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Last line of defense set to run out on renters hit hard by pandemic

Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 10:10 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - For many tenants hit hard by the pandemic, July 1 marks the final time they’ll be protected from eviction; drawing fear that come August, the number of notices is going to skyrocket.

“We’re going to have hundreds and hundreds of people facing eviction,” said Tina Murray, Crisis Engagement Program Manager with Together Inc.

Murray says Together has already doled out $135,000 helping people with rent amid the pandemic; that’s more than they spent in all of last year.

“We talked to people who’ve never been in this situation before,” said Murray. “Some of them were med techs at hospitals, people who’ve had a place, who’ve lived there for 8 years, who’ve never had to ask for assistance.”

Under the federal CARES Act, property owners with federally backed mortgages have not been allowed to file evictions, but on July 24 the moratorium ends.

“That means all the federally covered properties can move forward with evictions after proper notice,” said Scott Mertz, an attorney with Legal Aid of Nebraska, noting the tricky part is pinning down how many people will be impacted.

“Estimates are 25 to 30 percent,” said Mertz. “That is a great number of rental properties in the state and in the country.”

In May the state’s moratorium on evictions came to end; since then eviction hearings have climbed back up to pre-pandemic level.

“The fear is once the moratorium is lifted those numbers are only going to go up because there’s a whole other class of properties that are going to be given the green light to go ahead with evictions,” said Mertz.

For organizations, like Together Inc., distributing relief funds, they just hope to keep up.

“We’ve been able to stop a few evictions that were days away from you know having to go to court and being asked to leave,” said Murray.

Last week Douglas County officials allocated $10 million from the CARES Act for rental assistance; they’re hoping to get that money into the hands of helping organizations within a couple of weeks.

Property owners must give tenants 30 days notice prior to eviction, once the federal CARES Act moratorium comes to an end.

Legal Aid of Nebraska is urging all tenants facing eviction, who cannot afford an attorney to reach out them.

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