Corky Messner and Michael Benik

U.S. Senate candidate Corky Messner, left, speaks with Michael Benik, one of the co-owners of People’s Linen, during a visit to the Keene company Tuesday.

Bryant “Corky” Messner, a candidate for one of New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate seats, said that when it comes to providing financial aid to businesses and individuals amid the COVID-19 crisis, the federal government should be taking a more individualistic approach.

On Tuesday, Messner made a number of stops in the Monadnock Region, including one at People’s Linen, a long-running linen service business in Keene that has been hit particularly hard by coronavirus-related business shutdowns. Because People’s Linen’s primary client base is hotels, resorts and restaurants (all of which operated under significant restrictions while New Hampshire’s stay-at-home order was in effect), business has been down dramatically over the past few months, according to the company’s owners.

Messner said he’d like the government to look at each case individually when determining who is most in need of relief funds to ensure that the money is used effectively while still watching the government’s budget deficit and debt level.

“I think the federal government has to do a better job of ascertaining the businesses that need help and the best help to give them,” he said. “And the same thing with people — there’s some people that need $600 a [week] unemployment, and there’s some people that don’t. There’s some people that need $1,200 a month, there’s some that don’t ... then there’s people that need more than $1,200 a month.”

Messner was referring to $1,200 checks issued to many Americans earlier this year as part of the federal CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion relief package signed into law by President Donald Trump in late March. The CARES Act also included a $600 weekly addition to unemployment checks, which is set to end this week. Lawmakers in Washington have been debating whether to continue that benefit in future relief packages.

A native of Altoona, Pa., Messner now lives in Wolfeboro, where he’s owned a home for the past 14 years. Messner is an Army veteran who graduated from West Point military academy in New York and completed Ranger school before serving in West Germany during the Cold War. He later opened a law firm and became a real estate investor, among other business ventures.

Messner is one of four Republicans running for the seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Others include Don Bolduc of Stratham, Gerard Beloin of Colebrook and Andy Martin of Manchester. In addition to Shaheen, who is seeking her third term, Democrats running for the seat are Tom Alciere of Hudson and Paul Krautmann of Keene. The primary election is set for Sept. 8.

Candidates who have filed declarations of intent to appear on the Nov. 3 general election ballot as third-party candidates are Justin O’Donnell of Nashua and Thomas Sharpe V of Salem.

Messner has been endorsed by both Trump and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son.

People’s Linen co-owners Michael Benik and Dave Borden say their business has been struggling in the past few months. Benik told Messner that the company had seen a 96 percent drop in business this May compared to May 2019.

The linen service company did get a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program — a part of the CARES Act designed to help businesses keep their employees on the payroll — which Benik and Borden said was extremely helpful.

According to Borden, the majority of People’s Linen’s clientele is in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. He said business has improved since New Hampshire began allowing some nonessential hotel stays and permitting restaurants to resume in-house dining, but he added that things are still a bit more restricted in neighboring states.

“In New Hampshire, things have gotten better, but it’s not where it could be; I think a lot of people are just nervous about leaving their houses in general,” People’s Linen General Manager Peter Benik said. He added that the hospitality industries in Vermont and Massachusetts, where the company does much of its business, are still operating under tight restrictions.

As someone with a background in business, Messner said he understands some of the fear and uncertainty that businesses are experiencing now.

When asked what he would do to assist these companies if elected, Messner said businesses want to be able to run their operations safely and should be allowed to figure out the best way to do that.

“I believe there is no greater power than the power of an America unleashed by liberty and unburdened by government,” he said. “And that’s how we’re going to get through all this.”

People’s Linen was one of several stops Messner made while in the area Tuesday. He also visited Moore Nanotechnology Systems in Swanzey, The Stage Restaurant in downtown Keene, and was planning to speak at a Westmoreland Republican Committee meeting Tuesday night.

When it comes to issues that matter to voters in Cheshire County and the Monadnock Region, Messner said he has heard a lot about a need for new economic activity, both in Keene and surrounding communities. He advocated for incentivizing manufacturing businesses that have moved their operations to China to return to the U.S.

Messner also referred to himself as a “conservative conservationist” and said he agrees it’s important to preserve New Hampshire’s natural assets.

In addition, Messner said he is not only aware of the region’s issues with Internet and cell service connectivity, he’s experienced them himself, saying he knows “every dead spot in this state.”

While he didn’t offer a legislative solution to the problem, Messner said he would urge telecommunication companies to get these neighborhoods connected. Often, such companies say they haven’t built out their infrastructure in certain sparsely populated areas because the return on their investment wouldn’t be sufficient, but Messner feels that’s a cop-out.

“I would go see the CEOs of all the telecommunication companies and simply say, ‘Get it fixed; you guys are making tons of dough’,” Messner said. “ ‘Of course you’re going to get better returns in more densely populated areas, but you gotta look at your brand, too. You run those commercials where you’re bragging about coverage everywhere, so put your money where your mouth is and get it fixed’.”

Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiaSummerson