Local welfare directors adopt policy that relieves cities
Nov. 13 – Cities without motels or other interim housing measures must pay the cost of benefits for residents who move to other cities for temporary shelter, under a new ethics policy passed by city officials. New Hampshire welfare.
The change, accepted in June by the New Hampshire Local Welfare Administrators Association, addresses concerns from officials in cities like Manchester. For years, large communities have complained about shouldering the burden of the poor moving from rural New Hampshire to the cities.
“There’s a feeling across the state with cities and towns that the argument is really about fairness and finding common ground,” said Todd Marsh, director of wellness at Rochester and president of the Welfare Administrators Association.
Although not a law, the policy is expected to change the way municipalities and their welfare officials deal with housing issues.
Under state law, the city where a person lives is responsible for their welfare if they move to another community to live in a homeless shelter. The new policy expands that to other housing options, including motels, hospitals or treatment programs, Marsh said.
Even when the resident moves into permanent housing, such as an apartment, the former city must cover their needs for 30 days, the policy says.
Other aspects of the policy state:
A welfare official should not encourage or pressure a resident to end residency and move to another community. The city’s social budget should only finance a move if the beneficiary has a good reason to move.
If an assisted resident moves, a city official should contact the welfare officer in the new community and explain the reason for the move. Generally, the municipality of origin will be responsible for 30 days of benefits.
If a person leaves a shelter or motel, their home town will be responsible for it for 30 days.
Anyone who pays for their accommodation for 30 days and then needs help from local welfare will be on the new community.
Marsh said the policy reflects practice in Seacoast communities for years. But other parts of the state could see less cooperation.
The policy comes as the federal government winds down a program that provided $245 million in pandemic-related spending for housing in New Hampshire. Many recipients have stayed in hotels and will likely turn to city and town social services once their housing allowances run out.
In Manchester, 28 families living in hotels have been told that funding for their Emergency Rental Assistance Scheme (ERAP) has stopped on November 1.
Only eight have links to Manchester, said Charleen Michaud, the city’s social care director. The other 20 are being sent back to their cities, Michaud told Manchester aldermen earlier this month.
Michaud expects the city to continue paying hotel bills for three of the eight. The city’s eligibility rules are generally stricter than the federal government’s ERAP programs, she said.
Need to increase
In Allenstown, the welfare director welcomed the new policy.
“To me, it says, ‘Yeah, it’s OK to use the resources in those other places,'” said Trish Caruso, who oversees the city’s $24,000 welfare budget.
She said Allenstown had no homeless shelter or motel, so she had to rely on resources in Concord or Manchester.
Caruso, who serves on the board of the Welfare Association, said some welfare directors in small towns are feeling pressure from elected officials to cut spending. Some cities require welfare directors to get approval from screeners before authorizing benefits, she said.
Caruso, like Marsh, said the federal ERAP program has been good for its results. With only one year left in this fiscal year, it has only spent 28% of its budget.
But that can quickly change if Allenstown has to put a family in a hotel. Most hotels charge $125 a night, so a week’s stay is approaching $1,000.
On October 20, officials announced that the federal government would no longer provide funding for PARE. Just before the election, the all-Democrat congressional delegation announced that it had secured $2.4 million in additional funding statewide.
But officials say they have not received the money and have not halted ERAP’s phasing out.
“It was pretty clear that if this was an emergency program, it was going to end at some point,” said Donnalee Lozeau, executive director of Southern New Hampshire Services, a community outreach program that administers ERAP in the Manchester-Nashua area.
Her agency provides “complementary services” to help ERAP recipients get help and become self-sufficient, she said. Ideally, the ERAP provided an alternative for recipients, allowing them to pay rent and overdue utility bills and seek out improvements, such as workforce development programs.
Now they will probably have to start paying at least some of their rent or hotel bills.
“A lot of people are going to need a budgeting reset,” Marsh said. “They’re out of their routine to pay the rent.”