On Monday, Douglas County residents can apply to receive rental assistance from the county.

Continued conversations on the program which would pay out four months of rent or $4,000, whichever residents reach first, took place during the county’s Health and Human Services meeting Thursday morning.

The project is part of a $10 million program created in June through CARES Act funding. Currently funds from the program can cover rent from April to August. Because many people may max out the amount of assistance they receive after applying, County Commissioner Jim Cavanaugh said this program will likely be updated with more funds and payable months.

“That’s going to be reviewed as we go along,” he said.

To apply, residents can go online starting 8 a.m. on July 27. If a resident does not have access to a computer, they can go to several nonprofits to get help.

Residents will need to provide proof that:

  • They are a Douglas County resident;
  • That their income has been negatively impacted due to COVID-19 and that they are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19;
  • That their household income is below 100% of the area median income before COVID-19 (a household of four would need to make less than $87,000);
  • Their name is on the rental or lease agreement;
  • That they are a U.S. citizen or qualified resident alien.

For additional questions, residents can call (402) 444-7232.

They must also provide information like your name, address and phone number as well as contact information for the landlord. The landlord must provide a W-9 as well as attest to the fact that the tenant owes rent, that rent is late because of COVID-19 and that the landlord will not evict the tenant.

Once the renter and landlord submit their information, Douglas County staff will review applications and then send out physical checks to landlords. Melissa Sewick, director of the county’s General Assistance department, said the first checks should be delivered by Aug. 4. 

However, an overwhelming amount of applications has inundated some rental assistance programs across the country.

“If we have 5,000 people apply on Monday that’s going to create a little bit of a bottleneck, well a lot of bottleneck,” Sewick said. 

Some issues still exist with the county’s portal including the inability to save an application. Cavanaugh said this and other aspects of rental assistance, including how to provide help to mortgagers, will continue to be revised.

“We’re trying to get this running and then we’re going to work on food and utilities, because we know a lot of people have been affected by this,” Cavanaugh said.

Another point of contention has been the lack of assistance for undocumented residents. The federal government requires none of these funds be spent on those communities. County Commissioner Mike Boyle said he and Roger Garcia, his former primary opponent, have been working together to find ways for the county to work around those guidelines and find ways to provide food, housing and other assistance.

“We don’t care how they got here,” Boyle said. “If they’re here and need aid we want to help them.”

Officials also discussed the county’s $4 utility assistance fund. OPPD has resumed shutoffs and MUD will resume shutoffs for gas in August and water in September.

Dollar Energy Fund, a nonprofit that provides utility assistance for those experiencing financial hardship, will run the county program. Officials with the Pennsylvania nonprofit said a contract with OPPD and MUD will be ready in the near future. Once that’s reached applicants can either go online or to a local Dollar Energy Fund partner to apply.

Residents can start applying in English on Aug.1 and Spanish on Sept. 1. Officials said it will take until September to translate the company’s app.

contact the writer at chris@thereader.com

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Chris Bowling

Chris has worked for The Reader since January 2020. As an investigative reporter and news editor he’s taken deep dives into topics such as police transparency, affordable housing and COVID-19. Originally...

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