One week after its launch, about 2,100 households have applied to the New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
The $200 million program covers current and past due rent, as well as utility and home energy costs, including internet, and is funded through last December’s federal coronavirus relief package.
Dean Christon is the executive director of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, which is helping oversee the program. He says getting about 200 applications per day is a good start, but there’s no single data point that indicates what the demand is for this assistance in New Hampshire.
That’s because, Christon says, there’s been other assistance provided to residents through enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus checks over the past year.
“It’s difficult to know in our environment exactly how many people are at risk,” he said. “But we do know from talking to a lot of folks that work with lower income individuals or people that are in the property owner managers, they feel that there’s eventually going to be significant demand for these resources.”
As of Tuesday, funds have been distributed in fewer than 20 cases.
“That’s not surprising because there’s a need for the community action agencies to review the material that’s been submitted and to do a variety of assessments, and verify who the funds need to be paid to,” he said.
Payments will be made directly to property owners or utilities, and applicants need to provide documentation that shows that the pandemic affected their ability to pay rent. Applicants have to meet certain income eligibility requirements and show they are at risk of experiencing homelessness, housing instability or live in an unsafe or unhealthy housing.
In certain circumstances, money will be given directly to the applicant.
Last year, about $9.8 million from last year’s $20 million NH Housing Relief Program went to more than 3,225 households. The program faced criticism early on that it was slow to roll out.
Some advocates have expressed concern about the speed in which funds are distributed this year, since the CDC’s eviction moratorium ends on March 31, although there are national reports that it could be extended.
“I would not encourage people who are at risk to wait, based on the fact that that moratorium exists or that it may be extended,” Christon said.
Property owners can submit an application for rental assistance on behalf of their tenant, with the tenant’s cooperation.
Applications are available at www.capnh.org. The program ends on Dec. 31, 2021 or when funds are expended.