New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is accusing the Biden administration of pulling the plug on rental assistance for the state, which he said will shut down the program as residents grapple with housing and energy costs.
Sununu said the U.S. Treasury decided “without notice or explanation” to reject $67 million in additional federal Emergency Rental Assistance funds requested by New Hampshire, which could force the relief program to shut down by the end of the year, possibly sooner.
“With skyrocketing inflation, cold weather, and the holiday season, this is the absolute worst time for the federal government to take this step,” Sununu said in a statement.
Sununu called the decision unfair and said 28 other states had been “given the resources” by the Treasury to continue their federally funded rental assistance programs.
In a separate letter to members of the state’s congressional delegation, Sununu called on Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and other lawmakers to “work directly with Treasury” and urge them to reconsider their decision. “Please stand up and right this wrong for our state,” the Republican governor wrote.
Earlier this year, Sununu had asked the Biden administration to release more rental assistance money, saying the state’s projected allocation was cut in half by an “unfair” change in the federal program’s rules. He said the state has only received about half of its expected funding, or just under $35 million.
New Hampshire has already provided about $100 million in ERA funds to help provide rent and utility relief to residents struggling to pay their bills throughout the pandemic, according to the Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.
The funding has provided 12,763 households with an average of $7,885 in public assistance, which can cover current and overdue rents, utility bills, and other expenses, the agency said.
In March, the Sununu administration created the New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program with about $20 million in federal funding from the latest stimulus package.
Renters are eligible for relief through the state’s program if their household income is below 80 percent of the area median income; someone in the residence is collecting unemployment benefits; if they’ve lost income or experienced financial hardship because of the pandemic; or are at risk of being evicted.
Sununu has also pushed federal officials to loosen the requirements for spending the money to allow ERA dollars to be devoted toward affordable housing projects.
By Christian Wade