Rent and Utility Assistance

How We Help > Resources > COVID-19/Coronavirus > Housing > Utilities

DISCLAIMER: The information provided by Legal Aid of Nebraska is for informational purposes only. You should not rely solely upon this information in regard to you and your unique circumstances. You should always consult with an attorney regarding the laws and your rights. As the COVID-19 public health situation changes and evolves, different branches of our government will continue to issue new laws and regulations. While Legal Aid of Nebraska strives to keep the information on this page up to date, the information provided here may change on a day-to-day basis.

SPANISH:
La Renta y Utilidades

Lost your job, had your hours reduced, or have had to take unpaid leave?

If you have lost your job, have had to take time off from work because you are sick or need to care for a family member, have had to take an unpaid leave of absence, you can apply for Unemployment Benefits. Follow this link for more information.

Rental Assistance and Utility Assistance Information

If you are in need of rental assistance or utility assistance, resources are now available through the Nebraska Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

The eviction moratorium is coming to an end on June 30, 2021. If you owe rent to your landlord, even if you have benefited from the moratorium already, your rent is not forgiven. You are still responsible for all rent due and any lawful fees owed pursuant to your lease agreement. You must apply for this assistance before the end of the moratorium and before funds run out.

For those seeking rental and/or utility assistance in Nebraska for all counties BUT FOR LANCASTER AND DOUGLAS COUNTY, click this link below for information on applying. Applications are NOW being accepted for residence of these counties. The applications are to pay rent or utilities due from April 1, 2020 through November 30, 2021. Applicants must income qualify and must have

a) Experienced some financial hardship caused by COVID-19 or
b) Be at serious risk for loss of housing.

The income qualifications are based on your county of residence and number of persons in your household. You must be a US citizen or legal resident alien and must have a current lease or tenancy. For more information on how to apply for assistance, visit https://coronavirus.nebraska.gov/EmergencyRentalAssistanceProgram

For those seeking assistance in the City of Lincoln, the application link for Lincoln’s rent and utility assistance is here. If you wish to apply by telephone, call 402-413-2085.

For those seeking assistance in Douglas County, but not within the Omaha city limits, please click this link to apply for assistance: http://copeinfo.org/rent-assist/

Rental Assistance and Utility Assistance Information for Omaha residents.

    • Check back for information on rental assistance for Omaha.

Additional Utility Assistance and Other Resources
If you have utilities with the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) or the Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD) and need assistance, but OPPD and MUD have assistance programs available.

OPPD Assistance Program
Follow this link for more information on how to apply for OPPD assistance https://www.dollarenergy.org/need-help/nebraska/omaha-public-power-districts-energy-assistance-program/

MUD Assistance Program
Follow this link for more information on how to apply for MUD assistance https://www.dollarenergy.org/need-help/nebraska/metropolitan-utility-districts-energy-assistance-program/

211
If you are ineligible for the rental assistance or utility assistance listed above, need energy assistance or other assistance, there may be resources available in your community to help. You can call 211 to obtain information on possible community resources to help. https://www.unitedwaymidlands.org/2-1-1/.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps low income households by providing heating assistance, cooling assistance, year round crisis assistance, emergency furnace repair and replacement, fan program and weatherization services for eligible Nebraska citizens/households. Apply for Federal/State LIHEAP assistance by filling out an application via the ACCESSNebraska website: or by calling ACCESSNebraska at (800) 383-4278.

Apply for Legal Aid
If you have received a notice from your landlord, are being sued for eviction in court, have received a notice that your utilities will be disconnected, or your utilities have been shut off, you can apply for legal assistance from Legal Aid of Nebraska by calling toll-free at 1-844-268-5627.
COVID-19 Legal Information
Visit Legal Aid of Nebraska COVID-19 legal resource page for more information at https://www.legalaidofnebraska.org/how-we-help/resources/covid-19-coronavirus/.

The Rights and Responsibilities of Utility Customers

Nebraska’s public utility companies hold broad authority over utility customers’ service, rates, and disconnections. Public utilities have the power to establish rates and other charges, and these rates and charges must be fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 70-655(1)). Legislatively declared public policy encourages public utilities to provide service to customers at reasonable rates and as low overall cost as possible (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 70-1101). Additionally, public utilities are authorized to operate in a successful and profitable manner.

This broad authority, however, does not leave utility customers without rights prior to termination of service.

Rights of Public Utility Customers

Once a utility customer receives notice of a pending disconnection, few remedies remain to prevent termination of service unless the customer has a medical condition that would cause an immediate and serious health hazard by the disconnection. Usually, the customer will need to pay the past-due amount in order to prevent disconnection or restore service. The following is a list of statutory rights between a notice of disconnection and the termination of service.

Under Nebraska law no utility company may disconnect service for nonpayment of past-due bills without first providing notice to any customer whose service is proposed to be terminated (Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 70-1603 to 1605).

Utility companies are required to include the following information in a disconnection notice:

  • The reason for the proposed disconnection;
  • A statement of the intention to disconnect unless the customer either pays the bill or an agreement is reached with the utility;
  • The date upon which service is to be disconnected if the customer does not take appropriate action;
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the utility employee or department where the customer may address the notice or file a complaint;
  • The customer’s right, prior to the disconnection date, to request a conference regarding any dispute over the proposed disconnection;
  • A statement that the utility may not disconnect service before the conclusion of the conference;
  • A statement notifying the customer that the disconnection shall be postponed or disconnected if the customer can provide verification from a medical professional that the customer or another resident would suffer an immediate and serious health hazard by disconnection of utility service;
  • The cost that will be borne by the customer for each incidence of nonpayment of any past-due account;
  • A statement that the customer may arrange for an installment payment plan;
  • A statement to the effect that if a customer is a welfare recipient, he or she may qualify for utility bill payment assistance and should contact their caseworker; and
  • Any information not inconsistent with any of the above provisions which has received prior approval from the utility’s board of directors or administrative board.

(Neb. Rev. Stat. § 70-1606(1)).

A public or private utility company, other than a municipal utility owned and operated by a village, is required to make the above service termination information readily accessible to the public on the website of the utility and available by mail upon request. (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 70-1606(2)).

Nebraska law provides the following procedure for utility customers to dispute a pending shutoff.

  • A customer may request a conference to dispute such proposed disconnection before a utility employee designated to hear such matters. (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 70-1608).
  • A customer may dispute the proposed disconnection by notifying the utility with a written statement that includes the reasons for the dispute and relief requested. A conference shall be held before the utility discontinues service. (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 70-1609).
  • Following the conference, the customer may appeal an adverse decision of the utility employee to a management office or board designated by the utility. (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 70-1612).

Additional provisions:

  • The protections previously described do not apply to disconnections or interruptions of service necessary for repair, maintenance, or to protect health and safety of the customer or the general public (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 70-1615).
  • No applicant for retail utility service for water, natural gas, or electricity shall be denied service due to unpaid bills which are not collectible because of statutes of limitation or discharge in bankruptcy proceedings (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 70-1601).
  • However, customers may be required to provide “assurances” for reconnection of utility service (11 USC § 366).

Rights of For-Profit Natural Gas Customers

Customers of for-profit natural gas companies subject to the Public Service Commission jurisdiction also have certain rights regarding termination of natural gas service. Metropolitan Utilities District (Omaha) has adopted similar provisions.

Natural gas companies must follow the provisions set forth in Neb Rev. Stat. § 70-1605, which requires utilities to provide notice to a customer prior to termination of service.

Customers eligible for low-income heating assistance may not be disconnected between November 1 and March 31. Other customers will be allowed a 30-day extension to pay a natural gas bill between November 1 and March 31. If service is disconnected during cold weather months, it can be restored by paying one-quarter of the total arrearage plus the most recent bill.

Customers may file a complaint about service issues or proposed disconnections with the Public Service Commission, but they must first exhaust all remedies with the natural gas company.

Contact your utility company if you are having trouble making payments.

Some utility companies will not disconnect utilities during this time. Contact your utility company to see what the policies are in your area.