CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — An investment group led by the family of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu benefited from a program created to preserve jobs at smaller businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Waterville Valley Holdings, which received between $350,000 and $1 million from the Paycheck Protection Program, is the principal investor in the Waterville Valley Resort, a ski area where Sununu served as CEO until just before he took office in 2017. He maintains an ownership interest in Sununu Holdings, which owns Waterville Valley Holdings.
The governor's legal counsel, John Formella, noted that the resort is part of an industry that was shut down and severely impacted by the pandemic. And at least five other New Hampshire ski areas or the resort properties associated with them also got loans, according to data released Monday by the Small Business Administration.
Under the PPP, Congress created $659 billion in low-interest loans that will be forgiven if employers use the money on payroll, rent and similar expenses. With about $130 billion unclaimed as the application deadline closed June 30, Congress extended the program until Aug. 8. The public may never know the identity of more than 80% of the nearly 5 million beneficiaries to date because the administration has refused to release details on loans under $150,000. That secrecy spurred a lawsuit by news organizations including The Associated Press.
In New Hampshire, 23,829 businesses received more than $2.5 billion. But the administration only released the names of the 3,442 who received at least $150,000. The amount of the loans were listed as ranges, with 14 businesses in the state at the highest level of $5 million to $10 million. Among that group, six are related to health care: Androscoggin Valley Hospital, Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association, Huggins Hospital, the Mental Health Center of Greater Nashua, Riverbend Community Mental Health and Speare Memorial Hospital. The others include a cargo handling company, a propane company, an engineering firm, and a plumbing and heating supply distributor.
Among ski areas, the owners of Pat’s Peak and Ragged Mountain also got at least $350,000 each. McIntyre Ski Area got at least $150,000, as did Sunapee Resort Properties and Purity Springs Resort, which is home to King Pine ski area.
Other coronavirus developments in New Hampshire:
President Donald Trump’s rally at Portsmouth International Airport on Saturday will be held at least partially indoors, an airport official said Monday.
According to the president’s campaign, the 8 p.m. rally will be held outside, with masks provided to all attendees to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But Paul Brean, executive director of the Pease Development Authority, said some of the crowd will be inside. The development authority owns the airport, which is part of a former U.S. Air Force base.
“The intent is to utilize a large hangar that has large overhead doors and allow people to go onto the tarmac in front of it,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of different political rallies in the past. This is a little bit different with COVID precautions.”
Public health officials are cautioning against holding large gatherings as the virus continues to spread throughout much of the country, but they believe outdoor congregations are relatively less risky than indoor gatherings. City councilor Deaglan McEachern has asked the mayor to schedule a special meeting before the rally to consider an ordinance requiring that masks be worn in the city. Councilor John Tabor said Monday he would support a mandate that everyone wear masks when and where social distancing is not possible, including indoors or on crowded sidewalks.
"Portsmouth has welcomed presidents for 240 years. However, our citizens have been highly responsible about COVID 19 and we don’t want to lose the good progress we’ve made against the pandemic," he said in an email.
But even if such an ordinance passed, it might not apply to the airport property.
"We are a federally funded FAA airport and we’re also a state entity,” Brean said. “Specifically on the airfield, a city ordinance — FAA policy would override that.”
Trump and his campaign hyped his formal return to the campaign trail with last month's Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally, which ultimately ended with disappointing turnout and an outbreak of the virus among staff and Secret Service agents.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has not issued a statewide mask mandate, nor did he block several large gatherings in recent months, including marches led by Black Lives Matter and rallies calling for the reopening of the state’s businesses.
“As Governor I will always welcome the President of the United States to New Hampshire,” he said in a statement. “It is imperative that folks attending the rally wear masks.”
Sununu said his own schedule is still being finalized but if he greets Trump at the airport, he will be wearing a mask.
THE NUMBERS As of Monday, 5,914 people in New Hampshire had tested positive for the virus, an increase of 21 from the previous day. One new death was announced, bringing the total to 382.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe illness and can lead to death.