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Legal Issues During COVID-19 Crisis

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NH LEGAL AID

New COVID Relief Bill: a summary

Unemployment

Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks)

Advance Child Tax Credit Payments

NH Court Information

Governor’s COVID-19 Emergency Orders

Work out a "Pay & Stay" agreement with your landlord

Evictions

Help with rent

Local Welfare

Are you facing foreclosure or are you behind on your mortgage?

Utilities

Domestic Violence help

Report suspected Child Abuse or Neglect

COVID 19 Scam Alert

Also see New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA)’s “Community Guidance” blog.

 

New COVID relief bill: a summary

Some help is on the way

The new Covid-19 stimulus bill and aid package has passed both houses of Congress and been signed by the President. Here is an overview of the most important provisions:

Stimulus checks

The new bill includes another round of stimulus payments. Individuals who make less than $75,000 and married couples making under $150,000 can expect to receive direct payments of $1,400 per person.  The bill also provides $1,400 per dependent.  Most checks will be direct-deposited, and those that need to be mailed will take longer to arrive.  To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number.

Housing relief

The Centers for Disease Control eviction moratorium has been extended until June 30, 2021. This moratorium allows tenants to stay (put on hold) evictions for nonpayment provided they meet certain provisions. More information is in the Eviction section below, and the CDC declaration form is here.

The bill also includes $200 million for rental assistance for New Hampshire residents.  Under the legislation, cities and states can make payments directly to landlords or to utility companies on behalf of renters. If a landlord refuses to accept the rental assistance, cities and states can give assistance directly to the renter, who can then make payments to the landlord or to the utility provider. The assistance funds should be available now.  Please check this website and the Community Action Partnership (CAP) website for more information on eligibility requirements and how to apply for assistance.

Unemployment benefits

The new aid package will continue the extra federal unemployment benefit of $300 per week through September 6, 2021. Everyone receiving unemployment benefits will be entitled to the $300 weekly supplement.  (IMPORTANT: see Unemployment section below)

The legislation extends two programs that have been helping people who lost work due to Covid-19. The bill extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program until September 4, 2021.

This new bill also includes a provision that will make it easier for New Hampshire Employment Security to waive overpayments if the claimant was not at fault and collection of the overpayment would be “against equity and good conscience.”

Also, if your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than $150,000, the American Rescue Plan enacted on March 11, 2021, excludes from income up to $10,200 of unemployment compensation paid in 2020, which means you do not have to pay tax on unemployment compensation of up to $10,200.  If you are married, each spouse receiving unemployment compensation does not have to pay tax on unemployment compensation of up to $10,200.  Amounts over $10,200 for each individual are still taxable.  If your modified AGI is $150,000 or more, you cannot exclude any unemployment compensation.  Also, if you file Form 1040-NR, you cannot exclude any unemployment compensation for your spouse.

Advance child tax credit payments

The American Rescue Plan also includes significant changes to the 2021 Child Tax Credit:

  • You can get it even if you do not have any earned income; before, you needed at least $2,500 in earned income.
  • Your 17-year-old can be your qualifying child; before, you could not get the credit for anyone over 16.
  • The maximum amount per child aged 5 and under is $3,600, and for children 6-17, it’s $3,000; before, the maximum was $2,000.
  • The credit is fully refundable; before, it was refundable only up to $1,400.
  • Half the credit can come to you in advance via monthly installments from mid-July through mid-December 2021; before, you could not get any of it in advance.

Economic impact payment

This links to website with an IRS-approved, mobile-friendly app for filing a streamlined 2020 tax return for people wanting to sign up for any missing stimulus payments or the advance 2021 Child Tax Credit payments. It’s meant for people who haven’t already filed a 2020 tax return and DON’T have any earned income from a job or from self-employment. For those with some earned income, the website provides a link to file a more normal tax return. Either way, it’s free to use these apps.

The best source for up-to-date information is at the IRS webpage for Economic Impact Payments.

Be sure to read the summary of the new COVID Relief Bill above.

October 15, 2020 was the deadline for non-filers to complete the IRS form to receive their first Economic Impact Payment (EIP). Most people get their Economic Impact payment automatically after filing a tax return (or based on participation in certain federally administered programs), if you are among the "non-filers," you would have needed to take action to get your money (worth up to $1,200 for adults and $500 for qualifying children). Eligible individuals had until October 15, 2020 to file for their EIP last year. Because this deadline has now passed, if you did not file for your EIP before October 15, 2020, you can still claim your EIP payment as a credit on your 2020 federal income tax return.

Also, eligible people with dependent children age 16 and under had until the end of September 2020 to register using the Non-Filers tool on the IRS.gov website in order to receive the first $500 per child economic impact payments (EIP) before the end of 2020. Individuals who missed the previous short deadlines in the spring and did not register their dependent children with the IRS had until September 30, 2020 to provide this information so that they could receive their payment by December 21, 2020. Eligible individuals include people who receive Social Security retirement, survivor, or disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Railroad Retirement benefits or Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and have qualifying children under age 17 but who were not required to file a tax return for 2018 or 2019. These individuals should have already received their own $1,200 first stimulus payment, but were not sent the $500 dependent payment for their qualifying children. Those who already used the non-filer tool after the spring deadlines do not need to re-enter the information about their dependent children, and should have received their $500 payment for each child before the end of 2020. As with the standard EIP mentioned above, if you did not file for the additional $500 EIP for eligible children before September 30, 2020, you can still claim the additional $500 EIP payment per qualifying child as a credit on your 2020 federal income tax return.

For help filing a regular 2020 tax return, call 211 to find someone to help prepare and file the tax return. The deadlines for individuals to file and pay most federal income taxes are extended to May 17, 2021.  Get details on the new tax deadlines and on coronavirus tax relief and Economic Impact Payments.

People who received an EIP prepaid card should activate it or replace it to receive their money. The EIP Card from Money Network Services is not a scam. It is a card being used by the IRS to distribute stimulus payments to some poeple. If you have any doubts or have not received your card, call 800-240-8100. Read more from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau here or watch the video below:

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Read more from the IRS here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center

  • The IRS now has a live telephone line dedicated to answering questions about the economic stimulus payments:  (800) 919-9835
  • To check the status of your Economic Impact Payment, go to the "Get My Payment" on the IRS website.
  • If you have questions or concerns about getting your economic stimulus payment, apply for help from  the Low-Income Taxpayer Project by contacting 603 Legal Aid (formerly Legal Advice & Referral Center) 9 AM - 1 PM on weekdays at 1(800) 639-5290 or to apply online anytime.

Q. I didn’t make enough money to file a tax return in either 2018 or 2019. How will the IRS know where to send my Economic Stimulus check?

A. If you were not required to file a tax return in 2018 and 2019 and you do not receive Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or survivor benefits, Veteran’s benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, then you can use the "Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here" application on the IRS website.

If you receive SSI and did not file returns for the 2018 or 2019 tax years and you have a child dependent under age 17, you may have missed the May 5th deadline to provide information about your child dependents to the IRS. If you missed this May 5th deadline, you must wait until 2021 and claim the dependent payment when you file your 2020 tax return. Only your dependent payment is affected. You will still get the $1,200 payment automatically despite missing the May 5th deadline to provide information to the IRS about your dependents.

Q. I didn’t receive my EIP and I can’t wait on the phone to speak to someone about what happened to it. How can I let the IRS know that I didn’t get my payment?

A. You can fill out IRS form 3911. Enter “2020” as the tax period, leaving the date filed blank. Also, you will need to write “EIP” at the top of the form. For New Hampshire residents, you can fax the completed form to 855-253-3175, or mail it by USPS to the Andover IRS Service Center, 310 Lowell Street, Andover, MA 01810.

Advance child tax credit payments

This links to website with an IRS-approved, mobile-friendly app for filing a streamlined 2020 tax return for people wanting to sign up for any missing stimulus payments or the advance 2021 Child Tax Credit payments. It’s meant for people who haven’t already filed a 2020 tax return and DON’T have any earned income from a job or from self-employment. For those with some earned income, the website provides a link to file a more normal tax return. Either way, it’s free to use these apps.

Watch the video  "Child Tax Credit Q&A" with the director of 603 Legal Aid's Tax Clinic and tax attorney, Barbara Heggie, Esq.

The best source for up-to-date information is the IRS webpage "Advance Child Tax Credit Payments in 2021."

Be sure to read the summary of the new COVID Relief Bill above.

The IRS webpage cited above includes links to several important tools and resources. These include:

  • Eligibility Assistant, which helps you find out if you qualify for the advance payments of the Child Tax Credits
  • Child Tax Credit Update Portal, which allows you to:
    • check if you’re enrolled to receive advance payments,
    • unenroll to stop getting advance payments,
    • provide or update your bank account information for monthly payments, starting with the August payment,
    • provide a change of address, beginning in August,
    • make changes to your marital status, income, and list of dependents, beginning in September.
  • Child Tax Credit Non-filer Sign-up Tool, which allows you to electronically file a 2020 tax return to claim the advance payments of the Child Tax Credit and the first and second stimulus payments as the Recovery Rebate Credit, if you didn’t already receive them. If you qualify for the third stimulus payment but didn’t receive it, using this sign-up tool should trigger the IRS to issue you the payment within a few weeks. If you had any earned income for 2020, however, and qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, it’s best to file a tax return using normal software. This sign-up tool won’t allow you to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit.Free tax return software can be found here, //www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free, and here, //www.myfreetaxes.com/.
  • Frequently Asked Questions, which provides answers to numerous questions about the advance payments of the Child Tax Credit.
  • Resources and Guidance, which includes a step-by-step guide to using the Non-filer Sign-up tool to file a 2020 tax return, as well as social media resources to spread the word about the advance payments of the Child Tax Credit.

Watch the video, "Here’s Who Will Get Advance Payments of the Child Tax Credit" in English, in Spanish, or in Chinese-Simplified.

Child tax credit scam

Scammers are always keeping up with the news. A new warning from the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau says scammers are now targeting the new child tax credit payments.

The first round of child tax credit checks started going out in mid-Jully to millions of American families. Scammers may call, text or email people saying they’re “here to help.” They’ll either say that you’re owed more money and they can help you get it or that they can help you get your money earlier than everyone else. 

Helpful tips:

Avoid falling victim to these scams. Remember, the money for the child tax credit comes directly from the IRS. Do not respond to anyone reaching out to you. The IRS will not call, text or direct message you, asking for money or information. They won’t ask for wire transfers or gift cards either. Keep the following tips in mind if someone reaches out to you:

  • Keep your personal information to yourself.
  • Never give out your Social Security number.
  • Never give out your bank or credit card information.

NH courts

NH courts are open and some COVID protocols remain in effect after June 8, 2021.  See the latest information at: Judicial Branch response to COVID-19.

NH courts are closed for non-emergency proceedings through July 6th or the last day of a Declared State of Emergency.  There is an exception for all 540 and 540-A proceedings filed on or after July 1st. The State of Emergency ended at midnight June 11, 2021.

Individuals entering State of New Hampshire courthouses must wear face covers that cover the mouth and nose. The Judicial Branch recommends that people use their own face coverings, but will provide face coverings for people who do not have their own.  This rule does not apply to anyone for whom the wearing of a mask would be contrary to their health or safety. Read the Order. Stay updated by checking the link above to the Judicial Brach response to COVID-19.

Telephone access to the courts is fully available during this time.  For questions related to Superior Court or Circuit Court cases, please call 1-855-212-1234. For questions related to Supreme Court, please contact the clerk’s office at (603) 271-2646.

Governor's COVID-19 emergency orders

Read the Orders.

Evictions

New eviction law

In July, a new law was enacted in NH to help tenants facing eviction. Tenants can pay off any back rent they owe--plus any late payment fees and $15 in liquidated damages and the landlord’s filing and service costs--up until the time of their eviction hearing.

The law used to be that tenants had to pay off the full amount of back rent owed before the eviction notice expired or the landlord could still go forward with the eviction. Now tenants will have more time to pay what they owe.

With this new law, if the back rent-–plus any late payment fees, $15 in liquidated damages, and the landlord’s filing and service costs--is paid any time before the hearing, then the landlord cannot go forward with evicting the tenant for nonpayment of rent.

This gives tenants more time to apply for assistance through their local welfare office or through the New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program (NHERAP). This new law should help tenants stay in their homes and allow landlords to protect their income. Scroll down to "Help with rent" section for more on Local Welfare and NHERAP.

Help Sessions for Tenants Facing Eviction

New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) and 603 Legal Aid offered free online help sessions for tenants facing eviction.

During these Eviction Clinics, legal aid attorneys and paralegals explained tenants’ rights during an eviction and answered questions. They did not provide legal advice for specific cases at the clinics.

The sessions were recorded and are available on NHLA’s YouTube channel

Be sure to read the summary of the new COVID Relief Bill above.

All tenants in New Hampshire who are behind on rent should go to www.capnh.org to see if they qualify for emergency rental assistance. For other ways to get help with rent, read the section called Help With Rent below.

If you are facing eviction, read this important information and contact 603 Legal Aid to see if you qualify for free legal help.  Call 800-639-5290 or apply online.

Help with rent

New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program (NHERAP)

Do you need help paying for rent and utilities? Learn how to apply and who is eligible. Go to the program's website or read the fact sheet.

The program covers past-due and future rent payments; utilities, such as electricity, home heating costs, water, sewer, trash; and other housing-related costs such as internet, reasonable late fees, and relocation expenses associated directly or indirectly with COVID-19. Relocation expenses including rental application fees, utility hook-up fees, and security deposits are eligible. 

Local Community Action Programs (CAP) will be in charge of distributing money to people in need of rental assistance around the state.

If you are behind on rent:

  • Apply for rental assistance at a Town or City welfare office.  If you have problems applying for welfare or to challenge welfare’s denial of rental assistance, call 603 Legal Aid at 603-224-3333 or 800-639-5290. Leave a message if you do not call between 9 AM and 1 PM. Be sure to say you are calling about welfare and give any deadlines you have.
  • Apply for rental assistance at your nearest Community Action Partnerships (CAP). Call NH Helpline at 2-1-1 for the phone number of your nearest CAP.  Call CAP or go towww.capnh.org where you will see an “apply now” button with an online application.
  • For additional assistance, contact the DHHS Bureau of Housing Supports at 603-271-9196, or email dhhs.bhhs@dhhs.nh.gov

If you are facing eviction, read this important information and call 603 Legal Aid (formerly LARC) at 800-639-5290 or apply online.

If you need help finding food, paying housing bills, or other essential services, dial 211 to speak to someone who can help.

Are you facing foreclosure or are you behind on your mortgage?

FHFA extends COVID-19 REO eviction moratorium through September 30, 2021

At President Biden's request, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) extended their foreclosure-related eviction moratoria until September 30, 2021.  Homeowners and renters can visit this site for up-to-date information on their relief options, protections, and key deadlines.​ Read the July 30, 2021 press release.

If you are facing foreclosure, call 603 Legal Aid's Foreclosure Relief Project at 877-399-9995 or apply online.

If you are at risk of foreclosure or are having difficulty paying your home mortgage, utilities, home insurance or property taxescontact AHEAD for free housing counseling services or call 211 to find a HUD-approved Housing Counselor (just dial 2-1-1). Multilingual assistance and TDD access is also available. For those outside of New Hampshire, call 1-866-444-4211 or go to the 211 website here. Housing Counselors help homeowners free-of-charge to explore the options that are available in each individual situation.

If you are behind on mortgage payments due to COVID-19, apply for help. Contact your local Community Action Partnership (CAP) agency or call 2-1-1 from any NH phone. New Hampshire Housing Relief applications are available through your local CAP agencies. If you need help finding food, paying housing bills, or other essential services, dial 211 to speak to someone who can help.

Go to Home Help NH's website for more information.

If you have a forbearance that is ending, a new rule went into effect on August 31, 2021, that helps ensure your mortgage servicer is providing meaningful opportunities for you to avoid foreclosure and stay in your home. If you’re not in forbearance, mortgage relief options may still be available through your mortgage servicer. Watch a video and learn more.

Utilities

New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program - Learn about the new $200 million rental and utility relief program: how to apply and who is eligible. Go to the program's website or read the fact sheet.

The program covers past-due and future rent payments; utilities, such as electricity, home heating costs, water, sewer, trash; and other housing-related costs such as internet, reasonable late fees, and relocation expenses associated directly or indirectly with COVID-19. Relocation expenses including rental application fees, utility hook-up fees, and security deposits are eligible.

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On July 15, 2020, Emergency Order #3 ended. Order #3 stopped the shut-off of utilities during the State of Emergency. A new Emergency Order, #58, requires that the utilities set up a 6-month payment plan for customers to deal with payments they owe.  The State of Emergency ended at midnight June 11, 2021.

Read Emergency Orders #3 and #58 (link above).

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Help with utilities

If your utilities have been shut off or you have related problems, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 603-271-3641 or email DOJ-CPB@doj.nh.gov.

If you are behind on utility bills due to COVID-19, apply for help. If you are facing financial challenges due to COVID-19, contact your local Community Action Partnership (CAP) agency or call 2-1-1 from any NH phone. New Hampshire Housing Relief applications are available through your local CAP agencies.

If you need help finding food, paying housing bills, or other essential services, dial 211 to speak to someone who can help.

According to HUD, if you need help paying your utility bills, contact one of these organizations.

Visit the HUD.gov web page that deals with this issue.

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The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households. Households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price. A household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the criteria below:

  • Has an income that is at or below 135% of the federal poverty level or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline;
  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

You can find more info on the FCC’s website. You can reach out directly to your service provider to enroll, or you can apply online. You can also call (833) 511-0311 for a mail-in application, and return it alnemployment

Unemployment

Be sure to read the summary of the new COVID Relief Bill above.

Governor Sununu issued Emergency Orders expanding Unemployment. Individuals who are unable to work or who have reduced hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic will have immediate access to unemployment benefits.

Read Emergency Order #5 (link above).

  • NH Employment Security main website.
  • To file an initial claim, to file a weekly continued claim or to check the status of an existing claim, visit this webpage.
  • Call 603-271-7700 Hotline open 8 AM to 8 PM Monday through Friday and 9 AM to 5 PM on Saturday and Sunday.

FEDERAL BENEFIT PROGRAMS WILL END JUNE 19TH

  • New Hampshire announced it will STOP PAYING THE $300 FEDERAL BONUS PAYMENT for people receiving unemployment benefits. The week ending JUNE 19TH will be the final week people will be eligible for this payment.
  • The FEDERAL PANDEMIC PROGRAMS including PUA, PEUC and MEUC WILL ALSO END in New Hampshire. The week ending JUNE 19TH will be the final week people will be eligible for benefits through these programs.
  • Traditional state unemployment benefits will continue to be available to those that qualify.
  • Further, New Hampshire will be returning to existing state requirements so that new people filing for unemployment benefits will be REQUIRED TO SERVE A WAITING WEEK prior to receiving benefits for the first week of unemployment.
  • New Hampshire has reinstated the work search requirement for anyone filing for unemployment benefits. Claimants will now need to document their weekly work search activities.

This information may have been updated. See the NH Employment Security main website or call the Hotline number above for the latest information.

Local welfare

Governor Sununu issued Emergency Order #23 that allows Local Welfare offices to transition to operating on-line, phone, or limited appointment -only operation, but Local Welfare must continue to do its job.

Read Emergency Order #23 (link above).

If you have any problems with Local Welfare, call 603 Legal Aid at 800-639-5290 or 603-224-3333.  If you call any time other than 9-1 weekdays, leave a message and be sure to say you are calling about Local Welfare and state any deadlines you have.

Domestic violence

Domestic Violence:  1-866-644-3574

Sexual Assault:  1-800-277-5570

NH Coalition Agsint Domestic & Sexual Violence: https://www.nhcadsv.org/

Child abuse or neglect

NH Law requires any person who suspects that a child under age 18 has been abused or neglected must report that suspicion immediately to Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). (New Hampshire RSA 169-C:29-31)

If a child tells you that he or she has been hurt or you are concerned that a child may be the victim of any type of abuse or neglect, you must call the DCYF Central Intake Unit at:
Telephone: (800) 894-5533 (in-state) or (603) 271-6562 (out of state)
24 hours a day, including weekends and holidays.
For immediate emergencies, please call 911.
Proof of abuse and neglect is not required to make a report.
Reports of abuse and neglect concerns are confidential and can be anonymous.

Learn more about stopping child abuse and neglect here.

Date: 
May 2020, updated September 2021
Author: 
LARC

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