As the nationwide freeze on evictions comes to an end this Saturday, July 31, New Hampshire’s five Community Action Partnership agencies, which oversee federal rental financial aid designated to the state, are still seeing requests for help.
The CEO of Community Action Partnership of Strafford County, Betsey Andrews Parker, said the Dover-based agency said there has been a “lull” in requests they’ve gotten, though they’re still receiving between 50 and 60 a week.
Many people who have never turned to social services in their lives are reaching out for help, confused at how to start seeking the help they need, she said. “We see a lot of people who are coming in who have never accessed any resources before, they’ve never needed to so this is their first go-around,” she said.
The clock is ticking as the federal moratorium on evictions expires Saturday, and millions of Americans unable to pay rent become at risk of losing their homes. The moratorium began early last September and has been extended on four separate occasions.
President Joe Biden will not extend the moratorium further, the White House said Thursday, citing the Supreme Court’s likely unwillingness to extend it for a fifth time. Last month, a slim 5-4 vote from the nation’s highest court ruled that another month could be tacked onto the moratorium, which was extended again by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late last month.
“Given the recent spread of the Delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” the White House said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
The Biden administration pointed to congressional action as a possible avenue for the moratorium to continue, asking that the body “extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay.”
While all signs point to the moratorium coming to a close Saturday, Andrews Parker said federally-funded relief is still available for renters throughout the state. Besides being sure to include COVID-19-related reasoning for economic aid, Andrews Parker said it’s paramount that New Hampshire residents seek the correct agency that their town is covered by.
Though they’ll be referred to their specific CAP agency, if they initially contact the incorrect one, Andrews Parker said the mishap only delays necessary aid even further and that people need to seek their own CAP agency for direct help.
“I can’t stress enough, if people are applying now, I need them to make sure they’re applying to the right county,” she said.
Federal rental relief is still available for all
Individuals and families can apply for aid via the federally-funded New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) that launched in mid-March, a program funded by the United States Department of the Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
The Treasury’s ERAP was given over $46 billion to provide emergency rental assistance, first through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 created last December, then through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 passed in March.
New Hampshire was given $15,637,263 for distribution to renters, funds administered by the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery. From there, GOFERR distributed NHERAP funding to the state’s five CAP agencies.
Community Action Partnership of Strafford County was given $2,539,605 at the onset of the program. Southern New Hampshire Services is the CAP agency that covers Seacoast municipalities in Rockingham County, and GOFERR gave the agency $6,583,204 at the beginning of the program – the most out of the five state agencies by a multi-million dollar margin.
Residents can receive help on past-due and future rent payments and utilities, such as electricity, home heating costs, water, sewer, trash, according to the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority (NHHFA). The program also covers other housing-related costs including internet, late rent fees, legal fees, and relocation expenses.
Contingent on the availability of funds, the NHERAP funding is available through Dec. 31. Eligible households can apply for assistance with past-due and future rent payments dating back to April 1, 2020 for a period of no longer than 15 months, as well as utility payments from March 13, 2020 for up to 15 months.
Am I eligible for the New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program?
There is no limit to how much assistance a household can receive, though all payments go directly to landlords, property managers and utility providers. To be eligible, the NHHFA says households must meet the following requirements:
- Have household income at 80% or less of the Area Median Income where you live and according to your household size.
- Had your income reduced, had significant costs, or had other financial hardship because of COVID-19, or qualified for unemployment benefits between March 13, 2020 and the date of your application.
- Show you are at risk of becoming homeless, that you pay more than 30% of your income for rent and utilities, or that you might lose your housing by having a copy of a past-due rent bill, utility bills, and/or eviction notice.
To apply for state rental relief: capnh.org/
For more information: nhhfa.org/emergency-rental-assistance/
Are evictions still occurring despite the freeze?
Not all evictions were halted with the CDC order, however. The moratorium said landlords couldn’t evict tenants for failing to pay rent provided the tenant signed a CDC declaration showing they meet the requirements of the eviction freeze and gave it to their landlord.
Those who have still been at imminent risk of eviction amid the moratorium have been prioritized by the CAP agencies, Parker said, sometimes leading to organizations rushing over to courthouses before eviction hearings and physically delivering a check that tenants can use for rent to save their housing.
On Tuesday, the New Hampshire Circuit Court announced that, ahead of an anticipated rise in court eviction hearing proceedings, they would provide information about the NH Emergency Rental Assistance Program online, in courtrooms, on court forms and within all Circuit Court locations to promote the program.
“The NH Circuit Court has an important role in helping get the word out about this program to eligible tenants and landlords who have been impacted by COVID-19,” said Dean Christon, executive director of New Hampshire Housing, in the Tuesday press release. “The program has helped more than 4,000 renter households and their landlords so far, and has been an important resource in avoiding displacement of families who have been hard-hit by the pandemic.”
‘It’s disheartening, it really is’: Black Seacoast families submit urgent requests for aid
Local efforts from one nonprofit are geared toward specifically assisting Black families.
Backed up on rent payments and fearing the prospect of eviction, Black families in the Seacoast region are seeking thousands of dollars in aid from the Black Lives Matter Seacoast chapter.
Tanisha Johnson and Clifton West Jr., the founding members of BLM Seacoast, said in interviews last week that local Black families have recently inundated the organization with requests for financial assistance, a fight they’re more than willing to assist with but an eye-opening trend just the same.
“It’s very sad when you read these stories,” West said. “They all have the same story.”
Since forming a mutual aid fund in the spring to raise money for struggling Black families within Strafford and Rockingham counties, York County in Maine and Essex County in Massachusetts, Johnson said BLM Seacoast has received requests for over $50,000 in aid.
Though having distributed $25,000 since the mutual aid program launched, BLM Seacoast posted to social media on Saturday, July 17 that the nonprofit had received requests for $30,000 in financial assistance in just the previous three days.
Johnson shortly afterward learned that many of the requests made last week were filed by families not only worrying about paying future rent, but those who have been struggling for months as payments backed up.
She estimated BLM Seacoast received between 30 and 40 requests. And none of them were from single individuals, she noted. All came from families experiencing joblessness, transportation difficulties and other obstacles.
“It’s time, and clear and evident through the amount of requests that we’re receiving, that it’s time for change in our systems,” Johnson said.
An application is available on BLM Seacoast’s website for vulnerable Black families seeking economic help, one that Johnson said has applicants specify how much money they’re in need of and asks them to describe what needs they have that the money will go toward.
“When they fill out the application, it’s a very basic and simple form as we’re not trying to create a barrier for people to apply or increase a stigma,” she stated.
The highest single relief amount BLM Seacoast has given so far is $2,500 to one family.
“It’s disheartening, it really is,” Johnson said. “It just shows that the pandemic didn’t start these problems, the pandemic brought these problems to the forefront and shed a light on how drastic these situations are.”
Data collected for the national Household Pulse Survey between Wednesday, June 23 and Monday, July 5 by the United States Census Bureau found out of nearly 51 million survey respondents, over 4.8 million people said they had “no confidence” that they’d be able to make next month’s rental payment.
A separate poll in the same report, which showed the answers of 7,433,895 Americans, 1,401,801 of them – nearly 18.9% – said they felt it was “very likely” they’d be evicted in the next two months.
Even if it’s one dollar, Johnson said donations to the BLM Seacoast mutual aid fund from those of a more secure socioeconomic status can often lead to food being put on the table for some families. In many cases, finances are being dried up by gas, child care, health care and other needs.
“If we had the funds, I’d give everyone everything,” Johnson said. “But we don’t have the funds to give everyone that has access even the amount they’re asking for.”
Parker said that, when it comes to minority groups seeking aid like those requesting help from Black Lives Matter Seacoast, she encourages them to also seek state help via their regional Community Action Partnership.
“Some (Black and Indigenous people of color) communities have a history of not having access or not trusting (resources), so we are working on reaching out to them,” she said.
Material from the Associated Press is used in this report.