Additional $2.5 million in rental relief money not enough to save state program, officials say
This story was originally produced by the New Hampshire Bulletin, an independent local newsroom that allows NHPR and other outlets to republish its reporting.
New Hampshire will receive an additional $2.5 million in rental assistance funding from the U.S. Treasury, the department announced last week. But state officials say the extra money is not enough to stop the end of the state’s aid program next month.
In an announcement Friday, the Treasury Department revealed that New Hampshire would receive the additional “emergency rental assistance” (ERA) funding. But the money is enough to cover only four additional days of rental relief, Gov. Chris Sununu and other state officials say.
The additional funding comes as New Hampshire’s rental relief program is facing a difficult crossroads. Late last month, the Treasury appeared to decline the state’s request for a much larger tranche of assistance – $67 million. By not granting that extension, the Treasury had effectively pulled continued support for New Hampshire’s program, Sununu and state officials argued. The program is now set to end Dec. 29.
Created in March 2021, the New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program allows tenants who have been hurt financially by the COVID-19 pandemic to apply for funding to cover rent, utilities, and other housing expenses. The program, which relies on two sources of COVID relief funds, has so far distributed more than $240 million, with tenants receiving, on average, $10,047 each, according to the state’s latest numbers.
But New Hampshire – like most states – has exhausted its initial funding allocations, and has been applying to the Treasury throughout the year to continue to receive funding. When the state did not receive its $67 million request on Oct. 18, officials said the program would likely wind down. New Hampshire Housing, the state agency that helps allocate the funding, announced that week that it was temporarily closing the program to new applications.
Both Sununu and the state’s Democratic congressional delegation sent separate letters to the Treasury requesting that it reconsider the state’s application for the $67 million. On Friday, the delegation praised the $2.5 million award.
“I appreciate the Department of Treasury heeding our calls for additional resources to help bridge the gap and continue supporting New Hampshire’s rental assistance program,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen wrote in a statement. “While this aid will not fully replace the money the State left on the table to be recouped and the full amount needed to run the program through September 2025 as intended, it will provide additional resources that can be used to support the 3,386 residents who were left with applications pending when the State abruptly ended the program without warning.”
Sununu countered that the additional aid was too little, too late.
“While the congressional delegation takes a victory lap for 4 days of additional funding, I won’t let Washington off the hook while residents worry about how to make ends meet over the holidays,” he wrote in a tweet Friday.
A spokesperson for the Treasury reiterated an earlier statement that the department is continuing to review New Hampshire’s $67 million request for funding, but cautioned that future allocations are expected to be smaller for all states and recipients as the overall funding is spent down.
Advocates have called on Sununu and New Hampshire lawmakers to propose a plan to use other state COVID relief money to help the families currently receiving the money.
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