Omaha Rates Zero on the Eviction Scorecard During the Pandemic

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July 7th, 2020

Omaha Tenants United at a flyer handout. Picture by: Gabriel Escalera

OMAHA – Tenants in Omaha hunt through their pockets to complete the rent payment after the coronavirus hit the entire nation with infections and an economy battle.

“Tenants who maybe they haven’t got to the point where they have been evicted yet but they are, you know, month to month.”

Jude Kerouac is a volunteer for Omaha Tenants United, a community organization helping tenants. While maintaining the social distance Kerouac is instructing other volunteers to distribute flyers. 

He wants to spread the word that Omaha Tenants United is here for those in need and encourage people who are in a better financial situation, to become a member and help others.

At the national level, some still do not know how to deal with this monthly situation since each state issued its mandates. According to Eviction Lab from Princeton University, Nebraska issues about fifteen evictions per day.

Kerouac advocates for settlements between landlords and tenants.

Picture of Omaha Tenants United

“I don’t what landlords think I wish they were more willing to work with their tenants. A lot of them are optimistic they would be able to get new tenants there who pay their rent on time.”

In March, Governor Ricketts signed an executive order continuing certain eviction proceedings in Nebraska until May 31. The downfall for some, rent just accumulated and evictions can still go forward.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we definitely had a large number of people who were worried. Layoffs had started and especially like restaurants and bars had started closing down, a lot of people started to lose their jobs.’

Talia Smith also volunteers part-time for Omaha Tenants United, this organization has approximately eighty members. According to Omaha Tenants United, the black community is more likely to face eviction in the pandemic, followed by Latinos.

Smith closely monitors the number of people who are in the process of being evicted. In the first week of June, Nebraska issued about one hundred evictions per day.

Talia Smith, an organizer at Omaha Tenants United. Via Zoom

She also thinks some requirements to stop eviction were not clear, with the executive order placed by governor Rickets.

Tenants must provide documentation of substantial loss of earnings caused by job layoffs, out-of-pocket medical expenses, or requirements to stay home due to COVID-19.

At This Time Nebraska requires all tenants to pay rent, and after the pandemic, landlords can still recover rent due.

“I think we would need to have needed better requirements period. Omaha Tenants United kind of demands, no evictions, no rent debt. We did want to see evictions pushed off until a later day.”

Eviction Lab shows that Nebraska rated zero out of five scores for the evictions scorecard, essentially how the state handled evictions during the pandemic. Boston, Massachusetts rated 4.8 in the same scorecard.

Some cities in other states have issued moratorium orders of six, twelve months, or the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

Smith thinks some tenants do not know how to navigate the legal system at the court hearings. She feels that the judge ignores why renters cannot pay and only cares about any physical evidence. She says after the pandemic evictions will increase even more and she is afraid that more families will not have a place to live.

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