People in Omaha who need help paying their rent and utility bills should soon receive federal assistance through the City of Omaha.
Omaha could receive $40 million to $50 million under the year-end catchall bill passed by Congress and signed by the president that combined $900 billion in COVID-19 aid with a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill, Mayor Jean Stothert’s office said in a press release last week.
Treasury guidance says at least 90% of the money must be used for direct financial assistance, including rent, utilities and home energy costs, and other expenses related to housing. The remaining money is available for housing stability services and administrative costs, the city said.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 included $25 billion for a first-ever federal rental assistance program. Stothert has applied to the U.S. Treasury Department to receive the funding. The amount Omaha receives will be determined by U.S. Census data.
A disbursement date had not been announced, according to the press release.
“Many of our citizens have experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic,” Stothert said in the release. “Accepting the available federal dollars to help our citizens with fundamental expenses is another way we can provide assistance and support to those who need it. The actions we have taken over the last 10 months position Omaha for a strong, post-pandemic economic recovery.”
The city will develop a program for application and distribution of the funds with community partners in a process similar to how federal Housing and Urban Development money was allocated last year.
The federal housing agency awarded Omaha more than $8 million in Community Development Block Grant money and Emergency Solutions Grants to the city for pandemic needs, according to the release. The money was allocated to 17 community agencies in housing, workforce, food security, behavioral health and small business and nonprofit support.
Local governments with populations of more than 200,000 qualify for the rent and utilities aid. That’s a lower population threshold than the 500,000 that was required to receive CARES Act money in 2020, when Omaha eventually received $30 million from the state and $30 million from Douglas County.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
Reece covers Omaha City Hall, including the City Council and Mayor's Office, and how decisions by local leaders affect Omaha residents. He's a born-and-raised Nebraskan and UNL graduate. Follow him on Twitter @reecereports. Phone: 402-444-1127