Concord: Clear sky, 12.2 °F
Budget Cuts Will End Unemployed Parent Program
Now that lawmakers have cut the state budget, some of the families who rely on state aid the most will likely get hit the hardest.
In particular, the Department of Health and Human Services will stop its Unemployed Parent subsidies.
And that leaves close to 300 families struggling to find alternatives for food and shelter.
New Hampshire Public Radio Correspondent Sheryl Rich-Kern has the story.
Mohanad Zaki is a refugee from Iraq. His burly physique and tall stature make him look like a man who knows how to ride out troubled times.
But his words say something else:
"We keep crying. My wife is crying. We can not go back to our country. We are on the black list. Believe, me if we go to our airport, thy will kill us there."
On this weekday morning, Zaki waits with other refugee families at the Manchester welfare office to meet with state officials.
Zaki learned only a few days ago that as of July, he will no longer receive funding from the Unemployed Parent program.
Zaki is a husband and a father of three young children. He’s been trying to find a job, but medical issues have hindered his efforts.
The Division of Family Assistance has been giving parents like Zaki a small subsidy to pay rent and feed their families.
They’ve also been helping them find work.
Zaki isn’t sure what he’s going to do now. He and his wife discussed the possibilities.
"We have agreed maybe we’ll live on the street. We don’t have another option. We don’t have another option."
Fully one-third of the families affected by the cuts are refugees.
Terry Smith, Director of the Division of Family Assistance says there are very few options for them.
But he says some may qualify for other types of aid:
"If an individual is disabled, they can qualify for one of our disability cash programs. Individuals who are receiving food stamps will find that their food stamps increase because their cash income decreases."
That likely won’t help families like the Zakis.
Smith says most likely, struggling families may have to shift their dependence on state services to
"We’re concerned," says Bob Mack. He directs the Nashua welfare office.
Mack says this is a perfect example of the state pushing the cost burden onto towns.
"If other agencies, non-profits also experience some reductions in their funding, then more and more folks may turn to the municipal welfare offices to get assistance they were getting from other programs.
The Unemployed Parent program serves 265 families who receive anywhere from around 700 to 800 dollars a month.
Republican Senator Gary Lambert of Nashua says it’s a great program
But he says, there’s only so much money in the pot.
"The part that amazes me the most is that if I go to the average Nashua family and say you need to cut 11 percent, they could do that. What I’m amazed at is the outcry from a very vocal minority that you just can’t cut the state budget. There’s always a way you can improve and be more efficient."
But for refugee families in the unemployed parent program, just cutting back on their household expenses won’t pay the bills.
And in some cases, it won’t keep them in their homes.
Amy Marchildon, with Lutheran Social Services, directs the resettlement program for many of the refugees.
She says they can’t go back to their home countries.
"Many families may be facing homelessness. It’s unclear exactly what families will do. This is unprecedented for New Hampshire."
Marchildon says some of these families may leave the state for another part of the country.
And in a sense, become refugees once again.
For NHPR News, this is Sheryl Rich-Kern.