New Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program unveiled

Gov. Tony Evers announced on Thursday, Feb. 25 more than $322 million in funding to help support Wisconsinites who have experienced income loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A news release says the Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program, administered by the Department of Administration (DOA), provides direct financial assistance for rent, utility, home energy costs, and wraparound services for individuals who qualify.

Eligible applicants include Wisconsin residents who demonstrate a risk of experiencing housing instability, have seen their income reduced by the COVID-19 pandemic, and/or earn a household income at or below 80 percent of the county median income. Once approved, eligible individuals may receive up to 12 months of assistance. Rental and utility assistance payments are made directly to the landlord or utility provider on behalf of the tenant.

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It’s an emergency response to an ongoing crisis. 

"I couldn’t get a job for six months because of COVID," Karianne said.

Like a growing number of people during the pandemic, Karianne knows what it's like to be on the verge of eviction. 

"I actually had my landlord try to evict me back in August," she said.

She avoided eviction with legal help and a rental assistance program.

"I was two weeks behind on rent, two weeks," she said.

Thursday, Governor Tony Evers announced more than $322 million in funding for the Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

It provides financial assistance for rent, utilities and home energy costs for those who qualify.

The state is teaming up with community partners.

"It really is directed at people 1. Who are some of the most vulnerable and 2. Some of the people most directly affected by covid-19. It provides direct support to them," said DOA Secretary Joel Brennan.

"It’s definitely a needed step, it’s been needed for a long period of time," said Jay Giles.

Leaders with the Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union say the crisis is hitting hard.

"We’ll kind of have to see how it rolls out but as a lot of us know the need is so enormous," Amara said. "With other rental assistant programs, it’s been difficult for tenants to navigate through."

They hope the emergency rental assistance program makes a difference.

"That’s great they’re getting rent assistance and more people are going to help but there are still things that need to change now," Karianne said.

Once approved, residents may get up to a year of assistance.

The DOA will partner with Wisconsin Community Action agencies and Energy Services, Inc. to accept applications and distribute rental and utility assistance. Residents of Brown, Dane, Milwaukee, and Waukesha Counties and the cities of Madison and Milwaukee can apply directly to their local government’s rental assistance provider.

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