Lebanon Mayor Tim McNamara wrote a letter to Gov. Chris Sununu the day after the midterm elections, outlining an urgent situation.
A lack of federal funding caused the New Hampshire rental assistance program to be shut down, and some of the recipients would lose their homes, according to McNamara.
Rental assistance in New Hampshire
A significant proportion of residents receiving Rent Assistance had stayed in hotels during stays covered by the Rent Relief Scheme. He wrote that the residents are now likely to be evicted.
According to McNamara, communities will soon realize that their community welfare resources are insufficient to meet this need.
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The state responded last week. After the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee approved the $20 million request on Friday, New Hampshire officials will use $20 million in federal COVID relief funds to help hundreds of homeless people get through the winter to stay in hotels. The Executive Council approved the spending on Tuesday.
Any hotel occupant who applied for a rent reduction before October 21, the day the state stopped accepting new applications, is eligible for the $20 million approved by the Finance Committee. According to Chase Hagaman, deputy director of the governor’s office for rent relief and reclamation, those who stay in hotels but didn’t apply before Oct. 21 don’t qualify.
How many people would benefit from this is unknown. According to a report by the Granite State News Collaborative, more than 700 people on rental assistance were reportedly living in hotels in September due to a lack of accessible housing. For November, the state has not released exact totals.
A coalition of organizations from across the state, including representatives from Housing Action, Families in Transition, ABLE NH, Waypoint and several mayors and select board members, wrote a letter to Sununu on Nov. 1 putting pressure on him.
Former pension assistance fund expires
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It looks like the $20 million will be a big help, Elliott Berry, the recently retired housing project director for New Hampshire Legal Assistance, said in an interview. But it does little for the enormous number of people who are unable to pay the rent that the Emergency Room Rental Assistance Program has covered for them.
Housing Action New Hampshire, a non-profit organization, issued a statement Friday that said, “We are pleased that the Fiscal Committee has approved additional funds under the American Rescue Plan Act to help people currently living in hotels and motels stay overnight to accommodate during the cold winter months. and we urge the Executive Board to support this time-sensitive issue as well.”
Hagaman explained that from the initial $1.2 billion, the state now has about $100 million left ARPA Subsidy after two years of expenditure. The downside of ending the funding pool, he explained, is that you have to set your goals right away.