In a letter delivered this morning to members of the House-Senate budget conference committee,  thirty-four New Hampshire advocacy and human service organizations called for restoration of funds for the Unemployed Parents (UP) Program, which provides direct assistance and employment training to more than 250 families in which both parents are unemployed or under-employed.

“We call on you to restore $1,756,000 for each of the two years 2012 and 2013 to fund this essential program which makes it possible for families to survive periods of extreme hardship due to unemployment and under-employment,” they said.  “Without the UP Program, two-parent families will lose the support they need to remain intact.”

The letter was brought to the Legislative Office Building and State House by Augustin Ntabaganyimana and Bob Kay of Lutheran Social Services, Narapati Poudyal and Nir Koirala Sharma of the Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire, Judy Elliott of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, and Arnie Alpert of the American Friends Service Committee.  They exchanged views with Rep. Kenneth Weyler, who chairs the Committee of Conference. 

According to the letter, there are 265 families with 562 children being served by the UP program at this time.  Of these families, 97 are refugees.   The cash assistance they receive, ranging from $675 per month for a family of 3 to $798 per month for a family of 5, pays their rent and helps provide for other basic needs.

Narapati Poudyal says members of the Bhutanese Community, who came to New Hampshire after years living in refugee camps, fear that they could become homeless once more when the UP benefits run out. 

The signatories to the letter include non-profit agencies that provide direct services, organizations representing immigrants and refugees, local welfare officials, religious groups, and social justice advocacy organizations. 

 “We write to express our deep concern about the possible termination of the Unemployed Parent (UP) Program, a financial assistance program administered by the Division of Family Assistance.   UP serves two-parent families with dependent children in which the primary wage earner is unemployed or under-employed,” the letter begins.  “Participation in the New Hampshire Employment Program is a requirement and helps prepare them to enter or re-enter the workforce.”

The budgets approved in both House and Senate versions of HB 1 would eliminate funding for this program and for the employment and training services associated with it. 

The letter was delivered to the Committee of Conference at the beginning of its third meeting this morning.  The committee is expected to hold off on discussions of the Health and Human Services budget until later in the week. 

Copies of the letter were also delivered to Gov. John Lynch, Senate President Peter Bragdon, and Speaker of the House William O’Brien.

A similar letter was delivered Friday from the Legislative Affairs Subcommittee of the New Hampshire Local Welfare Administrators Association.