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Welfare office connects residents with many resources

March 03, 2021
The town's welfare office has been helping people in need through connections with state and federal aid as well as partnerships with several local agencies, managing to keep their budget down during a hard period.

Welfare Director Pamela Clark gave the selectmen an update on her department during Wednesday's meeting.

She said expenditures for the department budget have gone down each year since she entered the position in 2018. In January and February of this year, the department has spent $1,700 in requests.

Selectman Gus Benavides said with everything going on including people losing jobs, being at home with kids, having to quarantine, and other situations it was interesting that the expenditures for welfare were going down. Clark said a lot of that is knowing the resources available in the community. She is in regular contact with a number of local organizations and meets regularly with other welfare directors, all sharing resources and information. Clark is affiliated with the NH Local Welfare Administrator's Association, which provides a lot of resources.

Another factor is the different forms of state and federal assistance that have been available during the pandemic. Unemployment was paying up to $600 a week guaranteed, though that amount recently dropped to $300 a week. More money was also available through SNAP benefits for food assistance.

"There's a lot of resources I think that picked up the slack and kept people solvent for the year," Clark said.

There have also been moratoriums on power disconnections and evictions with certain requirements.

The moratorium on evictions is ending on March 31, though will be replaced by additional programs protecting renters.

Clark said people can only benefit from the eviction moratorium if they specifically fill out information that indicates they are having pandemic-related hardships. This could be everything from a job loss to adult children moving in due to pandemic-related circumstances.

There are also legal assistance services helping people with matters such as evictions and others.

She has connections to several local agencies and can connect residents to therse different services, including Community Action Program, Catholic Charities, St. Vincent DePaul, and others. Clark said The Gilford Community Church has also been a strong partner and Rev. Michael Graham has been eager to help with a phone call. In one case of someone in need of food assistance, she said Graham put together a few bags of food from their food pantry.

Clark said she can find ways to assist people even if their request doesn't fall under the services of her office. In one case a resident asked for help for a severe roof leaking problem, she was able to recommend some federal grant and loan programs as well as additional services because the resident is a veteran.

"That's how I keep the budget down is by asking good questions and making those connections," Clark said.

Selectman Kevin Hayes asked how quickly the office can disperse funds to someone. She said it depends on when the request is made. In one case involving the power being shut off, someone contacted her at 9 a.m. and the power was back on a few hours later. She said she has a direct line with Eversource and declare a hardship for that resident. The resident will have to work out a payment plan to cover the bills, usually that runs for 12 months but during the pandemic those plans can be made for 24 months.

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