$35M in federal Aid Helps Colebrook Glove Maker Expand But Not Avoid 170 Layoffs

A federal watchdog agency warned last year that American companies that had received $10 billion to quickly expand production of gloves, masks, and gowns would suffer without guarantees their products would be purchased domestically over cheaper imports from Asia. 

That warning proved true in Colebrook. 

American Performance Polymers, which received $35 million to ramp up production of medical gloves, laid off most of its 180 employees late last month. Chief Executive Officer Rich Renehan said his inability to compete with lower-priced imports drastically hurt sales.

“I’m blessed with the opportunity to represent the United States as a recipient of Defense Production Act funding. But now we have to make it work,” Renehan said. “It takes additional funding, which we expected…in the form of sales. We didn’t get any sales because we are seeing a massive amount of gloves shipped into the USA from Asian factories.”

Renehan said a box of 100 gloves imported from overseas sells for $2, where a box of American-made gloves cost $8 to $10 because labor costs here are higher. 

He could have avoided laying off his workers, he said, had the $35 million come with long-term contracts committing the government to buying his gloves. 

The Government Accountability Office reported that same concern in a July 2021 report. Manufacturers, trade organizations, and distributors said contracts should be at least three years; some said they should be even longer at 8 to 10 years.


State to Receive $1.6 M Federal Grant for Health Care Navigators

Under Trump administration budget cuts two years ago, the state’s health care navigator program was reduced to one tool for finding uninsured people and getting them insured: a telephone number that’s answered in West Virginia. That’s about to change. 

A $1.6 million federal grant headed to New Hampshire will maintain the hotline but will also add 16 navigators across the state. They will partner with local health care and social service agencies to help people navigate enrollment challenges of Medicare, Medicaid, and private plans in the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

“Our whole approach is grassroots, on the ground, reaching people where they are, trying to tackle health insurance complexity,” said Elias Ashooh, project director for the newly created Health Market Connect, which received $1 million of the grant. The company has hired about half of its 13 navigators and plans to begin by Oct. 1. “I just think it’s a win for New Hampshire.”