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Large number of rental assistance apps denied due to lack of documentation

Posted at 5:17 PM, Sep 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-17 18:17:36-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The pandemic has caused lots of housing and financial hardships for many people, opening the door for rental assistance programs.

But during the Health and Human Services meeting for the Douglas County Commissioners, there is concern over the rejection of rental assistance applications in Douglas County, while still lots of money remains unspent.

"We're facing challenges in getting the money out, and we're working on making that better," said Douglas County Commissioner Jim Cavanaugh.

It's no secret there's a high demand for rental assistance due to the pandemic. Douglas County has offered help through the CARES Act funding, but getting it to people has been challenging.

"We're coming up on the fourth quarter, and a majority of this money is still sitting there," said Cavanaugh

He also says some of that money is still sitting there because some applications were rejected.

"I think that we are concerned that there is such a high level of denials, particularly in the rental assistance program," said Cavanaugh.

From July 27 to September 16, 3,025 applications were received. Out of those, 1,051 were denied, mainly due to insufficient documentation or an inability to verify financial hardship due to COVID-19.

Proper documentation includes payroll stubs, a letter from the prior employer that an employee was let go or had their hours reduced, or even bank statements.

During the meeting, questions were raised on if those who don't speak English were getting the proper information. Those behind the assistance say it has been translated, but others take issue with tenants having to be a part of the process.

"Not only requires tenants to, first of all, know about the program, but it requires them to figure out how to jump through all the hoops in order to do so," said Simon Hinton with Omaha Tenants United.

While landlords must submit information for the application, Hinton thinks they should have to do all of it since the money ultimately goes to them.

"If we really want to help tenants, we need to cancel rent and then make it the responsibility of the landlord to seek the aid that they need," said Hinton.

Cavanaugh's hopeful more people will get the assistance they need before the year ends.

"By December 31st, hopefully, we can get that accomplished because it's a work in progress, but working together, we're making it better," said Cavanaugh.

If you have any questions about the Douglas County Rental Assistance program, contact 402-444-7232.

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