Heeding NH Delegation Call, Treasury Department to Broaden Use of Federal Rental Assistance Funds

February 23, 2021

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) issued the following statements in response to new guidance from the Department of Treasury regarding the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program that broadens the permissible use of emergency rental funds. Last week, Shaheen led a New Hampshire congressional delegation letter to Secretary Yellen, urging the Department to make changes that expand the use of these funds to help address the housing crisis in New Hampshire, and to assist with other important utilities like internet and telephone services, which are particularly important for Granite Staters to stay connected amid the pandemic.

The new guidance issued by the Treasury specifically responds to a number of the concerns raised by the delegation, which includes permitting the use of funds for broadband and allowing rental relief to be used for other needs in addition to direct rental assistance, such as help for transitional housing that could assist survivors of domestic violence. The guidance can be found here.

“Granite Staters and millions of Americans across the country are struggling to maintain a roof over their heads, keep the lights on and afford internet services they need to stay connected with schools, health care providers and more during this pandemic. Every effort must be made to ensure federal assistance responds to the needs of community members by addressing the housing crisis and helping families afford critical utility services and access other urgent needs, like relief that helps domestic violence survivors. That is why I’m very pleased the Treasury Department took action and heeded our calls in New Hampshire to make important and necessary changes to the flexibility of these federal funds,” said Shaheen. “As our nation faces an unprecedented health crisis that’s exacerbated economic hardships for working families, it’s essential that leaders at every level of government respond to the challenges created or worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ll continue to work in Congress and with the administration to make necessary changes to existing law and to secure additional federal relief to help Granite Staters get through this crisis.”

“The pandemic has placed an enormous strain on Granite State families who are doing all that they can to pay their rent and get by amid unprecedented challenges,” said Hassan. “I am pleased that the Treasury Department heeded our calls to ensure that critical federal assistance to Granite Staters can help with safe housing and internet access, which has become even more of a necessity as many Americans have had to move their work and schooling online. I will continue working to address New Hampshire’s housing crisis and help secure additional resources to support Granite State communities as we work together to overcome the challenges brought on by this deadly virus.” 

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution for those struggling to afford essential services or keep a roof over their head during this public health and economic crisis,” said Rep. Kuster. “Our federal COVID-19 response must reflect the diverse needs of our communities. I’m pleased the Treasury Department took swift action to address this issue, and listened to our calls to ensure flexibility in these federal funds. I will continue working in Congress and with the Biden-Harris administration to provide crucial relief to those who need it most in New Hampshire and across the country. We must ensure Granite Staters have access to the support they need throughout the ongoing pandemic.”

“Throughout this pandemic and ensuing economic crisis, housing insecurity has increased considerably throughout the state as Granite Staters have seen their livelihoods and housing jeopardized through no fault of their own,” said Rep. Pappas. “I’m pleased that the Treasury Department has heeded the calls of our delegation to make funds through the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program more flexible to meet the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors. We must continue to work in a constructive way to provide the additional relief that our families and communities need to weather this storm.”

The New Hampshire delegation is leading efforts to support vulnerable populations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, Senator Shaheen joined colleagues in reintroducing legislation that would create a $75 billion Homeowner Assistance Fund to help protect struggling homeowners and communities by preventing avoidable foreclosures, evictions and utility shutoffs, with funding allocated in part based on a formula that weighs state unemployment claims relative to the number of national unemployment claims. Last month, Senator Shaheen hosted a virtual meeting with housing advocates and stakeholders to discuss what support they need to help communities experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. The New Hampshire congressional delegation recently announced more than $8.4 million in funding to support emergency housing for vulnerable Granite Staters during the COVID-19 crisis. Last year, Shaheen and Hassan also helped introduce bipartisan legislation that became law to give the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs greater flexibility in caring for and meeting the needs of homeless veterans in the COVID-19 pandemic.

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