MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin’s roughly $550 million pot of cash for emergency rental assistance has just about run out, and the state-run portion is set to end next week.
Since the program launched early 2021, the state alone has paid out over $240 million to help almost 40,000 families in 68 Wisconsin counties cover rent, utilities, water and internet.
Department of Administration Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld said while there is still more need for housing stability then there are funds available, she considers the program a success.
“We’ve heard from recipients of these funds how meaningful it was to know that they had a roof over their head and could have some additional peace of mind,” Blumenfeld said. “It was meant to be temporary relief during the pandemic, and we’re really proud of the number of people that we were able to serve during this time.”
Amber Duddy, the executive director of the Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, said part of the reason more applications for help are coming in, even as the pandemic eases up, is inflation. She said about 13% of Wisconsin households are spending half of their entire income on rent, and without the emergency rental assistance, the transition will be tough.
“This program was really helping a lot of those individuals who have very low incomes and very high rents stay housed,” Duddy said. “So unfortunately, that changed and that end is coming really soon for folks.”
For their part, state leaders said they have no intention of leaving Wisconsinites high and dry. They are transitioning into what they’re calling “housing stability services” and partnering with local agencies to provide things like crisis management for people near eviction.
Those services aren’t yet available in Dane County because its emergency rental assistance program still has a bit more time and money left, but Duddy said that too will run dry.
Larger municipalities with more than 200,000 residents like Dane, Brown, Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties have programs that run independent from the state, managing roughly $200 million of the state’s total ERA pot.
“I don’t think any of the programs funded by the treasury throughout the country are going to last through this year,” she said
In Dane County, through the Tenant Resource Center, some options are currently available for help for things like finding more affordable housing and navigating the relationship with landlords by negotiating a payment plan or reducing rent.
Duddy expects housing stability services in Dane County to take shape in the next couple months. In Madison alone, CAC has distributed almost $31 million in federally funded emergency rental assistance funds. In total, an estimated $485 in ERA funds were paid out across the state.
Applications for the state run program are being accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
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