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Ricketts: $158M available to help renters in Lancaster, Douglas counties affected by pandemic

Ricketts: $158M available to help renters in Lancaster, Douglas counties affected by pandemic

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Eviction protest

Activists with the Lincoln Tenant/Housing Network went to the mayor's home recently, posted signs reading "Eviction = Death" and "No More Evictions" and blared air horns and chanted "shame on you," they said in a news release. 

Gov. Pete Ricketts held firm Monday to his decision to prioritize age in the allocation of COVID-19 vaccinations while turning a spotlight on pandemic-related federal rental assistance that is available to Nebraskans now.

A federal emergency program will provide $200 million in assistance to help renters in Nebraska affected by the pandemic, with $158 million distributed by the state and the remainder by Lancaster and Douglas counties.

The assistance is available to pay for rent and utilities back to April of last year with a limit of $20,000 per household and with payments made directly to landlords.

Only tenants with less than 80 percent of the average median income level are eligible to apply.

Meanwhile, Dr. Gary Anthone, the state's chief medical officer, said he supports the governor's decision to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations by age despite continuing criticism suggesting the need for a higher priority for Nebraskans under 65 with high-risk medical conditions.

"It's pretty glaring that age obviously is the Number One factor" in determining death as a result of contracting the virus, Anthone said in answer to a question at the governor's news briefing.

"I agree with the priority" of administering the vaccine first to Nebraskans 65 and older, Anthone said.

Ricketts said he understands the frustration expressed by younger Nebraskans with comorbidities as they await vaccination.

In addition to Nebraskans 65 and older, vaccinations are being administered now to people working in critical infrastructure along with educators, grocery store clerks and postal clerks.

Ricketts has noted that 97 percent of Nebraskans who have died from the virus are 50 and older and he remains determined to schedule vaccinations "based on risk."

In answer to a question, the governor said there will be information later on younger Nebraskans who may be at particularly high risk.

Shipments of vaccine to Nebraska that had been delayed by weather conditions should be "caught up" by the end of Monday, the governor said. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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