Granite State Progress and Reproductive Freedom Fund of NH Celebrate US House Passage of Women’s Health Protection Act

Critical legislation will protect abortion access throughout the U.S.

CONCORD, NH – Granite State Progress and the Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire celebrate the passage of H.R. 3755, the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) by the U.S. House of Representatives. The WHPA creates a federal safeguard against state-level bans and medically unnecessary restrictions that single out abortion and impede access to care. Granite State Progress and RFFNH are part of a coalition of more than 100 federal, state, and local organizations supporting efforts to advance the bill.

“With Roe v. Wade on the precipice and abortion access under attack in New Hampshire by anti-choice politicians like Governor Chris Sununu and his Republican colleagues, there has never been a more urgent time for Congress to codify reproductive rights into federal law,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “Abortion access is a human right, and reproductive freedom is a core Granite State value. Since the passage of Sununu’s abortion ban and the defunding of the family planning program, Granite Staters have shown up and made their voices heard, definitively rejecting efforts by lawmakers to criminalize physicians and take away our reproductive rights. We are grateful to our full Congressional delegation for their steadfast support of reproductive freedom and independence, and strongly urge the U.S. Senate to do what is necessary to protect abortion for all Granite Staters and all Americans.”

“The urgency of the WHPA passage simply cannot be overstated,” said Josie Pinto, Executive Director of the Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire. “In the nearly fifty years since Roe v. Wade was decided, efforts to restrict abortion access have only increased. This year, New Hampshire passed its first ever gestational abortion ban – the most restrictive piece of legislation relating to abortion in our state’s history. Our fund was already fighting against barriers to abortion care for patients, and these new restrictions make it even harder for Granite Staters to access the reproductive health care they need. We need Congress to take definitive action to protect abortion rights as soon as possible, and then work to expand access for patients and remove other barriers to care such as high cost and limited provider availability.”

A poll conducted earlier this year by Hart Research Associates showed that a majority (61%) of voters believe abortion rights across the country should be protected with a new federal law like WHPA. In New Hampshire, a poll conducted by UNH in July showed that recent legislation passed by Governor Chris Sununu to ban abortions at 24 weeks with virtually no exemptions and mandate medically unnecessary ultrasounds for all patients is highly unpopular.

Since 2011, anti-abortion lawmakers have pushed more than 500 restrictive laws through state legislatures that make abortion difficult and, sometimes, impossible to access. These abortion restrictions and bans are becoming more extreme—and are disproportionately harming people who already face discriminatory obstacles to health care, particularly Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, those working to make ends meet, women, young people, people with disabilities, immigrants, people living in rural communities, and members of the LGBTQI+ community.  

The impact is devastating. Today, nearly 90 percent of American counties are without a single abortion provider, and 27 cities have become “abortion deserts” because people who live there must travel 100 miles or more to reach a provider. In New Hampshire, there are only four clinics to serve more than 1.3 million residents, and the Executive Council voted to defund those providers last week by rejecting the contracts for the state’s Family Planning program.

You can learn more about the Women’s Health Protection Act HERE.

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Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Visit https://granitestateprogress.org/ to learn more.

WHODUNNIT: Sununu’s Lawyers Point Finger In Both Directions in Dual Lawsuits Over Sununu Administration Prematurely Ending Federal Unemployment Benefits

Whodunnit? Governor Sununu. The case of the PUA lawsuit.

Attorney General’s office pleads both that Sununu is/is not responsible

CONCORD, NH – Governor Chris Sununu’s legal team is pointing the finger in both directions in dual lawsuits filed over Sununu’s decision to prematurely cut off federal unemployment benefits for thousands of Granite State families.

  • In a motion to dismiss filed in the Hillsborough County South Superior Court, the Attorney General’s office argues the four plaintiffs do not have standing because they sued New Hampshire Employment Security instead of Governor Chris Sununu.
  • In a separate motion filed in the Grafton Superior Court, the Attorney General’s office argues the sole plaintiff does not have standing because they sued Governor Chris Sununu instead of New Hampshire Employment Security.

“The Sununu administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth, like usual,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, which is helping with the lawsuit. “This is baldly two-faced, and particularly cruel to make plaintiffs play whack-a-mole instead of Sununu just taking responsibility for the mess he created. But what else would we expect from an administration that prematurely cut off thousands of Granite State families from federal unemployment benefits, a program that comes at no cost to the State of New Hampshire and which is intended to help families better recover from COVID-19. We hope the courts and public see these two-faced filings for what they are, and that the court can provide relief for families facing ongoing economic hardship from the loss of these federal benefits.”

“The state’s motion to dismiss is just another slap in the face to those of us waiting on edge to hear whether or not we will be able to apply for the federal benefits that Congress passed for us,” said Stephanie McKay, moderator of the NH Unemployment During COVID-19 Facebook group of over 4,500 Granite Staters who experienced unemployment during COVID-19. “None of us wanted to lose our jobs or income due to COVID-19. It could have happened to anyone, and we should not have to deal with the state’s political games when they should just restore our benefits now.”

The case filed in Hillsborough County South Superior Court had a preliminary hearing in early September and is waiting for the court’s response. The Grafton Superior Court case has been in process since July. While the court case will proceed regardless, a communication from the federal Department of Labor makes it clear that states which prematurely ended benefits can reopen the federal unemployment benefits, at no cost to the state and with all administrative costs covered, by sending a letter to DOL no later than October 6th. New Hampshire stands to lose out on millions in federal dollars if action isn’t taken soon. All the Sununu Administration has to do is act now instead of wasting taxpayer dollars opposing lawsuits to restore the benefits.

The initial press release reviewing the Hillsborough case can be found here.

A copy of the full Hillsborough legal petition and plaintiff stories can be found here.

A timeline of the Grafton case can be found here.

To contribute to the GSP COVID-19 Action Fund for important work like this, donate here.

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Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Visit https://granitestateprogress.org/ to learn more.

Statement on Preliminary Court Hearing On Lawsuit Filed by Granite Staters Against Sununu Administration Over Premature Cut-Off of Federal Unemployment Assistance Benefit

Text: It's official. We are suing Gov. Sununu. Image: Sununu sitting at desk.

NASHUA, NH – The Hillsborough County South Superior Court held a preliminary hearing this afternoon on a lawsuit filed last week against Governor Chris Sununu’s Administration for prematurely cutting off federal unemployment benefits available under the CARES Act. The suit is filed on behalf of four plaintiffs seeking a declaratory ruling and injunctive relief to reinstate the benefits, which could return thousands of dollars to Granite State families facing the loss of a job or income due to the COVID-19 public health pandemic. Statements on the hearing:

“We presented a strong case today and expect to hear from the court soon,” said Mike Perez of Perez Law, attorney for the plaintiffs. “The plaintiffs are eager to have this issue resolved and to figure out the next steps for each of their families.”

“We have been waiting for our day in court, and we are glad the judge heard the situations and experiences that have led us here today,” said Stephanie McKay, moderator of the NH Unemployment During COVID-19 Facebook group of over 4,500 Granite Staters who experienced unemployment during COVID-19. “It was shocking to hear the State argue that we brought this emergency on ourselves, as many families who lost federal unemployment benefits are struggling to afford school supplies for their kids and pay basic bills for food and rent. But we are thankful for the opportunity to present our case and we hope that the outcome restores these benefits to thousands of impacted Granite Staters.”

“The state’s response makes it clear they are still leaning into the disproven theory that prematurely ending the federal unemployment benefits for struggling Granite State families would significantly impact unemployment rates in the state,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “There are real barriers to workforce re-entry, including child care and other caregiving responsibilities, health issues, transportation, finding employment that matches your skills and training, and other such factors. The Sununu Administration could have focused on any of those instead of taking away people’s benefits.”

The initial press release reviewing the case can be found here.

A copy of the full legal petition and plaintiff stories can be found here.

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Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Visit https://granitestateprogress.org/ to learn more.

Court Hearing On Lawsuit Filed by Granite Staters Against Sununu Administration Over Premature Cut-Off of Federal Unemployment Assistance Benefit Scheduled for Friday, September 3rd at 2:00 PM

Text: It's official. We are suing Gov. Sununu. Image: Sununu sitting at desk.

***MEDIA ADVISORY FOR SEPTEMBER 3RD AT 2:00 PM***

NASHUA, NH – Today, September 3rd at 2:00 PM, the Hillsborough County South Superior Court will hold a preliminary hearing on a new lawsuit filed last week against Governor Chris Sununu’s Administration for prematurely cutting off federal unemployment benefits available under the CARES Act. The suit is filed on behalf of four plaintiffs seeking a declaratory ruling and injunctive relief to reinstate the benefits, which could return thousands of dollars to Granite State families facing the loss of a job or income due to the COVID-19 public health pandemic.

The initial press release reviewing the case can be found here. A copy of the full legal petition and plaintiff stories can be found here.

WHAT: Preliminary Hearing on Lawsuit Filed Against Sununu Administration Over Premature Cut-Off of Federal Unemployment Assistance Benefit PUA

WHEN: Friday, September 3rd at 2:00 PM

WHERE: Virtual via Webex, Courtroom 4 in Hillsborough County Superior Court – South Nashua, NH

RSVP: Press should email tjackson@courts.state.nh.us for the virtual Webex link. The case number is 226-2021-CV-00423. More instructions available here.

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Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Visit https://granitestateprogress.org/ to learn more.

ICYMI: Granite Staters File Lawsuit Against Sununu Administration Over Premature Cut-Off of Federal Unemployment Assistance Benefit

Text: It's official. We are suing Gov. Sununu. Image: Sununu sitting at desk.

Ruling could return thousands of dollars to Granite State families facing the loss of a job or income due to the COVID-19 public health pandemic

CONCORD, NH – In case you missed it, a new lawsuit was filed in the Hillsborough County South Superior Court last week against Governor Chris Sununu’s Administration for prematurely cutting off federal unemployment benefits available to Granite Staters under the CARES Act. The suit is filed on behalf of four plaintiffs seeking a declaratory ruling and injunctive relief to reinstate the benefits, which could return thousands of dollars to Granite State families facing the loss of a job or income due to the COVID-19 public health pandemic. A court date is set for Friday, September 3rd.

Media Round Up

NH Bulletin: New Hampshire sued for early end to federal unemployment benefits.New Hampshire is now one of 15 states that have been sued for ending federal unemployment benefits before they expire Sept. 6. Similar lawsuits have seen some success in at least three states, failed in several, and are pending in the rest. The lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court on behalf of four people who received federal pandemic benefits alleges the state Department of Employment Security did not have the discretion to end the federal benefits. The court has scheduled a hearing for Sept. 3.”

NHPR: Granite Staters File Lawsuit To Reinstate Some Pandemic Unemployment Benefits. “Michael Perez of Perez Law represents four plaintiffs in the case. He says the suit focuses on the PUA program because unlike other pandemic programs, the state should not be able to opt out, based on language in the CARES Act. He says while a provision exists for states to terminate other programs, such a provision does not exist for PUA. Additionally, Perez argues, two other sections in the law make the program mandatory. Perez also says language already in New Hampshire law obligates the state to distribute a program like PUA. He says courts in a few other states with similar statutes, like Arkansas and Ohio, have ruled benefits must be reinstated in similar challenges.

New Hampshire Union Leader: Sununu sued over early end to extra unemployment. “Lawyers for those suing said they were optimistic about their chances because judges in four states have overturned these decisions in states with Republican governors to bring an early end to the extra, $300-per-week benefits for all on the unemployment rolls. New Hampshire was the only state in the Northeast to end these benefits early. The cancellation of this program threw 15,000 off the rolls, according to the lawsuit.”

Public News Service: Groups Urge NH Agency to Pay Out Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. “The unemployed are being villainized,” McKay contended. “They’re being told you’re lazy, you get a job. And I can assure you that the people that were relying on unemployment actually need it. They’re struggling to keep up with just day-to-day expenses and looking for work and not finding it.” While New Hampshire was among the states that cut off benefits early in an effort to get people back into the workforce, studies so far have shown no increase in employment.

Laconia Daily Sun: New Hampshire sued over federal jobless benefits. “PUA was created to provide jobless benefits to “gig economy” workers and others who didn’t qualify for regular state unemployment benefits. It is one of several other federal unemployment programs that are set to expire on Sept. 6, absent congressional action. The lawsuit notes that the U.S. Department of Labor is allowing states to reinstate participation in PUA and other programs even as it expires, “including back benefits to eligible claimants.” Lawsuits filed in several states, including Arkansas and Oklahoma, have successfully forced officials to provide PUA back pay to those who are eligible for the benefits but were cut off.”

New Hampshire Union Leader: New Hampshire sued for ending COVID-19-related jobless benefits. “The lawsuit takes direct aim at eliminating this program, designed for workers who don’t normally qualify for federal jobless benefits …“What’s unique about this program, unlike the other types, is that PUA is a mandatory program. Neither state nor federal law gives N.H. Employment Security the authority to abandon PUA before it expires,” said Mike Perez, the lawyer representing these residents. “The law says that the state shall participate.”

Eagle Tribune: Unemployment benefits lawsuit. “Four New Hampshire residents filed a lawsuit Friday challenging a decision by Gov. Chris Sununu’s administration to end unemployment benefits under the federal CARES Act nearly three months earlier than they were scheduled to run out on Sept. 6. The lawsuit filed in the Hillsborough Superior Court in Nashua against the state of New Hampshire and New Hampshire Employment Security and its commissioner asks a judge to reinstate the benefits dating back to June 19, when they were ended. Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states where the benefits were ended early.”

Hippo News: PUA Lawsuit. “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was created to help people with careers and businesses that were interrupted because of the pandemic, and who otherwise would not be eligible for the typical unemployment benefits,” Perez said in the release. “Neither state nor federal law gives New Hampshire Employment Security the authority to abandon PUA before it expires … We did ask New Hampshire Employment Security to reinstate PUA before filing suit, but we have not heard back from them in response to that request.”

Conway Daily Sun: New Hampshire sued over federal jobless benefits. “One of the plaintiffs, Cassandra Caron, lost her job as a cosmetologist during the pandemic and began receiving PUA benefits to cover rent, food, utility bills and other basic expenses. But when the state ended its participation in PUA on June 19, the single mother said she has been unable to find another “suitable job” or provide for her family, the lawsuit alleges. “With dwindling savings and no income, Cassandra made a difficult choice to apply for disability benefits based on her traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and Type II narcolepsy,” the complaint reads. “The early termination of PUA benefits actually helped remove Cassandra from the workforce.” Another plaintiff, Aaron Shelton, is a self-employed social media marketer whose work up dried during the pandemic, forcing him to seek federal unemployment benefits. PUA covered his basic living expenses – such as car payments, food, utilities and rent – but when those benefits were cut off in June, he had to tap into his savings to stay afloat. Now he’s running out of money, according to the lawsuit … The lawsuit notes that the U.S. Department of Labor is allowing states to reinstate participation in PUA and other programs even as it expires, “including back benefits to eligible claimants.” Lawsuits filed in several states, including Arkansas and Oklahoma, have successfully forced officials to provide PUA back pay to those who are eligible for the benefits but were cut off.”

Boston Globe: LAWSUIT-UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS. “New Hampshire was among the first to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits when the pandemic first struck. Thousands of people were collecting unemployment benefits, including $300 per week supplemental payments either from the state or a federal program created during the pandemic. The state decided to end the extra payments June 19 because the unemployment rate had dropped and given the abundance of available jobs, Sununu had said. Mike Perez, an attorney representing the four residents, said neither state nor federal law gives New Hampshire Employment Security the authority to abandon a program known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance before it expires. George Copadis, the employment security director, deferred to the state attorney general’s office to comment. Messages seeking comment were left with that office and with a spokesperson for Sununu.”

CBS Boston: Did Cutting Unemployment Benefits In New Hampshire Ease The Worker Shortage?In New Hampshire, the benefits ended in June, but that hasn’t had much of an impact on the need for workers. Stephanie McKay runs a Facebook group for people looking for jobs in New Hampshire. There are 4,500 members. “We have a lot of single parents who can’t work in the service industry,” McKay told WBZ-TV. Even though there are jobs available in the service industry, not everyone can take one of those because of child care and health issues.”

The initial press release reviewing the case can be found here.

A copy of the full legal petition and plaintiff stories can be found here.

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Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Visit https://granitestateprogress.org/ to learn more.