If you’ve fallen behind on your rent because of coronavirus, there is a new fund in Douglas County that could help your stay in your home. The Douglas County Board of Commissioners has agreed to allocate $10 million from federal CARES Act funds to establish a renters assistance program.
“We anticipate that there are tens of thousands of renters in our community who could potentially be eligible for rent assistance,” Douglas County Commissioner James Cavanaugh said. “We are trying to do a public-private partnership with area nonprofits so we will have as wide of distribution points as possible.”
CARES Act money can only cover COVID-19 related expenses. Cavanaugh said when a person applies for rent assistance they will need to provide paperwork, like an unemployment claim, proving their loss of income was related to COVID-19.
Meredith Metcalf, Director of the Eastern Nebraska Community Action Partnership (ENCAP), said the nonprofit has been giving out $15,000-$20,000 in rental assistance payments each month since the outbreak began.
“We have a lot of folks coming to us that are not just behind on one month of rent, they are behind on multiple months of rent,” Metcalf said.
Metcalf said as more people remain unemployed due to the virus, she expects more people will need help covering their rent in the future.
“Last year we served 701 individuals with rental assistance, helping them avoid eviction. This year we anticipate that being three times as high,” Metcalf said.
County officials will work with area nonprofits to distribute the rental assistance. Applications for rental assistance will be done through area nonprofits. Cavanaugh said this is the first of many assistance programs the federal CARES Act dollars will go towards.
“This is just the initial $10 million. I anticipate millions more will be dedicated to rent assistance,” Cavanaugh said. “I’m interested in expanding it to have utility assistance, food, and healthcare and medicine assistance as well. People need help across the board because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Cavanaugh said he hopes to have the first round of payments out in time for people to be able to pay their July rent.
Metcalf said ENCAP can also provide assistance with things like food and transportation. Anyone seeking assistance can reach the ENCAP Hotline at 402-453-5656. You can find more information about the distribution of CARES Act funds in Douglas County here.