Rental reckoning looms in Omaha metro as halt on evictions is set to end

The CDC’s eviction moratorium is facing court challenges that could upend the protection prior to expiration
Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 10:40 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s a race against the clock to dole out millions of dollars in COVID rental assistance as the CDC’s halt on evictions is set to expire at the end of June.

A nationwide study conducted by the National Equity Atlas shows a county-by-county breakdown of the average amount each household owes in rent. In Douglas County, it’s roughly $2,700 per household and in Sarpy County, it’s more than $3,000.

Renters like Jamie Lessley-Greene and her family have been hit hard by the pandemic. Her husband lost his job in the hotel industry and they’ve been working to get back on track since.

“We might get caught up on rent, but then we have to worry about MUD and OPPD and not getting behind on that and we have gotten behind on that, so it’s definitely been a struggle,” said Lessley-Greene, noting they’ve already been forced to leave one home when their lease ran out.

The CDC’s eviction moratorium doesn’t protect against that.

“There was a loophole with the lease,” she said. “They didn’t want to renew our lease so we were asked to leave pretty much.”

With the CDC’s halt on evictions facing several court challenges, there is a chance it’s upended before it expires at the end of June.

“If you are behind on your rent and maybe need some assistance please don’t wait,” said Randy McCoy, Executive Director of MACCH.

The nonprofit, MACCH, is working to dole out millions of dollars in COVID rental relief for the City of Omaha and Douglas County.

“A year ago we were seeing typical requests of around $1,000 or $1,200 per application and at that point, a lot of people just needed maybe just one month of assistance or maybe two,” said McCoy.

Flash forward a year and that amount of rental assistance being requested has soared.

“We’re seeing applications come and folks needing seven, eight, maybe 10 months of rent,” said McCoy. “And so sometimes those applications are $7,000, $8,000, $10,000 behind in rent.”

MACCH is bringing in a few other nonprofits to help out get the funds out the door and to renters and landlords in need. Over at Together Inc. they’re making more room and hiring more people.

“As the eviction moratorium potentially ends here shortly we’re preparing and imagining we’re going to see a huge influx of additional requests for emergency rental assistance so we’re preparing,” said Mike Hornacek, CEO, Together Inc.

As for Jamie Lessley-Greene and her family, she’s hoping the application process speeds up. She’s applied for help before but said it can take too long.

“You know just to kind of push those applications along for everyone because everybody can’t wait,” she said. “If you have a seven-day notice and your landlord doesn’t care they’re going to put you and you’re still waiting, there’s nothing you can do about it but wait.’

For more information or to apply for rental assistance the best place to start is the MACCH website. You can also call 211 and they’ll send you in the right direction.

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