Lincoln and Lancaster County together have received nearly $15 million in federal dollars meant to help stave off evictions and utility disconnections because of the pandemic, local officials said Friday.
The latest federal stimulus package sent nearly $13.5 million to Lincoln and about $1.4 million to Lancaster County, according to Lincoln Urban Development Director Dan Marvin and Lincoln-Lancaster County Human Services Director Sara Hoyle.
Ramped-up relief funding doled out to the city and county comes as federal and local officials work to prevent a surge in evictions because of nonpayment after the federal moratorium on evictions lapses March 31, Marvin said.
To qualify for the assistance, renters must earn 80% or less of the median area income, and their need must result because of a coronavirus-related impact on their ability to make rent payments.
Lincoln has paid out more than $2 million of the rent and utility assistance money it has received since last year, including more than $103,000 in checks last week, according to Marvin.
More than 1,100 people have contacted the city's rental assistance administrators since the program began, and 850 payments have been approved, he said.
The funds mark the first dollars distributed to Lancaster County to aid struggling tenants who live outside of Lincoln city limits, Hoyle said.
Both Lincoln and Lancaster County are preparing to staff and roll out an online portal to help a potential influx of applicants for the new rental assistance funds.
In the program, approved payment checks go directly to landlords, and the funds can wipe out back rent stemming from as early as March 2020, Marvin and Hoyle said.
Tenants behind on rent should apply for the program and do their best to keep paying what they can, he has said.
"No one who is COVID-impacted should be afraid to call and get help," Marvin said.
In recent weeks, emails from landlords' and tenants' advocates alike have flooded the email inbox of the Lincoln City Council over the issue of evictions.
Tenants' advocates have called on the city to enact its own blanket eviction moratorium, saying landlords have found a way around the federal moratorium and continued to force tenants out.
Landlords have pushed elected leaders locally to resist those calls, saying a moratorium would hamper their ability to kick out destructive tenants and that resources are already available to help work with people in dire financial straits because of the pandemic.
Early in the pandemic, Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird urged landlords not to evict tenants who are unable to pay full rent because of the pandemic.
Neither the City Council nor the mayor has proposed an eviction moratorium.
PHOTOS: THE SCENE IN LINCOLN DURING THE PANDEMIC
Photos: The scene in Lincoln with much of city shut down
City Council distancing
Gameday empty Saturday
Thank you Bryan West
No fans allowed
Volleyball social distancing
Boo at the Zoo
Downtown mask art
Marching band competition
East Campus proposed budget cuts
No Football Saturday
UNL in-person class
Farmers Market influencers
Weeping Water vs. Fillmore Central/Exeter-Milligan
First day of middle school
First day of school
Pius X volleyball practice
House of Flowers delivery
City Council BLM protest
Rally and hearing
Lancaster County Super Fair
LPS board meeting
Meatpacking workers rally
Lincoln Northeast graduation
Gov. Ricketts address Legislature
Masked Archie the Mammoth
First Jury Trial in Four Months
Lincoln Community Playhouse
The Kindler Hotel
Garth Brooks Drive-In Concert
Urban Air Adventure Park
Gere Branch Library
Music on the Move
Bars Opening in Lincoln
LPS Teachers Retirement
Holmes Lake Manor Horse Visit
Lancaster County Courthouse
Church Social Distancing
Children of Smithfield
Parkview Christian Teacher Appreciation Day
Lincoln Christian 2020 Seniors
Test Nebraska site
Drive-Thru Career Fair
Center for People in Need food distribution
Masks For Truckers
Teacher and Staff Parade
Virtual City Council
Good Friday Music
Masks on a walk
Watch: A timelapse of the mural at Saro Cider
Watch: Hand sanitizer rolls off Innovation Campus assembly line
No fun here
Tower Square sign
WATCH: Celebrating a birthday with a parade
Simpsons in the windows
Drive-thru COVID-19 testing
UNL Beekeeping virtual class
Lincoln Lutheran Online Teaching
Blue for public health
Basketball without fans
Thanksgiving to go
Socially distant Santa
Christmas tree demand
Basketball fans reduced
Mike Hilgers at Legislature's First Day
Zoo Bar membership
New high school
Biking in snow
Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.