Tenant Assistance Project announced in Lincoln

Published: May. 27, 2020 at 7:55 AM CDT
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Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird announced the Tenant Assistance Project, a new effort to provide free legal representation to those facing eviction.

The Project will provide training and support to volunteer attorneys to represent tenants with eviction cases in Lancaster County Court in a limited scope capacity.

In March, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts issued an executive order deferring eviction trials based on nonpayment of rent due to COVID-19. That order expires May 31, and local nonprofit agencies anticipate an increase in evictions in the coming month. Mayor Gaylor Baird said that despite the Governor’s order, dozens of residents have still been evicted since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Unlike criminal defendants who have the right to a defense attorney, tenants facing a civil action like eviction do not have an automatic right to an attorney and are often unrepresented when presenting their case in court,” she said. “By volunteering for this project, you will be serving not only those with limited means, but you will also be serving the community as a whole by helping keep people housed and safe during this public health crisis.”

The Tenant Assistance Project was developed by the UNL Law Civil Clinic; the Volunteer Lawyers Project; Legal Aid of Nebraska; the Lincoln Commission on Human Rights; and Nebraska Appleseed. Lawyers interested in volunteering may send an email to nevlp@nevlp.org or call 531-220-6773. All attorneys volunteering through the project will be covered by the Volunteer Lawyer Project’s malpractice insurance and will receive training.

The Mayor thanked volunteer attorneys and students at the UNL Law Civil Clinic who have helped residents in court. She also thanked those rental property owners who have worked with their tenants to create reasonable payment plans.

The federal CARES Act still provides eviction relief for tenants in federally backed housing through July 25.

Those needing assistance may contact one of the following agencies:

Legal Aid of Nebraska has created a hotline to assist those with legal questions related to COVID-19 at 1-844-268-5627. Applications for assistance are also accepted at LawHelpNE.org.

Catholic Social Services provides immediate cash assistance through its Emergency Services Program to those struggling to pay rent or utilities. They take requests for assistance every Monday morning beginning at 9 a.m. at 402-327-6211.

Community Action of Lancaster and Saunders Counties provides one-time financial assistance and case management to prevent households from entering into homeless situations through its Emergency Services Program. To be eligible, households must complete an application by calling 402-471-4515.