Politicians disagree over COVID relief spending as Omaha accepts millions more

Another $19 million is on the way to assist Omaha renters.
Another round of emergency rental assistance is coming.
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 5:49 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - “One of the things we should do is we should end letting money go out the door that was tied to the pandemic that is now essentially over,” said Congressman Byron Donalds, a Republican from Florida.

That was the tune of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform talking broadly about COVID relief money Wednesday morning. Many Republicans believe too much money was spent on relief programs.

But locally and more narrowly, Omaha’s city council had different conversations about COVID-related money.

During the city’s public hearing for additional emergency rental assistance, councilmember Danny Begley asked: “Is there any way we can get additional funds from the federal treasury on top of the $19 million?”

Tuesday, the city council approved another $19 million of COVID relief for emergency rental assistance (ERAP).

Its stated purpose is for those “impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

With guidance from the federal government, that meaning is broadly applied for this round.

Jason Feldhaus, executive director of MACCH, the organization that distributes ERAP funds, explained.

“For ERAP 1 there had to be a connection back to the pandemic, a direct influence of the pandemic on a person’s financial capability to afford housing,” he said. “The connection to COVID-19 for ERAP 2 will be based on the financial environment that we’re currently working through.”

“The federal government has decided some of these lingering effects of the pandemic are causing financial strain, i.e. inflation, lack of affordable housing, wage stagnation,” he said.

This pot is much smaller than the first, which was about $95 million.

“This is a longer program than what we had prior and a smaller amount of money. And it’ll focus on a lot of eviction prevention and those that are facing eviction,” said Feldhaus.

The organization plans to do that by working with legal aid, the Tenant Assistance Project, and other community partners. They’re still in the works of creating their guidelines and application. Feldhaus said that will come in the next 30 days.