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Evictions crisis feared if unemployment benefits are lowered

The Laconia Daily Sun
Published: 6/25/2020 3:26:45 PM

Federally enhanced unemployment compensation has helped thousands of people across the state make their rent payments, but what happens when that enhancement goes away at the end of next month?

That’s the question New Hampshire housing leaders posed in a conference call with U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan this week.

Some businesses have complained that unemployment payments, boosted by $600 a week in federal relief money, are so generous that people don’t want to return to their jobs.

But that money has also helped laid-off workers from getting behind on their rent, which many workers have trouble paying in any case as the number of rental units is relatively low and monthly housing costs are high.

A total of 8,727 people from Belknap County filed for unemployment between March 15 and June 6, compared to 154,433 statewide.

The county’s COVID-19-affected unemployment rate is 15.3 percent, behind only Carroll County with 17.4 percent and Coos County with 15.5 percent. The rate doesn’t count older unemployment claims or those who live here but filed in another state.

Carmen Lorentz, executive director of Lakes Region Community Developers, said many of the people who live in the organization’s 365 affordable housing units work in retail, food service and other hospitality related industries.

There is concern that some job losses could linger.

“We are very tourism dependent,” she said on the Zoom call. “Hospitality and leisure is the hardest hit sector. So many businesses are very small and there will be some that don’t survive.

“The concern over the longer term is how to make those families able to pay the rent.”

Meanwhile, an emergency moratorium on evictions and foreclosures will be lifted July 1.

The end of that moratorium combined with reduced unemployment benefits has the potential for leading to an evictions crisis, said Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action NH.

Nearly half of New Hampshire renters pay more than 50 percent of their monthly income for housing costs.

“This leaves little room for a disaster,” she said. “There are not a lot of savings if all the sudden you face a blip on your employment.”

Renters should be able to benefit from a $35 million fund Gov. Chris Sununu has authorized. The money comes from the federal CARES Act and is to be used for rent stabilization and housing support.

The Governor’s Office of Emergency Relief and Recovery will provide the funds to the Department of Health and Human Services, which will then make an initial disbursement to New Hampshire’s five Community Action Program agencies.

The program is designed to keep people from losing their housing and to secure or maintain permanent housing. The program offers one-time assistance grants and a short-term rental assistance program.

The Housing Stabilization Fund application will be available on June 30 through local CAP agencies, which can be found at www.capnh.org or by calling 211.


These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 


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