(The Center Square) – Gov. Chris Sununu is calling on federal health officials to expand a program that provides “crucial” funding to states for COVID-19 testing and surveillance in schools.
In a letter to the director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, Sununu urges the agency to extend the schedule for the program to reopen schools of epidemiology and laboratory capacity until July 2023 “to keep New Hampshire schools open and safe.” The program is due to expire in July.
“New Hampshire schools are already looking ahead to the next calendar year and preparing for future variations that may arise,” he wrote. “We shouldn’t embarrass teachers and educators by removing the option to receive critical funding that will help support their efforts.”
New Hampshire received more than $3.1 million from the federal testing program in 2021, according to the CDC, which distributed more than $247 million to states last year.
Overall, the state has received more than $189 million in direct federal funding related to the pandemic over the past two years, according to the federal agency.
Sununu said the money has been “invaluable” in reducing the state’s response to COVID-19 and keeping students in class through much of the pandemic. He said “letting funding expire could hamper progress in New Hampshire and schools nationwide.” He said the program works because it is “flexible and scalable” under CDC guidelines.
“States, school districts and individual schools implement testing protocols that meet the specific needs of their community – then they can scale these programs up or down based on testing data on transmissibility in a school or community. given,” Sununu wrote.
Sununu credits the program and other federal funding with helping schools reopen last April, when many states were still allowing public school students to learn remotely.
He said expanding the ELC schedule will allow New Hampshire and other states to better plan for the start of the school year this fall.
“It’s a much better option than allowing funding for these crucial programs to expire and then trying to restart the testing programs because the need to do so inevitably returns,” Sununu wrote.