Tenants and landlords who need help making rent and keeping the lights on can now apply to a new state emergency aid program to receive financial assistance.

In a Monday conference, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced the state has $200 million to help people pay rent, utility bills or other housing expenses because of lost income from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ricketts said Nebraska is getting the funds from a $25 billion federal assistance package that was passed early January.

“One of the things we have seen with this pandemic is that a lot of people were impacted last spring when we put restrictions in place — we had a lot of restrictions on things (like) bars and restaurants, and that impacts those people working those industries,” he said. “And if you were a renter, it impacted your ability to pay rent.”

Out of the state’s $200 million, $158 million will be distributed to every county except Douglas and Lancaster. The two counties have separate programs with the remaining funds.

Tenants and landlords were able to start applying for assistance at https://coronavirus.nebraska.gov/Home on Monday. Residents in Douglas County or Lancaster County will be able to apply through a different process beginning in March.

People making up to 80% of the local median income and who can prove they have lost income because of the pandemic are eligible for assistance, said Shannon Harner, executive director for the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority. Applicants also have to provide a copy of their lease and verification from their landlord.

Tenants may receive help with future rent and rent bills as far back as April 1 of last year, up to $20,000, she said.

“Landlords who have already evicted a tenant should not apply for this program,” Harner said. “And unlike previous rounds of relief, either a landlord or tenant can make an application.”

People who need help with applying can also call 1-833-500-8810. The call center for now will be open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. this weekend.

During the remainder of the press conference, Ricketts proclaimed the week of Feb. 20-27 as “FFA Week” in Nebraska.

He also said some counties that reported not receiving their allotment of vaccinations last week would receive them by the end of the day Monday.

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