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Eviction moratorium ending with millions in COVID-19 rent assistance unspent in Nebraska

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 11:22 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Just days away from the CDC’s eviction moratorium coming to an end, and billions of dollars in COVID rental assistance remains unspent across the country — including tens of millions here in Nebraska.

“When bills pile up it gets hard,” said Stephanie Oliver, who lost her manufacturing job early in the pandemic. “I just needed a little bit of help at that time so I could get back on my feet.”

She applied for rental assistance but never did get help.

“I filled out the application, but I never got a callback. I called them plenty of times, but got the runaround,” she said.

So she applied again and at this point doesn’t recall if it was with the city, county, or state. They all have separate programs and Oliver said it’s frustrating.

“It was still a runaround and so I gave up,” she said. “I didn’t want to, but going through all that it just put more stress on me and I was already stressed out.”

Getting COVID-19 relief funds into the hands of renters and property owners has been a challenge, said Randy McCoy, the executive director of MACCH, the nonprofit helping the City of Omaha dole out $22 million in Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds.

“Some of the things we’re seeing in terms of longer delays is getting people to upload all the proper documents that are needed, or property owners to upload the documents,” said McCoy.

They started taking applications in April and have so far distributed $13 million of the $22 million in assistance, with more than 700 people currently waiting or working on an application.

“You can have situations where it takes somebody two, three, four weeks to get a completed application that is when can start reviewing and processing for payment,” said McCoy, noting the federal government’s application requirements are slowing the process down; from proof of income loss to coordinating landlords and tenants.

“If you really wanted to speed it up you could’ve stripped out some of those requirements for those kinds of things, allowed for more self-attestation, or more ways to show the impact that COVID has had,” said McCoy.

As for Oliver, the moratorium wasn’t enough to protect her; she was evicted. She’s hoping others don’t suffer the same fate.

“They should be the ones pushing it to us,” said Oliver. “You know talk to us, not putting us on the computer, go to the link, go do this, go do this and go do that and we’ll get back to you.”

Congress was working Friday to try to extend the eviction ban, which expires Saturday, in a longshot effort to prevent millions of Americans of being forced from their homes during a COVID-19 surge.

More information

Learn more about COVID-19 rental assistance options and applications by calling 2-1-1; or visit the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless online at MACCHconnect.org.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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