The Bulletin Board

State struggling to get rental assistance to those who need it

By: - June 21, 2021 3:15 pm
An eviction notice on a table next to a mask

The state has distributed just under half of its federal rental relief allocation. (Getty Images)

New Hampshire officials are hoping to redirect state employees to help speed up state rental assistance, Gov. Chris Sununu said last week – a key priority as a federal moratorium on evictions is set to expire soon.

But the state is still struggling to find people to work in the agencies that help distribute the money, Sununu said, and those applying for relief are facing a lengthy backlog. 

“It has been a challenge,” Sununu said. “We’re going to move them as fast as we possibly can.”

More than 5,900 people have applied for rental relief under the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program since March 13, when the program launched. But only about 2,600 of those applicants have actually received that relief, according to state data from June 4.

That leaves more than half of applicants in limbo as they attempt to navigate a federal system carried out by Community Action Programs – five organizations covering different regions of the state. 

New Hampshire’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program allows eligible households to apply for relief to help make payments up to 12 months into the past and future. 

The assistance can also be used for utility expenses such as heat, sewer, water, electricity, and internet bills, as well as relocation costs related to COVID-19. 

The resources are immense: New Hampshire has $200 million in federal money allocated by a December congressional aid package. But the application process has proved to be slow to administer and fill out, and so far only $16.5 million has actually been released, department figures show.

Now, renters are facing a looming federal deadline that could add new headaches. The federal moratorium on rent-related evictions is scheduled to expire June 30; if the moratorium is not extended, landlords may begin proceeding with evictions over nonpayment of rent in July. 

Speaking at a press conference last week, Sununu called the delay a “manpower issue.”

“We’re just trying to get more people,” he said, speaking of the CAP agencies. 

The problem with the rental relief isn’t new. A 2020 New Hampshire rental relief program funded by a different tranche of federal aid also struggled to get the money to tenants. Ahead of launching the latest $200 million program, the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery attempted to simplify the application process, but the backlog has persisted. 

“We really worked on streamlining the application as best we could,” Sununu said. “It’s a federal program that we’re administering – it’s not the easiest of applications. But we’re kind of stuck with what we have.”

Housing advocates and lawyers have warned the eviction rate could spike when the moratorium ends.

But Sununu said the rental relief funding would get out to households either way. “We have the money,” he said. “They will get processed. If they apply, then they’re going to get their money, and that’s very important.”

If you are in need of rental assistance, go to https://www.capnh.org/ and click Apply Now. 

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel.

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