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Changes in unemployment benefits may make paying rent, utilities more difficult

Unemployment benefits have been getting many people through the crisis. But what happens when a portion of those payments stop coming?
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 7:08 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The pandemic is creating financial hardships across the country. 24,000 people are taking unemployment right here in Lancaster County. When those benefits end, experts say it could put us on the brink of another crisis.

When the pandemic started, people like Chris Lamberty, the Executive Director at the Lincoln Housing Authority feared a wave of evictions.

”What we’ve seen, a federal response to the stimulus program has been successful in preventing a much worse economic and housing crisis, or at least delayed it so the economy can recover,” said Lamberty.

He said changes coming to unemployment could make things worse; the additional federal unemployment benefit of $600 a week stops at the end of July.

“There’s a real concern that we are going to see a major eviction crisis, or major housing crisis for people who can’t afford to pay rent,” said Lamberty.

On July 7th, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird announced nearly $1 million in CARES act funding is being designated to short term rent and utility assistance.

“It doesn’t go as far as you think it will,” said Lamberty. “It might help a couple thousand families for a month or two.”

The issue with rent assistance, said Lamberty, is that even if people apply, they might not get it.

“If the economy is not back, and the jobs aren’t back, I think we’ll see thousands that will need help, or even potentially a housing crisis,” said Lamberty.

And as the state reopens, there is no guarantee there will be jobs waiting for the more than 20,000 Lancaster County residents currently on unemployment. Said Lamberty:

”There’s not enough jobs for the 20-thousand people on unemployment in Lancaster County. Those jobs aren’t all back yet. So what happens? The hope is they come back, but they’re not here yet.”

Accessing that funding is feasible for just about everybody. Non profits like--- Community Action Partnership, Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach, People’s City Mission, Centerpointe and the Housing Authority are all helping people apply for funding.

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