Nov. 23 – CONCORD – The Sununu administration is using $20 million in federal grants to allow families at risk of homelessness to stay in hotel and motel rooms during the winter months.
The proposal will use state discretionary funds under the US federal bailout law to continue to provide these units for couples through April 1 and families through June 15.
Taylor Caswell, director of the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR), said the state will set a cap going forward to pay no more than $200 per night for these hotel rooms. , with some exceptions.
“We believe this is the most needy population during the winter months,” Caswell said.
This money will pay those already in hotel rooms or anyone who applied for this aid before the Sununu administration paused all new applications on October 21.
“The intent of the program is to assist families in need and at risk of becoming homeless, to reduce the potential demand for homeless or emergency shelters, and to provide these households with more time to find and access more permanent housing solutions,” GOFERR said in its application.
State Rep. Peter Leishman, D-Peterborough, said he was alarmed to learn the state had paid up to $350 per night for those rooms.
“We all support keeping people warm in the winter, but can you control those costs?” asked Leishman.
Executive Advisor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord, said she was told a hotel owner was paid $289 a night for a room that should have cost around $100. Officials in that city renegotiated a lower rate of $159, she said.
Caswell said the $200 cap could be difficult to maintain during winter vacation weeks, especially in the North Country, where hotel rooms can cost significantly more than that.
“We can anticipate there will be a situation where a hotel (management) is willing to move people” out of their hotel rooms to get a better rate, Caswell said.
“We don’t want to put people in that situation.”
Leishman said he thinks hotel owners should be willing to accept the certainty of getting a filled hotel room at the lower nightly rate.
Governor Chris Sununu said he agreed with the cap.
“Some of the rates were exorbitant,” he said.
The move does not extend the regular federal rental assistance program which, without much more federal money, will end at the end of next month.
Won’t get far
The Joint Legislative Committee on Taxation and the Executive Council in recent days agreed to $2.2 million in additional federal funds for the program, and state officials said they expect to receive $2 million. extra dollars.
This extra money won’t go far; the state currently spends about $5 million a week on the program.
Governor Sununu sharply criticized the US Treasury Department for not approving the state’s request for up to $100 million in additional housing assistance grants.
The state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation said state officials had improperly spent some of the money they previously received. That’s one of the reasons New Hampshire didn’t get the extra money, they said.
Sununu denied the state ever spent money wrongfully, and the Biden administration gave no reason not to approve New Hampshire’s demands while giving more money to many states.
“It’s absolutely not true, period, end of story,” Sununu said of the delegation’s claim.
Caswell said while the rental assistance program is winding down, the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and Community Action Programs continue to operate other programs that assist tenants and help them find alternative housing.
“At this point, the rent allowance unrelated to hotels and motels ends,” Caswell said.
The program served more than 25,000 households and assisted approximately 2,500 per week.