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February 2022

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Issue 9 |  February 2022

603 Legal Aid  The Advocate

A monthly newsletter from 603 Legal Aid

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In this issue

Who we are

603 Legal Aid is a state-wide civil legal aid provider offering legal representation, advocacy, and education. In partnership with volunteer attorneys and community organizations, 603 Legal Aid works to make justice a reality for and with people who experience economic hardship that threatens their basic human needs. 603 Legal Aid is the starting point to find reliable legal services in NH.

603 Legal Aid is here to help the people you serve. 603 Legal Aid helps NH’s low-income people by providing free advice and counsel for people representing themselves, and referrals to community resources. Depending on availability, we can also provide representation by staff attorneys or volunteer attorneys. If you know someone who needs help with a non-criminal legal problem, have them contact 603 Legal Aid.

Where we are

See the photo of staff.

93 North State Street Suite 200 Concord, NH 03301

On November 1, 2021, 603 Legal Aid moved into new space! Once it is safe to congregate indoors, we hope to invite you to an open house to see our new space and to meet our staff.

Encourage your clients to call us:

Call 1-800-639-5290

9 AM – 1 PM weekdays

Or your client can apply for legal help from our website

Apply anytime online atwww.603legalaid.org

How we can help:

603 Legal Aid can assist your clients with their civil legal service needs such as:

  • Housing/Utilities
  • Foreclosure
  • Eviction
  • Public Benefits
  • IRS
  • Domestic Violence
  • Consumer
  • Bankruptcy
  • Youth
  • Aging/Senior Care
  • Criminal Record Annulment
  • Debt Collection

603 Legal Aid’s website

Check out 603 Legal Aid’s new website at //www.603legalaid.org/! The fresh design will make it easy for new clients, volunteers, and community partners to find the information and help they need. More content and links will be added in the coming days so check back often.

Important tax information

Do you have a client who needs help claiming their tax credits? They can file a tax return online for free at www.MyFreeTaxes.com. Or they can have the assistance of a trained IRS-certified volunteer by going to a VITA or Tax-Aide site, either virtually or in person.  For a free appointment, go to www.nhtaxhelp.org or call 211.

If your client received any advance payments of the Child Tax Credit last year, they should have received Letter 6419 from the IRS in January, stating how much they got. Likewise, if they received the third stimulus payment last year, they should have received Letter 6475 from the IRS stating how much they got. Clients should bring these letters to their VITA or Tax-Aide appointment – or have them handy if they choose to do their taxes online.

Have questions about the Child Tax Credit?  The IRS has answers right here: //www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/2021-child-tax-credit-and-advance-child-tax-credit-payments-frequently-asked-questions

Why should your clients file a tax return?

  • TAX CREDITS – Your client might get a refund from the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, Recovery Rebate Credit, or Child & Dependent Tax Credit.
  • WITHHOLDING - If your client had taxes withheld from their paychecks, they might get some or all of it back as a refund.
  • SOCIAL SECURITY EARNINGS RECORD - If your client earned any income, filing a tax return will help build up their earnings record to increase their future benefits.
  • PROOF of EARNINGS - A tax return will help your client prove their income if your client is applying for public assistance.
  • REDUCE IDENTITY THEFT - People who file a tax return are less likely to be a victim of identity theft.

Tax Myths

  • MYTH #1: I can’t file a tax return because I didn’t earn enough last year.
    • NO!
      • Anyone can file if they have a Social Security number or an ITIN.
  • MYTH #2: I can’t get a refund because I didn’t earn anything.
    • NO!
      • You don’t need any income for the Child Tax Credit or Recovery Rebate Credit.
  • MYTH #3: I can’t get a refund because I don’t have any kids
    • NO!
      • You don’t need any kids for the Earned Income Tax Credit or Recovery Rebate Credit.
  • MYTH #4: I can’t file a tax return because I still haven’t filed for last year.
    • NO!
      • Just nope. Not true. 100% false
  • MYTH #5: It costs too much.

Pro Bono Update

On December 13, 2021, Emma Sisti joined 603 Legal Aid as Pro Bono Program Manager.  Emma spent 15 years at New Hampshire Public Defender as a staff attorney.  In her role as Pro Bono Manager, she aims to ensure that as many people as possible who qualify for services receive them. This means there will be increased outreach to our community partners to train and educate on what services are available to our client population. Emma will also be working to increase volunteer lawyer recruitment efforts in the state with a long-term goal of being able to place every qualified applicant for services with a volunteer.

If you need to reach Emma to discuss a need in your community or if you wish to collaborate on a way to improve your client’s access to justice, you can reach her directly at esisti@603legalaid.org or 603-584-4145.

In 2021, Pro Bono collaborated with 112 volunteer attorneys to help a total of 1807 individuals (clients and their families) with their civil legal service needs. While the program saw great change, the staff continued to show tremendous capacity for empathy for our clients and worked diligently to ensure applicants were placed with volunteers who could assist them.

Meet our new Community Educator

See the photo of Vanessa.

603 Legal Aid continues to expand access to civil legal assistance with the recent hiring of Vanessa Valdès as the organization’s new Community Educator and Low-Income Tax Clinic Assistant. Vanessa’s chief focus will be on assisting needy New Hampshire residents with Emergency Rental Assistance Program benefits and making low-income people aware of the new tax benefits available by filing a tax return. Vanessa has been working in the nonprofit sector since she moved to New Hampshire eight years ago. Her resume includes jobs and volunteer roles at Catholic Charities, Families in Transition, YWCA, and Granite State Independent Living. We are pleased to have her on board to assist 603 Legal Aid in its mission to improve access to justice for our low-income community members.

Free legal help with non-payment evictions at Manchester and Nashua District Courts

Manchester and Nashua District Courts will have resources at the courthouse to help tenants in nonpayment of rent eviction cases. See the schedule below to see when legal aid attorneys and representatives from Community Action Programs will be available. They will help tenants apply for rental assistance and, if needed, prepare the tenants to ask the landlord and the court for more time to have their applications for rental assistance processed.

The legal aid attorneys will do a brief intake with the tenant to assess their case and eligibility for this help. Attorneys may be able to help with motions to continue or give legal advice on how tenants can proceed on their own.

Tenants should contact 603 Legal Aid before their hearing to get advice on their rights and defenses or, to possibly be referred to an attorney. Tenants should visit www.capnh.org if they need help paying rent.

In February, CAP representatives and legal aid attorneys will be at the Manchester and Nashua District Courthouse on the following dates and times:

February 2

Wednesday

8:30 – 12:00

Manchester

February 9

Wednesday

8:30 – 12:00

Manchester

February 11

Friday

8:15 – 11:30

Nashua

February 16

Wednesday

8:30 – 12:00

Manchester

February 18

Friday

8:15 – 11:30

Nashua

February 23

Wednesday

8:30 – 12:00

Manchester

February 25

Friday

8:15 – 11:30

Nashua

See the schedule through April 2022.

Help for homeowners in trouble

If you know a homeowner who:

  • is facing foreclosure:
    • have them call the Foreclosure Relief Project at 603 Legal Aid. We can provide legal advice and referrals to other services. Either call 800-639-5290 or apply online at www.603legalaid.org
  • Is having trouble paying their mortgage, utilities, home insurance or property taxes:
    • have them contact AHEAD for free housing counseling services at (603) 444-1377 or (800) 974-1377;
    • or call 2-1-1
    • See AHEAD’s website: //www.homesahead.org/
  • wants to know about the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF)
    • tell them it is part of the American Rescue Plan. It will help eligible homeowners who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will likely help with:
      • mortgage payment assistance and mortgage reinstatement
      • homeowner’s association fees or liens, condominium association fees and manufactured home park rent
      • homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance, mortgage insurance
      • property taxes
      • utilities, including electric, gas, home energy, water, wastewater
      • internet services
    • The formal application portal will be available on or before February 7, 2022.
    • Learn more at //homehelpnh.org/
  • Homeowners can sign up to get information from HAF at //homehelpnh.org/homeowners/haf

Get help with rent and utility bills with NH Emergency Rental Assistance Program (NHERAP)

If your client is a NH resident who cannot pay their rent and utility bills due to the COVID -19 pandemic, they may be eligible for help. Encourage them to apply for assistance through your Community Action Partnership (CAP) here.

Funds can cover current and past due rent, as well as utility and home energy costs for eligible households. This assistance is available, retroactive to April 1, 2020, through the date of application, and the applicant may also receive assistance for these same expenses going forward.

Households may receive assistance for a total of 12 months, and payments will be provided directly to the landlord or utility provider on behalf of the household. Landlords, with the tenant’s permission, may apply for assistance on behalf of their tenant. This program is only for eligible renters and landlords, not homeowners, per federal rules.

To be eligible, at least one person in the household:

  • must qualify for unemployment benefits, had their income reduced,
  • have 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.

For more information go to the program’s website or read the fact sheet

Rockingham’s Rental Assistance Program

Rockingham County received additional federal funding to establish a rental assistance program. The eligibility requirements and the application are the same as the NH Emergency Rental Assistance Program being handled by the Community Action Programs. Learn more about it at: //rockinghamcountynh.org/rent/

Good client story

An inmate at a county jail tried to claim his first Economic Impact Payment (“EIP”) using the non-filer tool on the IRS website. At the time, the IRS was not issuing EIPs to incarcerated people, and he never received the first or the second payment.

He contacted 603 Legal Aid’s Low Income Taxpayer Project (“LITP”) and explained that the stimulus payments would help him establish stable housing after his upcoming release. He had suffered from substance abuse disorder and was worried that financial pressures would make it difficult to stay sober.

The LITP prepared and filed a 2020 tax return for him, claiming $1,800 in Recovery Rebate Credit, and he received the refund–plus the $1,400 third EIP–within six weeks. Shortly afterward he was released, and he used the money for the security deposit and first month's rent on an apartment.

With the help of the LITP, he has a fresh start with a stable home a better chance at sobriety.

If you know someone who had a good outcome in a legal case due to 603 Legal Aid’s help, please share that Good Client Story with us! We would love to share it with our readers. 603 Legal Aid will never use a client’s real name or any facts that could reveal who that client is. Send your Good Client Stories to: webmaster@603legalaid.org and put “Good Client Story” in the subject line.

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Know someone who would find this newsletter useful? Pass it on!

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Equal justice for all should not depend on whether you can afford it. Make a difference for New Hampshire’s most vulnerable citizens—donate to the New Hampshire Campaign for Legal Services. Your donation will provide vital support to 603 Legal Aid and New Hampshire Legal Assistance. Help us ensure that New Hampshire’s poor and elderly have a place to turn when they need legal help.

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