When the pandemic hit in March, state and federal moratoria on evictions kept vulnerable tenants in their home. Still, as many in New Hampshire fell into crisis, NH Legal Assistance and the Legal Advice & Referral Center saw a significant increase in calls from clients needing help navigating the application process for unemployment benefits and welfare assistance and appealing wrongful denials.

“Bob” is one such client. Bob was living in a homeless shelter this spring when he started working at a restaurant. Just days later, the restaurant closed due to COVID-19. Because Bob’s tenure was so short, he was ineligible for standard unemployment benefits. He appealed.

NHLA advocates knew, however, that Bob was eligible for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) created for people out of work due to the virus and not eligible for standard unemployment. Attorney Stephanie Bray advised Bob to take the non-intuitive step of withdrawing his appeal and instead asking to be considered for PUA benefits. He prevailed and began receiving assistance.

With this boost, Bob was finally able to leave the shelter and get on his feet in a studio apartment.

“You all have been amazing and did what I could not have done,” Bob told Stephanie. “I cannot thank you enough! I would have given up a long time ago.”

Now that the moratoria have been lifted, NHLA and LARC are preparing for a similar surge in calls for legal aid help with evictions and other housing challenges.