CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A new program will help eligible residents in New Hampshire who can't pay their rent and utilities because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday.
The New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program will be administered by the New Hampshire Housing Authority, in coordination with the Governor's Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery. It is federally funded.
To be eligible for assistance, at least one person in the household must qualify for unemployment benefits, had their income reduced, had significant costs, or had other financial hardship due to COVID-19. The household must also be at risk for homelessness and meet certain income requirements. Landlords may apply for assistance on behalf of their tenant, with the tenant's permission.
Assistance is available retroactive to April 1, 2020, through the date of application. Households may receive help for a total of 12 months.
Details about the program are available at www.NHHFA.org/emergency-rental-assistance. Application information will be available by March 15.
In other coronavirus-related developments in New Hampshire:
As of Thursday, New Hampshire has administered 197,000 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and 91,000 second doses — amounting to 7% of the state's population that's fully vaccinated.
State officials were hopeful that the promise of a third vaccine, the single-dose one from Johnson & Johnson undergoing federal review, would be available as soon as next week.
The state is making preparations for Phase 2A of its vaccine plan; it is currently vaccinating people in Phase 1B, which includes people with disabilities and medical vulnerabilities and their caregivers.
The group Able New Hampshire, a disability rights group, said people in this population “have had to take extra steps to prove their eligibility in the requirement of verification by a physician." The eligibility guidance and its application “have been unclear and applied inconsistently by health care providers, 211 call staff and service provider agency staff," delaying vaccine registration, the group said.
Gov. Chris Sununu said at his weekly news conference that he is aware of the concerns, adding “We do have great communication and contact with these families" and will reach out to them to make sure they are included.
“There will always be a dispute if someone is in the gray area of whether they are medically vulnerable or not," Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said. “That could be part of the complaints that we're getting," with a patient or family feeling they are medically vulnerable, and the physician doesn't agree, she said.
Lisa Beaudoin, executive director of Able New Hampshire, called that suggestion “hog wash." She said at least 20 families have reached out to the governor's office.
SILENT FILM FESTIVAL
A silent film festival in Kansas that's been canceled this year has been resurrected ... in New Hampshire.
The “Kansas Silent Film Festival in New Hampshire" is being held Friday through Sunday at the Town Hall Theater in Wilton. It's being made possible by a fan and music accompanist for the festival, Jeff Rapsis of New Hampshire. A virtual festival will be held in Topeka, Kansas.
Rapsis said he got permission from 1,500 miles away to hold the festival. The films will feature actors with ties to Kansas, such as Buster Keaton, Louise Brooks, Roscoe “Fatty" Arbuckle, and Claire Windsor.
Rapsis says this is the first time in 20 years he's not celebrating it there. He said that during intermissions, hot pickles imported from Porubsky's Deli in Topeka will be served.
More than 74,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 355 cases announced Thursday. Six new deaths were announced, for a total of 1,163. Dr. Ben Chan, state epidemiologist, said that the majority of 13 recent deaths have been in community settings, not in long-term care facilities.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has decreased over the past two weeks, going from 361 new cases per day on Feb. 10 to 328 new cases per day on Wednesday.