What should Nebraska do with $5.2 million in unspent COVID relief?
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Most of the state has ended the emergency rental and utility assistance offered during the pandemic.
But of the $6.4 million allocated for the relief, there is $5.2 million left.
And the money is use it or lose it.
“Because of the lack of participation in mortgage assistance and utility assistance for low-income households,” said Steve Charleston, the state’s program manager of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Some say the state should still be using the $5.2 million because some Nebraskans continue to struggle to pay rent.
“We see the ripple effects of long-term impacts from people who might have been unemployed for a period of time back in 2020, 2021,” said Scott Mertz of Legal Aid of Nebraska. “They fall behind. Every day is trying to keep up when your living paycheck to paycheck.”
Mertz said the late fees and other administrative fees pile up on some tenants.
Legal Aid of Nebraska is asking for some of the funds to help those who are in court because of an eviction.
“Today, there are still evictions happening more than we want to see in Nebraska, and we are expecting to see more and more evictions now that the rental assistance has stopped for the majority of the state,” Mertz said.
The Department of Economic Development also wants some of the money to help pay for other CARES Act projects, as costs have gone up.
“The cost of goods, materials and services have increased substantially in the last three years or so,” Charleston said. “We are allowing those local governments and those other entities and nonprofits through them to come back to the state if their costs have increased and amend their agreements to actually put additional funds to complete the projects.”
The state has until June to decide what to do with its remaining CARES Act money, or it gets sent back to Washington.
Also by June, the state must spend 80% of the $13.1 million it received from the bill. That means the state has about eight months to spend about $2.5 million, so it “had to make an adjustment now,” Charleston said.
The Department of Economic Development wants to hear from you and get your opinion on how the funds should be reallocated.
You are encouraged to make public comment by Oct. 20. Don’t forget to give your first and last name.
Nebraska Department of Economic Development
Attention: 2019 AAP Substantial Amendment
PO Box 94666
Lincoln, NE 68509-4666
Subject: 2019 AAP Substantial Amendment