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Douglas County upgrades court system technology

Posted at 11:24 PM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-05 00:24:59-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — When the pandemic hit, the Douglas County courtrooms went remote, with judges still holding hearings but doing so outside the courthouse.

District Court Judge Horacio Wheelock says they’ve been able to make it work so far, but they have outdated technology and now need access to better video and sound technology.

It would allow county residents access to the court system, when either the defendant or judge can’t be in the courtroom.

“This is the future, this is where we are today. Are we making it happen with a zero budget, admittedly we are. But we won’t be able to keep up with the technology unless we have this system,” says Wheelock.

In total the board approved $650,736 worth of upgrades to the district court system, plus another $320,112 for the Douglas County Community Health Center.

We also know the rent assistance program seems to be popular.

The county has received over 1,400 applications with an average request of about $850 a month.

The county has authorized about $76,000 to be paid out.

The original plan allows for residents to get four months rent, or $4,000, whichever comes first.

An extension to that could be coming next.

“So the $10 million was an initial expenditure, we’re going to spend everything we have to spend to meet people’s needs for rent assistance,” says Commissioner Jim Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh also says they’re still working out details on what the city of Omaha needs from the CARES Act money, with Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert saying they need about $60 million to make things whole.

Cavanaugh hopes to have it wrapped up by the end of the month.

“I’ve been pressing to get this money out into the economy since the beginning. It’s taken us four months to get rent and utilities assistance and it’s taken us too long to get the assistance of the city’s needs as well. So the sooner, the better,” says Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh also says that the board will consider helping out Douglas County residents affected by the pandemic even more. That could potentially mean covering the cost for things like food and healthcare, although it’s unclear if the rest of the board would support something like that.