‘We are struggling’: Proposal would require Pillen to apply for rent assistance

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – On the last day of committee hearings for the Nebraska Legislature, senators heard testimony Friday on a topic affecting many in the state: rent prices.

Across the United States, federal American Rescue Plan Act funds have helped those who are struggling to pay rent.

Sen. John Cavanaugh’s Legislative Bill 715 would require the governor to apply for emergency rent assistance for those hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is still a timely issue,” he said. “It’s kind of a hangover effect of the COVID economy, and we are facing inflation.”

Cavanaugh said the funds have already been allocated, so if Nebraska doesn’t apply for the money, it will be given to other states instead.

Only one testifier came in opposition to the bill.

Jessica Shelburn, the state director of Americans for Prosperity, said the funds will make Nebraskans dependent on the government.

“When you think about it, the ARPA funds were directly in response to help people get by during that global pandemic,” she said. “We’re hearing from folks who are saying we need this additional funding. Well, what happens after September of 2025, when the federal government is no longer providing that funding?”

But another testifier said this bill could help people who desperately need assistance.

“Your average, everyday Nebraskan family is struggling,” Maghie Miller-Jenkins. “We are struggling to pay rent, we are struggling to pay for our food, we are struggling to pay for our gas. And we see so little hope.”

The ARPA funds would also give Nebraska over $12 million for affordable housing projects.

And Cavanaugh said there are ways to be sure the funds are used appropriately.

“We can put constraints on this money,” he said. “We can put work requirements on it. We can say we’re only giving this to folks who have a job, who are working. We can put a limited duration on it so people can only get six months of it and can’t stay on it indefinitely.”

Because the bill’s hearing came so late in the legislative session, it likely won’t be debated on the floor until next year.

But Gov. Jim Pillen could decide to apply for aid any time, and Cavanaugh said he seems to be warming up to the idea.

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