United Way paying utility, housing bills before CARES Act money expires

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — As temperatures drop, utility bills will be going up in the coming weeks. With some CARES Act money, United Way is working to keep the heat on for many Nebraska families affected by COVID-19, but come January, that task could be more difficult.

For months, United Way of the Midlands has witnessed the increased need among Nebraskans surviving this pandemic.

In March and April alone, their 211 Hotline saw around 29,000 calls. Even now around 400 calls are coming in each day, with families needing help keeping a roof over their head or keeping the lights on. With the colder months on the horizon, United Way only expects this need to grow.

Recent Stories from 3newsnow.com“It wouldn’t surprise me,” said Matt Wallen, United Way of the Midlands’ Senior Vice President of Community Impact and Analytics. “The need that the pandemic created has just been significant, you throw a few other obstacles in like bad weather and absolutely we’re going to see that increase.”

In October, there was a little hope, with the state giving United Way $1.7 million dollars in CARES Act money to help with housing and utilities.

So far over 2,000 applications have been filed for the CARES Act Housing Stability program; 75% of those applications come from families in Douglas County. United Way says with some bills being backed up since the summer months, the average need for assistance can range from around $375 for utilities to $3,500 for mortgage and rent.

United Way is moving fast to get the money to those in need since CARES Act money must be used by December 30. As that deadline looms near, the nonprofit says there is a lot of uncertainty on whether or not the federal government will approve another relief bill. But they are certain that the need for Nebraska families will continue into the new year.

“We really need additional relief going into the new year,” Wallen said. “What we’re seeing as far as avoiding eviction, paying of rental, mortgage and utility payments for folks, those are only through December. Come January, a number of those new bills are going to be due, and they may or may not have reestablished employment and things like that. There’s a real concern with what’s going to happen in January.”

If you find yourself in need of help, call the united way hotline at 2-1-1 and they’ll help connect with the right resource.

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