New Hampshire Legal Assistance

Helping to balance the scales of justice for everyone since 1971.

NHLA Community Guidance for COVID 19 crisis

Posted Aug 10, 2020

First published March 19, 2020

NHLA offices are closed to the public during the COVID19 health crisis, but our staff members are working, representing current clients, evaluating applications for new clients, monitoring the on-going and ever-changing landscape of benefits to help people facing crisis, and compiling resources like this.

This Guidance is general information for our community about the many changes to public programs and systems during the state of emergency. Staff will periodically update this guidance. If you have any questions, please contact us at any of our phone numbers, or apply for help online at  

Topics covered in this guidance: CARES Act stimulus payments; Social Security Benefits; Unemployment Insurance Benefits; Utilities; Food stamps, cash assistance and Medicaid; Domestic Violence; Housing; Senior and Consumer Law; Youth Law/Education

CARES Act Economic Impact Stimulus/Rebate Payments

If you have questions or concerns about the receipt of your economic stimulus payment, here are two resources: 

1. The Legal Advice and Referral Center (LARC): Call 1-800-639-5290 or apply for assistance online at

2. The Low-Income Taxpayer Project of the NH Bar Association: Call (603) 715-3215 or email

  • The federal government has started sending many people economic stimulus payments. This money will either be automatically deposited in your bank account or will be sent to you as a paper check. If you have a bank account–and the IRS knows of your bank account–you may have already received your money.
  • You are eligible if you have a valid Social Security number, you cannot be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer, and:
    • You are an individual with an adjusted gross income on your tax return of $75,000 or less.
    • You are the head of household with an adjusted gross income on your tax return of $112,500 or less.
    • You file jointly as a married couple with an adjusted gross income on your tax return of $150,000 or less.
  • The payments will be $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples who filed their taxes jointly. There is a $500 supplemental payment per child under 17 years old.
    • People whose adjusted gross income is greater than the income thresholds above may be eligible to receive a reduced payment.
    • You are not eligible if you can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return, you do not have a valid Social Security number, you are a nonresident alien, or you filed Form 1040-NR or Form 1040NR-EZ, Form 1040-PR or Form 1040-SS for 2019.People who are undocumented, lack Social Security numbers, or file with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) are not eligible.
  • Most people that have filed their tax returns will not need to do anything; payments will be sent automatically to those that have filed their 2019 or 2018 returns. If you have not filed a tax return and are required to do so, you should file your 2019 return as soon as possible.
    • The IRS has extended the tax filing deadline for 2019 to July 15, 2020, but you should file your taxes sooner if you have a filing requirement to get your payment as soon as possible. Free tax return preparation for low- and moderate-income people is available at Code for America has also partnered with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to create a fully virtual intake process for free tax assistance. People can visit the website at Get Your Refund to connect with an IRS-certified volunteer who can help file their taxes.
  • If you received Social Security Title II retirement, survivors’ and disability insurance (SSDI), veterans’/VA or Railroad Retirement benefits in 2018 or 2019, you will automatically receive your stimulus payment and do not need to do anything else unless you have a dependent child under the age of 17 who is eligible to receive the additional $500 per child (see below).
    • The IRS recently stated that recipients of Social Security Title II retirement, survivors’ or disability insurance (SSDI) and Railroad Retirement benefits are scheduled to begin receiving the automatic payments of $1,200 during the week of April 27, 2020.
  • If you are an adult who currently receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and began receiving SSI prior to January 1, 2020, you will automatically receive your stimulus payment and do not need to do anything else unless you have a dependent child under the age of 17 who is eligible to receive the additional $500 per child (see below). The IRS recently stated that SSI recipients should receive their stimulus payments via direct deposit by May 13, 2020, and paper checks will be mailed to SSI recipients on May 15, 2020.
    • We have heard that the IRS will not be issuing automatic payments to minor children who receive SSI. The IRS might issue further guidance that applies to children who receive SSI. In the meantime, you may be able to claim the additional $500 for the minor child who receives SSI by following the instructions below that apply to your household’s situation.
  • If you began receiving SSI or Social Security benefits on January 1, 2020 or later, you should use the “Non-Filers” portal to claim your stimulus check. To use the online portal, first visit, and look for “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here.” Using the tool to get your payment will not result in any taxes being owed.
  • If you receive SSI or Veterans Affairs benefits and have a dependent child under the age of 17, you will need to use the “Non-Filer” application on the IRS website to claim your additional $500 payment for that child if you did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019.
    • o SSI recipients and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries with eligible children, must use the “Non-Filer” tool by Tuesday May 5th to receive $500 per dependent child or they will be unable to claim this money until 2021.
    • o For recipients of Social Security, SSDI, and Railroad Retirement benefits the deadline to file for the dependent payment using the “Non-Filer” tool was Wednesday, April 22 . This group can no longer use the “Non-Filer” too to receive the payment for eligible children this year.
    • o If you missed the deadline to receive the payment for an eligible child this year, you may be able to receive the payment when you file your taxes in 2021.
  • Other non-tax filers can also use the online portal to request payments. Examples include individuals and families receiving certain cash assistance benefits (i.e. TANF, Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled, Old Age Assistance, etc.) and households under the normal income limits for filing a tax return. This may include single filers who made under $12,200 and married couples making less than $24,400 in 2019.
    • However, using the “non-filer” portal to receive your stimulus payment can seriously delay any tax refund due to you for 2019. If you believe you may be owed a refund, you should file your 2019 taxes ASAP. If you use the “non-filer” portal for 2019, it will create a $1 return for you and potentially force you to file a new paper return for 2019 that could delay your refund for months.
  • If you miss a deadline for claiming your payment this year, you may be able to receive the payment for you and/or your eligible dependents when you file your taxes in 2021.
  • For most people, payments will be sent via the same method you received your IRS tax refund. The payments will be automatically paid by direct deposit if you provided an account on your tax return. Otherwise, the IRS will mail checks.
    • Those who have a direct deposit on file with the IRS will receive their payments faster than those getting a check by mail.
    • The government has released an online portal that allows you to update your information and check the status of your payment. Click on the Get My Payment box online to update your information with the IRS. You can provide your bank account information for direct deposit if you did not provide it on your last tax return and your payment has not yet been sent. If you filed a 2019 tax return and provided your bank account information, you will not be able to change it. If you last filed a 2018 tax return, you can change your account information and mailing address by filing your 2019 taxes; you cannot use the portal to change your information.
    • If your bank account is closed and the government attempts a direct deposit before you can update your information, the IRS will mail you check. If the IRS has already sent your check through mail (which you can find out on the IRS Get My Payment portal) you cannot receive your check via direct deposit.
    • If you are expecting a check in the mail and have moved since you filed your tax return, you should update your mailing address with the IRS. You should also notify the post office that services your old address that you have moved. It can take four to six weeks for a change of address to be fully processed.
    • For those who do not have a bank or prepaid account, has a list of low fee, safe checkless checking accounts that can be opened online and are open to people with blemished bank account histories.
  • The payments will not be counted toward eligibility for means-tested programs and will be disregarded as an asset for 12 months.  As long as your stimulus payment has been spent within 12 months, it will not be counted against you as a resource.
    • This means the payments won’t jeopardize your participation in programs including Medicaid, SNAP/Food Stamps and public housing.
    • The money does not need to be paid back to the government and will not be taxed as income for 2020.If you received more in stimulus payment than you should have received based on your income, you will not have to pay any of it back on your 2020 return (filed in 2021). If you receive less in stimulus payment than you should because your 2020 income goes down or your household situation otherwise changes, you will get the rest of the money as a re­­­fund on your 2020 return (filed in 2021).
  • The payment can’t be taken for past-due taxes, federal student loans, or certain debts owed to the federal government and New Hampshire (e.g. Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamp over-payments). However, it can be intercepted if you owe child support arrears that have been certified by the Treasury Offset Program. In addition, currently federal law does not prohibit private debt collectors from garnishing the money once it is in your bank account though there are limits under New Hampshire law that might apply.
  • The IRS will mail a letter to your last known address 15 days after the payment is deposited or mailed to you. The letter will include:
    • The amount of the payment;
    • How the payment was delivered (whether by direct deposit or by check); and
    • An IRS phone number to call if your payment was not received.


  • All local Social Security offices are closed to in-person visits. Instead, use the online portal ( to apply for benefits, appeal denials, check application status, and get other routine services. Local offices will handle critical issues by telephone (1-888-397-9798 or TTY 603-225-8475). Critical services include the following:
    • Dire need benefit payments, such as not receiving a benefit payment or presumptive payments and needing benefit payments reinstated;
    • Severe disability, blindness and terminal illness cases; and
    • Dire need SSI and 1619B eligibility decisions required for urgent Medicaid approval.
    • Direct deposit should work normally. Checks sent by mail may be affected by mail delivery issues.

      If you were asked to contact SSA by a certain date, do not go to the office. You can contact SSA offices once they reopen to the public or you can mail your documents. SSA will follow up once the COVID-19 public health emergency subsides.
      • SSA is providing maximum flexibility in applying good cause policy, extending the time limits for submitting appeals and taking other actions during this public health emergency.
      • SSA will not start or complete any current medical continuing disability reviews. If you have a medical continuing disability review pending, please do not request medical information from your doctors at this time.  SSA will follow up with you for any medical evidence once the COVID-19 public health emergency subsides.
      • Where possible, SSA is suspending processing and collection of overpayments.
      • SSA is not conducting organization or individual representative payee accountings.
      • SSA will not be able to process Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests or third party requests for information, except from appointed representatives and representative payees.
      • If you have a hearing scheduled, the Social Security Administration may contact you from a PRIVATE number to discuss possible rescheduling.  
      • Track, save and print anything you do online. Keep notes of any telephone contact with Social Security Administration.
      • Be aware of appeal deadlines. Appeal forms are available online ( For more information, visit the SSA Website

  • The office of Inspector General is now warning about fraudulent letters threatening suspension of Social Security benefits due to COVID-19 or coronavirus-related office closures. Social Security will not suspend or discontinue benefits because their offices are closed.

    Some Social Security beneficiaries have received letters through the U.S. Mail stating their payments will be suspended or discontinued unless they call a phone number referenced in the letter. Scammers may then mislead beneficiaries into providing personal information or payment via retail gift cards, wire transfers, internet currency, or by mailing cash, to maintain regular benefit payments during this period of COVID-19 office closures. Social Security will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Any communication you receive that says Social Security will do so is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call.  

    Social Security will never:

    • Threaten you with benefit suspension, arrest, or other legal action unless you pay a fine or fee.
    • Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment
    • Require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card.
    • Demand secrecy from you in handling a Social Security-related problem.
    • Send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.

    • If you receive a letter, text, call or email that you believe to be suspicious, about an alleged problem with your Social Security number, account, or payments, hang up or do not respond. The Social Security Administration encourages you to report Social Security scams using this online form


      • All New Hampshire Employment Security (NHES) offices are closed.
      • You may apply for unemployment and other services online ( or by phone (603-271-7700). The one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits is eliminated throughout the State of Emergency, current scheduled to end June 26, 2020.

      The state and federal governments have made several changes to unemployment insurance for those affected by COVID-19: 

      • The minimum weekly benefit amount has temporarily increased to $168. The increase will remain in effect until December 31. 
        • All workers, including self-employed workers, independent contractors, "gig economy" workers and workers not usually eligible for benefits, may apply for unemployment benefits if they are:
          • Partially or fully unemployed OR
          • Unable and unavailable to work because of one of the following circumstances:
            • They have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of it and are seeking diagnosis;
            • A member of their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
            • They are providing care for someone diagnosed with COVID-19;
            • They are providing care for a child or other household member who can't attend school or work because it is closed due to COVID-19;
            • They are quarantined or have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
            • They were scheduled to start employment and do not have a job or cannot reach their place of employment as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak;
            • They have become the breadwinner for a household because the head of household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
            • They had to quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19;
            • Their place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or
            • They meet other criteria established by the Secretary of Labor. 
      • Employers will not be charged by NHES when one of their employees files an unemployment claim related to COVID-19. 
      • Recent changes to federal law grant all New Hampshire recipients of Unemployment Insurance benefits an additional $600 per week until July 31, 2020.
        • NOTE: This additional $600 per week is not considered "income" for purposes of eligibility for either Medicaid or CHIP but will count as income for other programs. 
      • The maximum number of weeks someone can receive benefits has also been increased from 26 weeks to 39 weeks. 
      • Recent increases in applications have caused NHES to schedule certain dates and times of the week for people to apply, based on the first letter of their names. The current schedule for accepting applications is listed at

      • Applicants who would not usually be eligible for benefits, such as self-employed workers and workers who do not have a long-enough work history may receive an initial denial notice, according to NHES. NHES may follow up with a phone call or letter to obtain additional information and complete the claim. If individuals do not receive an approval notice within 14 days of receiving the denial notice, they should request an appeal to dispute the denial before the deadline passes. 

      For more information see the governor’s Executive Order 


      • For the duration of NH’s State of Emergency, providers of electric, gas, telephone, cable, VOIP, internet and deliverable fuels like oil and propane are not allowed to disconnect or discontinue service for nonpayment.
      • Customers who accrue arrearages during the emergency will be allowed to enter reasonable repayment agreements, with a minimum of 6 months to pay, after the end of the State of Emergency.
      • Customers cannot be charged late fees on arrearages accrued during the State of Emergency.
      • The Public Utility Commission’s Consumer Services and External Affairs  Division is available to assist customers of electric, gas and water utilities that are public utilities, as well as customers of competitive electric providers, and customers of telephone providers. Contact the office at

      • Questions regarding other services – deliverable fuels, municipal utility service, or cable, internet or VOIP services – should be directed to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 603-271-3641 or by email at
      • Customers who need assistance paying their electric bill can apply for the Electric Assistance Program (EAP) discount.   Customers should contact their local Community Action Agency by phone to find out how to submit an application by phone, email, fax, or regular mail:
      • Customers cannot submit applications in-person at this time.

      For more information, see the governor’s Executive Order


      • All local NH DHHS offices are closed to in-person visits until further notice.  All interviews will be conducted by phone.
      • To apply for benefits, visit or call 1-844-275-3447.
      • Individuals can apply for WIC by phone by contacting the closest local office. Find your local office here. If you’re having trouble contacting your local office, leave a detailed voice message or call the WIC State Agency at 1-800-942-4321.

      • Track, save and print anything you do online. Keep notes of any telephone contact with NH DHHS, including the date, time and who you spoke to.   

      • DHHS will post program changes to their website weekly. Some eligibility rules for programs have changed, including:
        • ABAWD time limit is temporarily waived for most SNAP/Food Stamp recipients;
        • DHHS can consider factors related to COVID-19 in determinations of whether an individual has good cause for failure to comply with a general SNAP/Food Stamps work requirement;
        • Mandatory employment and training rules are temporarily suspended for TANF recipients;
        • All SNAP/Food Stamp recipients will receive the maximum benefit in April and May regardless of their household income;
        • Medicaid recipients can receive a 90-day supply of maintenance prescriptions and can seek to refill prescriptions early.
        • Medicaid recipients should not be terminated as of March 18, 2020. If you received a termination notice or were told by a provider that your coverage has been terminated,  please contact LARC for legal assistance online at this link or by phone at 1-800-639-5290.
      • Most recipients of DHHS benefits will not be required to complete a redetermination from March 18, 2020 to May 31, 2020.  If you had a scheduled redetermination, it will likely be rescheduled for a later date.  However, we recommend that you continue to notify DHHS of any changes during this time.

      • Be aware of appeal deadlines. You can request an appeal by phone at (800) 852-3345, ext. 4292 or (603) 271-4292.  You can also request an appeal by emailing An appeal request form is available online HERE, but you do not need to complete one to request a hearing

      • Information about pending hearings:
      If you have a hearing scheduled prior to March 27, 2020, the hearing will be postponed and you will be notified of a new hearing date.
      If you cannot participate in your hearing by phone, contact the Administrative Appeals Unit immediately at (800) 852-3345, ext. 4292 or (603) 271-4292 or
      For more information, visit the NH DHHS Website


      • Victims may go to their local Circuit Court to request domestic violence and stalking protection orders, or to make requests for emergency orders related to children.
      • Orders of protection and other types of temporary emergency orders that were scheduled to expire prior to June 16, 2020 and were extended by prior emergency orders, expired on June 16, 2020, unless the plaintiff was entitled to an extension and filed a motion requesting an extension prior to the expiration of the order.
      • The court will continue to conduct many hearings (including protection order hearings) by phone or by video. Notices will go out for any hearing that has been changed to a telephonic or video hearing. The notice should have instructions on how to call in, what to do with exhibits, witnesses, etc.

      • Fillable versions of the DV and Stalking petitions are now online for survivors who are able to print forms and want to limit their wait at court.

      • Domestic Violence and Stalking Petitions may now be filed electronically between the hours of 8AM and 3PM. To file a petition electronically, victims/survivors must connect with their local crisis center or the Strafford County Family Justice Center for assistance.

      Domestic Violence Petitions are sworn court documents under oath.  Normally, these documents must be signed and sworn to, in person, in front of a notary public.  However, during this current crisis, the State of New Hampshire is allowing notaries public to take oaths on these documents remotely.  There must be video and audio recording of the oath, which the notary must be able to save and archive.  The notary must have some way of confirming the signer’s identity and taking the signer’s oath that the statements are true.  Finally, the person signing the document must send the signed document to the notary for formal signature and affixing of the seal by the notary. 

      • In-person advocacy services may be reduced at crisis centers. Victims/survivors are encouraged to call 24/7 confidential statewide hotlines, which are still operating: 

      § For domestic violence and stalking: 1-866-644-3574 

      § For sexual assault: 1-800-277-5570

      Supervised visitation center updates:

      • Strafford County Supervised Visitation Center: Is beginning to implement virtual on site visitation. Here is a link to learn more about the services the Center is able to offer during this pandemic:

      • Merrimack County Supervised Visitation Center: has reopened at limited capacity and currently has openings for services.

      • Waypoint SVC in Lebanon: Closed permanently to NH families due to loss of state funds allocated in 2019 budget.


      • For the duration of NH’s State of Emergency, currently scheduled to end June 26, 2020 a landlord may not file an eviction case in court, except in cases of: 1) substantial damage to the premises, and  2) conduct which has a substantial adverse impact on other tenants. Except for cases based on these two grounds no eviction hearings will be held prior to June 16.
      • If an eviction case was filed prior to the State of Emergency, which began March 17, 2020, a hearing cannot be held before June 16, 2020. The court will notify the tenant of the hearing date if the tenant has filed an appearance. Contact the Court Information Center at 1-855-212-1234. If you have a case already going on in Court, there should be a case number. If you know the number, give it to the Court Information Center so they can look up your case.
      • Tenants who live in federally subsidized housing or have a housing choice (section 8) voucher can not be evicted for nonpayment of rent until after July 25, 2020. Tenants who live in subsidized housing or have a housing choice voucher (Section 8) should notify the housing authority (or their landlord if there is no housing authority involved) of any loss of income. Give this notice in writing and keep a copy. Unless the loss of income is for only a brief time period, this will allow tenants to obtain a rent reduction.
      • During the state of emergency, Courts should not be issuing eviction orders and sheriffs should not be serving writs of possession.
      • The temporary eviction moratorium does NOT mean tenants don’t have to pay rent. Tenants should make every effort to keep paying rent on time.
      • If you are unable to pay your rent, apply for help at your town or city’s welfare office.  You can contact the local welfare office first by phone or email to see if you can make an application without appearing in person at the town hall. Click here for help on how to apply for local welfare
      • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are allowing owners of multi-family properties whose mortgages are insured through Fannie or Freddie to seek “forbearance,” or a pause in payments, for up to six months. No evictions from these properties are allowed while the forbearance is ongoing. Once the forbearance period concludes, the property owner may qualify for up to 24 months to repay the missed payments. Additional protections are required for renters during the repayment schedule.


      Many federal agencies have suspended foreclosures during the COVID 19 crisis:

        • US Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which includes all reverse mortgages: until at least August 31.
        • US Rural Development Administration: The moratorium on foreclosures and post-foreclosure evictions expired on May 17, 2020. However, homeowners who borrowed directly from USDA, and who are experiencing financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 emergency, may call and verbally request a 180 day moratorium on mortgage payments.     
        • FHA-insured single-family home loans:  until at least August 31.
        • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which together insure about half of American home mortgages: These enterprises have extended their moratoria until at least August 31, 2020. 
          • Fannie and Freddie are also ordering lenders of loans that they insure to offer some form of relief to homeowners who are financially impacted by the virus. 
            • Frequently, this relief takes the form of "forbearance," or pausing your payments for a period of time.
              • A 180-day forbearance is available simply by making a request and identifying a COVID-related hardship. No lengthy application needed.
            • If you qualify for a forbearance, your lender will not be allowed to make a negative report on your credit during the time that the forbearance is in effect. But you will have to make up the payments at some point. 
        • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are urging lenders on the loans that they insure to offer flexible ways to make up the paused payments. These options could include deferring the paused payments to the end of the loan, or paying them back in small monthly amounts over time.
        • Servicers on Fannie and Fredie-backed loans are telling borrowers that they qualify for only a 90-day pause, and that the borrower then has to pay all the paused payments in one lump at the end of the 90 days. Neither of these statements is true for a Fannie or Freddie loan. They may not be true in other situations, either.
        • To see if your loan is insured by Fannie Mae, go to
        • To see if your loan is insured by Freddie Mac, go to; (You may have to click “Try our Look-up tool again”)
      • Additionally, the New Hampshire State of Emergency declaration prohibits foreclosures for the duration of the State of Emergency.  Foreclosures triggered by non-payment of property taxes are also prohibited.
      • If a homeowner has already received a foreclosure notice and feels emergency court relief is necessary, the NH Supreme Court Order suspending in-person court hearings (dated March 16, 2020) allows “proceedings related to petitions for temporary emergency injunctive relief.”
      • If a homeowner has already received a foreclosure notice and feels emergency court relief is necessary, the NH Supreme Court Order suspending in-person court hearings (dated March 16, 2020) allows “proceedings related to petitions for temporary emergency injunctive relief.”
      • Homeowners should continue working with housing counselors and others toward loss mitigation, since arrears will continue to grow during suspension of foreclosures.
      • Banks, credit unions and other financial institutions are considered “essential” operations and therefore should remain open, at least by telephone, even while the Governor’s stay-at-home order is in effect.

      For more information read the governor’s Executive Order


      • There is NO across-the-state emergency order postponing deadlines for paying city and town property taxes, water or sewer bills.  Interest continues to accrue at the usual rates.
      • Governor Sununu’s Emergency Order 25 allows, but does not require, cities and towns to waive interest on unpaid taxes, on a town-wide basis, for the duration of the State of Emergency.
      • There is NO across-the-state emergency order postponing the April 15 deadline for applying for the elderly exemption to reduce property taxes.  The application is available at on this website, called form PA-29
      • Some cities and towns may make the decision to postpone the exemption application deadline on their own. For example, the City of Rochester has postponed the deadline to apply for the elderly exemption to June 15, 2020.