Lawmakers continue the push to make Gov. Pete Ricketts apply for emergency rent aid for Nebraskans

By: - March 16, 2022 3:32 pm
Eviction notice and mask

(Getty Images)

LINCOLN — A bill that attempts to force Gov. Pete Ricketts’ hand in applying for $120 million in emergency federal rental assistance is one step closer to being approved.

The Nebraska Legislature advanced the measure to the final vote Wednesday on a voice vote.

Ricketts has been adamant that the state should not apply for the second round of pandemic-related rent and utility funds, saying “the storm has passed,” and “we must guard against becoming a welfare state.”

He tweeted a message Wednesday just before the vote, calling on his supporters to call their state senators “now to urge them to vote no.”

‘I feel optimistic’

Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln, who has made Legislative Bill 1073 a priority, has noted that Nebraska is one of only two states that haven’t applied for the already-earmarked rental and utility funds available under the American Rescue Plan Act.

Sen. Matt Hansen
Sen. Matt Hansen of District 26 speaks on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature at the Nebraska Capitol Building. (Rebecca S. Gratz for the Nebraska Examiner)

If Nebraska does not apply by the end of this month, the $120 million would revert to other states.

Thirty votes are necessary to override a governor’s veto. The first vote on the measure garnered 29 votes of support. Hansen said the third vote will be scheduled so the Legislature can respond to a Ricketts veto, if necessary.

“I feel optimistic,” Hansen said Wednesday.

Earlier this legislative session, representatives of several rural nonprofit groups testified that additional rental assistance was needed. Many described the state’s online application system as cumbersome and said that might be why some of the first round of funds had not yet been distributed.

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics. She has won awards from organizations including Great Plains Journalism, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) and the Associated Press. Cindy has been recognized by various nonprofits for community contributions and diversity efforts. She chairs the board that oversees the local university’s student newspaper.