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Sununu’s plan to avoid wave of evictions has some onlookers worried it won’t be enough

New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu speaks to reporters Sept. 24, 2019, about the state budget in Concord, N.H.

(The Center Square) – New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is hoping his new $35 million Housing Relief Program will prevent a flood of evictions, but experts fear that tenants will still struggle with rent and fear of homelessness.

“I think there are a significant number of people who will not be able to cure their arrearage with the $2,500 payment, the maximum under the program,” Elliot Berry, an attorney and Housing Project Director at New Hampshire Legal Assistance, recently told the Concord Monitor.

The $35 million program, which was created with CARES Act funding, launched June 30, one day before the moratorium on evictions was lifted.

“What we want to do is make sure we’re providing an off-ramp,” Sununu said at a recent news conference. “We don’t just want things to just come to an abrupt end.”

Households will have to apply for the one-time grant, which can be used to pay off past due rent. The program comes one month before the $600 weekly unemployment benefit expires on July 31.

“We are concerned that when expanded unemployment benefits come to an end, some owners and renters will experience significant financial stress,” Dean Christon, New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority executive director, said in a recent housing report. “This will come at about the same time that the evictions and foreclosure moratoria will end. The potential confluence of these factors – in addition to the ongoing public health crisis – may have a negative impact on the market in the future.”

One expert said the stress will disproportionately affect low-wage workers in industries such as retail, restaurant, and lodging.

“Many of those who couldn’t find an affordable place to live before the downturn hit find their housing situation even worse today,” Russ Thibeault, an economist for Applied Economic Research, recently told Sea Coast Online.

Meanwhile, public housing leaders on the Seacoast have been working hard to make sure people don’t get kicked out.

“We do whatever we can to prevent nonpayment related evictions,” Craig Welch, Executive Director of Portsmouth Housing Authority, told Sea Coast Online. “We’ve made lot of effort to make sure that people who have had changes in their income report them immediately and that we process those immediately so their rent is adjusted right away.”

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