Beneficiaries fret as rental assistance stops during pandemic. State
The email notice from Southern New Hampshire Services came down heavily on Rachel Gagne, who has been living with her husband and grandson at the Comfort Inn on Manchester’s West Side for months, unable to find an apartment they can afford.
A federally funded pandemic program paying for hotel rooms is about to end. Recipients of Emergency Rental Assistance began receiving emails this week that the program was ending. Their payments are being phased out, some as early as Tuesday, when the state learned that the US Treasury would not release more money to the state to continue the program.
Gagne’s family now has bleak choices: a sheltered bed, if they can find one; An apartment they can’t afford, also in short supply; Or $120 a night in the hotel room they are currently staying in, paid for from their own pocket.
“I have an 11 year old to protect me. What should I do?” Gagne said. She showed a reporter an October 26 email from Southern New Hampshire Services, one of the local agencies that administer the program. It said Gagne was up for recertification in November, but the SNHS stopped accepting applications for new or continued aid on 21 October.
Gagne said that means his hotel room payments will expire on November 1.
“Going forward, you will be responsible for covering hotel room fees and finding an alternative,” the email reads. This encouraged her to call the public assistance hotline, 211, or reach out to the local welfare office.
She said Gagne turned to rental assistance after being evicted from the one-bedroom Beach Street apartment where she and her husband had lived for 24 years. Her landlord wanted to renovate the apartment, and although Gagne fought the eviction for seven months in court, she lost the case and lost her home.
She and her husband, who are both disabled, and their 11-year-old grandson, moved into the Comfort Inn, a room funded by Emergency Rental Assistance. Unless the federal government releases more money, New Hampshire will stop paying to keep families.
Sarah Jane Noy of the Granite State Organizing Project, a nonprofit that works with low-income people, said hundreds of families like Gagne are receiving emergency rental assistance to pay for rooms in hotels. To qualify for hotel rooms, Noy said he had leases before applying for rental assistance, but lost his housing and was unable to find new apartments.
If the program is not renewed, thousands of families in apartments could lose their housing assistance between now and January, as renters have to re-certify their need every three months.
Like Gagne, tenants who re-certify in November are set to lose assistance after November 1.
The delegation reversed
New Hampshire Housing said the US Treasury has informed the state that it will not receive continued emergency rent assistance after December 29. A spokesperson for New Hampshire Housing said applications for new aid or paid renewals were not accepted after October 21, but that eligible applications were submitted before that date would be funded.
According to the Treasury Department, both Biden and the Trump administration funded the program with a budget of up to $46 billion nationally. New Hampshire spent $244.83 million.
US Treasury announced New Hampshire Won’t Send $67 Million Maintaining program funding even after New Hampshire is determined not to spend rent aid quickly enough to qualify for another tranche of money.
According to US Treasury Guidance, states have to spend 75% of their allocations before receiving more funding.
New Hampshire was one of 11 states, including Vermont, to look back on rental assistance funds. Rockingham County also lost funding. The money was redistributed to other state, city, county and tribal governments, which increasingly gave money, including the states of Texas and New Jersey.
Congressional Delegation of New Hampshire wrote Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen this week to ask the Treasury to reconsider and send $67 million to the state.
Censors Jean Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and Reps Annie Custer and Chris Pappas defended New Hampshire’s administration of the fund. Yes, the program started off slow, he wrote, but it has become a lifeline in the state’s tough housing market.
It took too long to get to the people who needed it, a problem for New Hampshire since the program’s inception.
New Hampshire used a longer, English-only form to collect information from rental-aid applicants in the summer of 2020. In 2020 Donnelly Lozew of Southern New Hampshire Services said about half of the people who filled out the form gave up. To the displeasure of community advocates, the form was simplified.
Sluggish outreach through official channels prompted groups such as the Granite State Organizing Project to campaign in low-income neighborhoods, making sure renters were aware of the help available. Some property management companies and landlords also help their tenants apply.
New Hampshire’s failure to meet the 75% spending requirement earlier this year led to the withholding of $35 million in rental aid by the federal government in March. Although Governor Chris Sununu complained in a letter that the move was “fundamentally unfair,” a Treasury spokesman said in March that New Hampshire could get more money only if it spent more of the previously allocated funds. Are.
Sununu had sought permission from the US Treasury to spend the rental assistance fund not on renters, but on incentives for developers and towns to build affordable housing. That request was denied.
For some families, emergency rental assistance stood between them and homelessness.
Even with her family’s income of $3,000 a month, Rachel Gagne said she couldn’t find an apartment, so her family of three had to use rental assistance for a room at the Comfort Inn. Is.
A tenant-rights advocate said the assistance program is currently paying for 42 rooms at the Comfort Inn and hundreds across the state. At least two Manchester families are missing their payments as of 1 November; 19 payments are lost December 1, said Jessica Margeson of the Granite State Organizing Project. She said shelters have one to three beds available this time of year.
“We’re already closing in on available beds, and we haven’t had the first true frost,” Margeson said. She said it would be up to the Manchester Welfare Department to pay rent or hotel bills if the shelters were full.
Tammy Birman said she lost her job as a cook in the early days of the pandemic. Her landlord kicked her out just before the eviction moratorium and she sat on the couch before it ended at the Comfort Inn in July.
He has applied for disability due to bone lesions. She has $20 to her name and shouldn’t be working, but is applying for the job because she has no choice, she said.
She felt the COVID-19 money would eventually run out, she said, but she was promised the ERA would provide rental or hotel payments for 18 months.
Nicole Eastman is staying at the hotel with three teenage daughters.
She was involved in a serious auto accident in June 2021. The accident still prevents him from returning to work as a pizza chef at Franklin. His landlord threw out his property. She could not find a place where a wheelchair could be kept, so she moved to a hotel in Manchester.
She said that she could only buy a one bedroom apartment, but no one would rent her a small apartment because of the size of her family.
His ERA payment will end on December 1. She told her daughters about the notice on Wednesday night.
“You can see they’re scared. They’re worried, they’re afraid of being homeless,” Eastman said.
He felt that the era would eventually end.
“Does it suck?” he said. “Yeah. But am I crazy? No. He helped me when no one else would.”
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