July 06, 2021
(Manchester, NH) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) launched her “Investing in the American Worker” Kitchen Table Tour last week in Hooksett, the first event in a series of meetings that will take her across the state to meet with working families about the most pressing issues as they recover from the pandemic. During the first stop on her tour, Shaheen sat down with Amanda Hobbs of Hooksett to discuss the shortage of affordable, quality child care and its impact on New Hampshire families, our workforce and the economy.
Kevin Landrigan with the Union Leader has the story, which can be read here or in full below:
Hooksett family tells their COVID-19 recovery tale
By Kevin Landrigan
HOOKSETT — Amanda Hobbs felt like she had it all, a wonderful marriage, two children, a happy home and a supervisory job.
Then COVID-19 hit, throwing her out of work and making her wonder how her family would recover.
“This was the realization that my career and my life changed. I wasn’t the only one going through all this, but it feels so overwhelming when it’s happening to you,” Hobbs said.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., came to meet with Hobbs in her dining room last week, the kickoff of Shaheen’s American Worker Kitchen Table Tour.
Shaheen said she will be meeting with families across the state, asking what should be in another round of federal relief to help those who are still struggling to return to post-pandemic life.
“There are so many women in New Hampshire and across this country who haven’t returned to the work force because they can’t afford child care and other barriers,” said Shaheen, a mother of three grown daughters.
Hobbs said she’s looking forward to July 15 when an expanded Child Care Tax Credit will kick in to help her and her husband, Jonathan, afford costs for Abby, 6, and Sam, 4.
The change will increase coverage for child care expenses from $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for a family a year to $8,000 for a child and $16,000 for two or more.
After COVID-19 hit, Hobbs lost her job with an auto dealership that wouldn’t let her work remotely.
She had to drop child care that was costing $200 a week.
“I was in a mom fog; what do I have to do to get through the day?” Hobbs asked rhetorically.
Child care for kids with special needs.
Hobbs urged Shaheen to work on expanding child care opportunities for families who have children with special needs.
Hobbs couldn’t find any placements in southern New Hampshire after her son was diagnosed with Level 2 of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“There are no wraparound programs for kids like my son,” Hobbs said.
Next year, her son will attend a special program for two days a week in Londonderry and attend half-day kindergarten three days a week in Hooksett.
Early-intervention services made all the difference to help her son become more verbal and socially comfortable with other children, she said.
The couple used their first federal stimulus check to pay for the two-day-a-week summer camp program Sam has been attending.
“To see him come home is just amazing, he really thrives and enjoys making personal connections,” Hobbs said.
The second stimulus check came in handy when a wind storm took off part of the roof atop their home.
Hobbs learned the hard way to closely scrutinize child care options when her then 10-month-old daughter, placed at an unlicensed center, fell down a flight of stairs.
Her daughter needed speech therapy and didn’t talk well until she turned 3.
“Now I visit every site; that’s why we are going all the way to Londonderry for Sam because just any old program should never be good enough,” Hobbs said.
The federal government should also create a “sliding scale” for moderate-income families to qualify for Medicaid health insurance, Hobbs said.
“We were $100 over the limit for Medicaid; it’s such a cliff and I’m sure there are many deserving families that are just over that amount,” Hobbs said.
Family and medical leave benefits should also be increased, she suggested.
MomsRising Together, a national citizen advocacy group, helped Hobbs see there were so many like her family facing the same obstacles.
Activist Nancy Glynn of Sutton said she navigated through the health care/child care maze after her son, Hunter, born weighing 2 pounds 10 ounces, was found to have a deformed ear.
He’s now 9 and doing well, she said.
“Getting these services at an early stage helps everyone,” Glynn said. “So many families struggle because they don’t know what they don’t know about what help is out there.”
Hobbs said all states should also extend services for the disabled after they turn 21; Massachusetts provides assistance until they turn 26.
“I want him to be a contributing member of society, paying taxes, doing all the things we all want to do, giving back instead of just taking as well,” Hobbs added.
After taking courses herself by video, Hobbs is back in the work force as a transaction coordinator for a real estate company.
“I felt like I was begging for someone to take a risk on me,” Hobbs summed up. “I just need something that made me feel like I was an adult.”