Nebraska governor vetoes rental assistance bill

WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 11:51 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has vetoed a bill that would force the state to apply for $120 million in federal pandemic rental assistance.

LB-1073 compelled the governor to apply for the second round of emergency rental funds. State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, who introduced the bill, has filed a motion to override Tuesday’s veto, according to a news release from the Unicameral. That would require support from 30 state lawmakers; senators passed the bill 26-15.

The federal program allows individuals to apply for up to 12 months of back rent and three months of future rent, up to $20,000. If the application is approved, the money is paid directly to a landlord. The application deadline was extended to March 30.

The federal government extended the program for three years, making an additional $120 million available, but Ricketts argued that Nebraska is no longer in a declared state of emergency due to the pandemic and said the extra money would amount to a subsidy that would make recipients reliant on the government.

“We must guard against big government socialism where people are incentivized not to work but are instead encouraged to rely on government handouts well after an emergency is over,” he said.

In recent months, though, Nebraska has been reporting record-low unemployment rates — numbers that continue to fall — while the number of employed workers in the state’s labor force reached an all-time high in February.

Ricketts also said the state still has nearly $30 million in unused rental assistance money from an earlier round of federal aid. He said Nebraska only used about 40% of the money from that first round, set to end Sept. 30.

“The remainder is more than enough to meet the legitimate needs for assistance through the end of the year,” he said in his veto letter to the Legislature.

But State Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln said that first round of funds was underutilized because the availability wasn’t adequately promoted and the application system was cumbersome.

Hansen said the Legislature should be the state’s decision-makers when it comes to its fiscal priorities.

“To have a governor be able to just unilaterally deny the acceptance of federal funds … is inappropriate,” he said.

Read Gov. Ricketts’ full veto letter

Digital producer Taleisha Newbill and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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