OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Help is on the way for those who are on the verge of being evicted or having their lights turned off because of the pandemic.
On Tuesday afternoon, Omaha City Council approved an agreement between the city and a local nonprofit to begin distributing over $22 million in rent and utilities assistance.
“This is probably the easiest bill we’re going to take, right?" said councilman Vinny Palermo of District 4. "We know the need in the community for rental assistance and for utilities."
The city is partnering with the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless (MACCH) to distribute those funds to pay for rent, utilities and bills that have gone unpaid because of this pandemic.
The money was granted directly to the city from the United States Department of the Treasury. Omaha has worked with MACCH for previous rental assistance programs and is trusting them to get this desperately needed assistance to residents in a timely, effective manner.
The people eligible for assistance are those who are unemployed, had a loss of income or have faced a financial hardship because of COVID-19, those whose household income is at or below 80% of the area median ($25,844/year based on 2019 census) and those at risk of homelessness.
Those whose income is at or below 50% of the area median ($16,152/ year based on 2019 census) will take priority along with households who have had one or more people unemployed for 90 days.
Randy McCoy, executive director of MACCH, says this need is reaching neighborhoods all across Omaha.
“There are definitely zip codes within the Omaha metro area that are higher impacted, but I don’t think at this point there are any zip codes that we haven’t received assistance requests for," McCoy told the council on Tuesday.
In most circumstances, payments will be made directly to the landlord and utility companies.
All members of the city council voted to pass the resolutions but are asking that MACCH add some kind of way to track the times between application and receiving the funds.
"There was still the sense in the prior program that things didn't move quickly enough for a significant number of people,” said councilman Chris Jerram. “Therefore, there's already this sense of 'It's great that this is gonna be there, but will it be there when I need it to be there?’”
MACCH is aiming to have the program up and running by April. It will be given $7 million initially to get the program up and running.
The program is scheduled to last until the end of September, unless the US Treasury extends the deadline to December 31.