NHLA response to the COVID-19 public health crisisPosted Mar 16, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 16, 2020 – Concord, NH
For more information: Sarah Palermo, NHLA communications manager
New Hampshire Legal Assistance is committed to protecting the basic rights – as well as the health and safety – of low income and vulnerable people across New Hampshire. NHLA is not closing due to the state of emergency over the COVID-19 virus. In fact, we are preparing for a possible surge in need for civil legal aid as a result of COVID-19.
However, we have made some changes to protect the health of our staff and our clients. Staff are generally working from home. We are not answering telephone calls live. Instead, leave a message and we will call you back. We are also not taking walk-in clients at our offices. Instead, please call us or apply for help online at www.nhlegalaid.org.
As our state and nation adjust to contain the spread of the virus, we are following public health guidance to protect our staff, clients and partners. We are also urging local and state officials to take proactive steps to protect low income families, domestic violence victims, tenants and homeowners.
Our clients and other low income New Hampshire households could face dangerously destabilizing effects from the COVID-19 crisis. We applaud Governor Sununu and bipartisan leaders in the Legislature for realizing how harmful it would be to continue the practice of requiring workers to wait one week after losing their jobs before starting unemployment benefits. The one-week wait will make this crisis hit harder and last longer, and drain critical community resources such as food banks and municipal welfare funds. We urge state leaders to act quickly toward ending this practice.
We also ask the appropriate authorities to take the following additional measures:
- Institute a temporary moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and tax liens on residential properties and utility shutoffs.
- Institute a temporary moratorium on terminations or reductions of public benefits.
- Streamline the public benefits application process for newly eligible people, and wherever possible, allow applications online, by mail or telephone.
- Streamline the process of petitioning for a domestic violence protective order so that domestic violence victims don’t need to spend hours in courthouses waiting for orders. Possible measures include allowing victims to fax or email their petitions to the court and allowing victims to seek emergency relief through local police departments as they already can when courts are closed.
Too many families who rely on income from the hardest-hit industries – travel and tourism and the restaurant/retail sector – live paycheck-to-paycheck without enough savings to weather this crisis. The state should act now to protect our most vulnerable neighbors.
NHLA is committed to following applicable public health guidance. To support our state’s effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, NHLA is implementing the following steps:
- Staff and volunteers who are ill are required to stay home.
- Effective March 16, NHLA staff will work from home as much as possible.
- Because it is impossible for all NHLA staff to work entirely from home and continue to serve our clients, we have implemented increased cleaning measures in all offices.
- All staff members have been equipped with alcohol-based hand sanitizer and asked to observe respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene recommended by public health authorities, including but not limited to frequent hand washing.
- Whenever possible, we will not allow visitors to our offices. When a visit is necessary, we will ask all visitors whether they have recently returned from a region the CDC has assessed as high-risk.
- We are suspending all on-site work, including our weekly legal aid clinic at Amoskeag Health and on-site consultations at domestic violence crisis centers. We are making plans to provide those services remotely.