Gyms are eager to reopen, state revenues in the dump; Concord will receive $ 1 million
New Hampshire gyms and health clubs were not included in Governor Chris Sununu’s list of partially reopened businesses last Friday, which includes hair salons, restaurants and retail stores.
But now a gym owner is insisting that it happen by the end of the month.
In a conference call Tuesday with the Governor’s Task Force on Economic Reopening, a 19-member panel of lawmakers, state officials and stakeholders, New Hampshire gymnasium owner Michael Benton spoke requested a reopening date of May 18 for health clubs – same day outside food.
“We believe that with appropriate occupancy reduction, based on social distancing, we can safely operate our gyms and clubs,” Benton told lawmakers.
Benton, who owns three gyms and sports facilities including NH Sportsplex in Bedford, Express Fitness in Hooksett and Executive Health & Sports Center in Manchester, argued that the gyms were struggling even more than most.
Many did not apply for federal paycheck protection program loans, with no work to give employees even if they paid them, he said. And he said the business model, with 60% of its gyms revenue coming from memberships and the rest of classes and add-ons, isn’t one that can absorb weeks of downtime.
In a half-hour conversation, Benton presented a 19-page document with suggested guidelines for reopening gyms. This includes reducing access to 50% occupancy, using personal protection for employees, forced disinfection of machines, and banning guest passes and out-of-state memberships for discourage travel.
Classes would be cut in half and appointments could be staggered to reduce capacity, Benton said.
“What we are offering in the state of New Hampshire will contribute to overall health and wellness,” he said.
Gyms have started to reopen in several states as they ease restrictions on businesses at large, like Tennessee and Arkansas. Some states have never closed gyms, Benton said.
It is unclear what the committee, which advises the governor on the reopening decrees, would decide. A lawmaker, Rep. Jeffrey Salloway, a Democrat from Lee, asked if Benton could be happy with June 1.
“We are monitoring the numbers very closely,” Salloway said. “If this was a static situation, and I looked at the number of cases and new deaths, I would say we’re on the mend here in New Hampshire. However, this is not a static situation, it is a dynamic situation. We have people moving in. “
Benton said he could live with June 1 if necessary.
“But we are firmly convinced that by opening by May 18… we could accomplish what we needed to accomplish,” he argued.
Concord is expected to receive $ 1.02 million of the $ 32 million that will be distributed to municipalities from the state’s federal CARES Act package, designed to help states deal with COVID-19.
This figure is based on population: with around 43,000 residents, Concord has just over 3% of the state’s population.
Distribution amounts for other municipalities in the Concord area include $ 103,036 for Allenstown, $ 95,698 for Boscawen, $ 186,158 for Bow, $ 56,532 for Canterbury, $ 61,675 for Chichester, $ 206,402 for Franklin, $ 134,227 for Hopkinton, 133732 $ for Loudon, $ 167,944 for Pembroke and Webster.
Manchester will get $ 2.6 million and Nashua $ 2.1 million.
The complete list of disbursements can be viewed online.
New Hampshire’s tax revenue fell dramatically last month, according to recently released state figures – about half of businesses delaying payment.
The state has raised $ 264.1 million in general and education funds since the start of the fiscal year last July. That’s $ 76.3 million less than expected this month – or 22.4% less than forecast.
Business taxes, which make up the largest share of New Hampshire’s revenue, have been hit hard, with many businesses temporarily shutting down and deferring payment of taxes.
The Department of Revenue Administration has extended the date for filing business taxes by two months – from April 15 to June 15. And many businesses that are still in survival mode choose this option.
The total number of deposits is down about 50% for this month of April, according to the DRA, a substantial reduction for what is typically a bellwether month.
Business taxes for April alone were $ 89.8 million, $ 57.9 million lower than expected, according to figures from the Department of Administrative Services. This represents a decrease of 43.6% compared to the amount collected last April.
Taxes on interest and dividends fell 40.8% for April 2020, to $ 26.3 million.
But the June 15 deadline extension only applies to corporate and dividend taxes, not all taxes. Others, like the tax on meals and rooms, are more immediate. With remote hotels and restaurants, this tax is also showing steep reductions, generating 39.5% less revenue in April 2020 than in April 2019.
Even though the April dossier showed early tensions, a fuller – and darker – picture of the tax on meals and rooms will emerge next month, according to Christopher Shea, the state’s deputy legislative budget assistant.
“April is misleading because it’s based on March activity,” said Shea, – only half of whom was affected by the March 16 restaurant shutdown order. Next month’s numbers will show the whole of April, he added.
Also on hold: New Hampshire’s overall revenue for fiscal 2020 – July 2019 to June 2020 – fell 6% below expectations. That would trigger an automatic hike in business taxes payable in 2021, following an arrangement agreed to by State House legislative leaders and Governor Chris Sununu in the 2019 budget deal.
Sununu urged the Legislature to reverse this fiscal trigger given the pandemic; Democrats say it’s not yet clear whether the trigger will be hit.
A state tax is doing well during the COVID-19 era. Tobacco tax revenue was 34.9% higher than forecast for April 2020 and 30.6% higher than it was last April.
There is an old saying that if the mountain will not go to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain, but in these days of staying at home it must be reversed: if you cannot go to Mount Washington , Mount Washington must come to you.
Or, at least, in the background of your video.
The New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism is making eight iconic state-of-the-art outdoor scenes available for use as virtual backgrounds when video conferencing on Zoom, the popular online tool.
The summit of Mount Washington, Lonesome Lake, Hampton Beach, and Artists Bluff overlooking Cannon Mountain and Echo Lake are among the options. All of them are more breathtaking than what’s behind you when you are on video conferencing with work or family.
To view or download them, go to www.visitnh.gov/trip-ideas/discover/zoom-backgrounds.
Sunday is Mother’s Day and among the celebrations there will be a parade of vehicles at Presidential Oaks Retirement Community, 200 Pleasant St., Concord.
Cars will be decorated and signs for residents and staff to wish them joy and love on Mother’s Day. Cars will line up at 9 a.m., the parade will begin at 10 a.m. around the Oaks presidential facility.
Family, staff and the public are welcome.