Urban Affairs

Federal rental assistance bill vetoed, override motion filed

A bill that would have required Gov. Pete Ricketts to apply for a second round of federal emergency rental assistance was vetoed by the governor March 29.

Sen. Justin Wayne
Sen. Justin Wayne

LB1073, as introduced by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, originally would have created a state Department of Housing and Urban Development. The bill was gutted on general file by an amendment offered by the Urban Affairs Committee to make way for an emergency rental assistance proposal from Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen.

Under the federal program, individuals are eligible for up to 12 months of back rent and three months of future rent — up to $20,000 — which is paid directly to their landlords. The federal government has extended the program for three years and made an additional $120 million available.

Hansen has said that the first round of funds were underutilized due to a lack of promotion and a cumbersome application system. The U.S. Treasury has extended the application deadline to March 30. Current assistance is scheduled to end Sept. 30.

An initial vote March 23 to pass LB1073 with an emergency clause — under which the bill would have taken effect immediately — failed on a vote of 26-16. Thirty-three votes were needed. Senators then passed the bill 26-15 without the emergency clause.

Ricketts said in his veto letter that the state still has nearly $30 million in unused funds from the first round of assistance and that remaining dollars are more than sufficient to meet existing needs resulting from the pandemic.

“We must guard against big government socialism where people are incentivized not to work but are instead encouraged to rely on government handouts well after an emergency is over,” he said.

Hansen said the veto would hurt Nebraskans by reducing the amount the state ultimately may be able to receive from the second round of rental assistance. In addition, he said, the power to determine state spending priorities should lie with the Legislature.

“To have a governor be able to just unilaterally deny the acceptance of federal funds … is inappropriate,” Hansen said.

Wayne filed a motion to override the veto. Thirty votes will be required. Consideration of the override motion has not yet been scheduled for debate.

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