Measure Forcing Gov To Apply For More Rental Assistance Money Passes, But Unlikely To Take Effect

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       A bill forcing Governor Pete Ricketts to apply for $120 million dollars in federal housing assistance for Nebraska won final approval from lawmakers, but it seems unlikely to have little impact.

       Lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday on a 26-15 vote with 8 senators abstaining, but 33 votes were needed for an emergency clause to have the bill become law immediately instead of in 3 months. 

     Without the emergency clause, the governor isn’t forced to apply for the money before the program’s March 31st deadline. 

      Given the strength of his comments against the bill, Ricketts is likely to issue a veto and 30 votes are needed to override.

     The money is the second round of rental aid triggered by the COVID pandemic, but Ricketts argues the emergency is over with Nebraska having the nation’s lowest unemployment rate and using about 40% of the initial round of federal funding.

      Backers of the bill say the number of calls from rural residents to a rental aid hotline has gone up sharply in recent weeks and that a lot of renters who qualified gave up trying to apply because of frustration over the state’s balky online application process

     They also point out that if the state receives the money and doesn’t use it, about $7-million dollars in accrued interest would remain the state’s when the federal grant is returned.

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