Rural Nebraska may be left out of Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Farm and Food
Small Towns

On March 29, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed Legislative Bill (LB) 1073, which would require the state to accept the $120 million in federal funds already set aside for Nebraska to extend the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) into the year 2025. 

Through federal legislation that has already passed, each state was allotted funding to address housing challenges caused by the pandemic. 

The first round of the Emergency Rental Assistance program (ERAP) was enacted by the federal government in December 2020. The program authorizes funding for states and local governments to set up housing assistance programs to meet the needs of Americans facing rental evictions or utility debt brought on by the economic damages of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Applications for ERAP will close in Nebraska on Sept. 1, 2022 unless the state applies for the second round of funding, which would allow the program to continue into 2025.

Nebraska received $158 million during the first round of ERAP funding. Local governments in the state receiving their own funding include Douglas and Lancaster counties, along with the cities of Omaha and Lincoln. A total of $41 million was provided to these four political subdivisions outside of the state allocation.

Under the guidance of the governor’s office, Nebraska is one of two states that have decided to not apply for funding, which had an application deadline of March 31. Even though the deadline has passed Nebraska could still receive 40%, or $51 million, of the $120 million that has been set aside. The remaining 60%, or $69 million, is expected to go to Douglas County, Lancaster County, Omaha, and Lincoln rental assistance programs that are administered locally without state oversight.

Neighbors, friends and family across Nebraska continue to face eviction or utility shut offs and rental assistance is a strong tool that provides relief.

ERAP payments started in the late spring of 2021 and since then, outside of Douglas and Lancaster counties, $18 million has been awarded to more than 8,000 applicants. This shows that the program is used by rural residents. In Cheyenne County, for example, 67 recipients received $166,000 in past due rental or utility assistance. 

To safeguard against fraud, the application process for the ERAP requires an applicant to provide proof of identity, a signed rental agreement, proof of income, proof of past rent due or utilities bills leading to eviction or utility shut off along with proof that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their income. The payments also go directly to landlords or utility companies so you can be confident that these funds are being used responsibly. 

Outside of direct assistance to residents a portion of these funds can be used to administer housing stabilization programs. This could reduce the financial burden on community organizations working to meet the need for rental and utility assistance in their communities.

A vote to override the governor’s veto of LB 1073 is scheduled for Tuesday, April 5. If unsuccessful, many rural Nebraskans will be left out. The choice for senators representing rural Nebraska is $51 million to help their constituents or zero.

Click here to see the full county usage of ERAP

Action Alert: Urge your senator to support a veto override for emergency rental assistance

On March 29, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed Legislative Bill 1073, which would require the state to accept the $120 million in federal funds already set aside for Nebraska to extend the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) into the year 2025. 

Through federal legislation that has already passed, each state was allotted funding to address housing challenges caused by the pandemic. 48 of 50 states have accepted their allotment. 

The ERAP helps low-income households who are unable to pay rent and utilities due to hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. An earlier allocation to Nebraska resulted in $11.7 million being awarded to 5,143 rural applicants and much more to urban areas. Without this second round of funding Nebraska’s ERAP will stop accepting applications on Sept. 30 of this year.

Use of the program during the past year shows that residents, even those living in rural counties, are still recovering from the economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and could benefit from the assistance. 

To safeguard against fraud, the application process for the ERAP requires an applicant to provide proof of identity, a signed rental agreement, proof of income, proof of past rent due or utilities bills along with proof that COVID-19 impacted their income. This funding would go directly to landlords, instead of renters themselves, and a portion can be used to administer housing stabilization programs.This reduces the financial burden on community organizations working to meet the need for rental and utility assistance in their communities.

If a veto override is not successful, Nebraska would join Arkansas in leaving millions of dollars on the table that would help residents of their state for the next three years. 

State senators need to hear directly from their constituents on this important issue. The veto override vote is expected to happen soon, so a call or email to your representative is important.

Click here to find your senator.

If you have any questions please contact me at timm@cfra.org or 402.687.2100 ext.1032. 
 
Sincerely,
Tim Mussack
Senior Policy Associate