through the bump in this economy.”

He said he hoped Congress will agree on another stimulus bill soon.

“My hope is that they will negotiate something out and get something quick,” Sununu said. “We’re really at the apex of need for businesses and in hospitals and health-care systems. The need is now, so they really got to get back to work and figure this one out.”

On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, the most expensive legislation approved by that body in history, that Democrats hailed as the unprecedented response needed to deal with the pandemic and its economic fallout.

The 1,815-page package was drafted by Democrats alone and earned a veto threat from the White House and condemnation from the GOP as a “liberal wish list” that’s dead on arrival in the Senate.

Fox News’ Stephen Sorace and Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.Talia Kaplan is a reporter for FoxNews.com.

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