'This is a crisis:' 25K sign up for rental assistance available for 2,500 Milwaukee households

MILWAUKEE -- Tens of thousands of people are on waiting lists for rental assistance, but there's only enough money to help a fraction of them.

"This is a crisis response," said George Hinton.

The pandemic has more Wisconsin families moving into poverty.

"I think we're going to continue to see a stressed community," said Hinton.

Social Development Commission

Hinton is the CEO of the Social Development Commission, dispersing $5.7 million in state rental assistance to people in Milwaukee, Washington and Milwaukee counties.

"We're trying to go first come, first serve as long as we can," said Hinton.

Hinton said there's enough funding to help 2,500 households, but before the grant even arrived -- 6,000 had signed up. A month and a half later, the waiting list is 25,000 long.

"The need is greater than the funds we have today," said Hinton.

Family Promise

Hinton is asking for more money, as is the CEO of Family Promise.

"There is a stigma," said Kathleen Christensen-Fisher. "People aren't used to asking for help."

Family Promise is also distributing state rental assistance funds to people in Ozaukee and Washington counties. So far, Family Promise has granted money to 66 households of the 550 who've reached out.

"In Ozaukee County, we're already three-fourths of the way through our funding cycle, so we'll run out of those funds in Ozaukee County pretty quickly, and in Washington County, we're about halfway through those funds," said Christensen-Fisher.

A state ban on evictions for not paying rent expired May 27, and July 31, another ban will be lifted. Since March 27, people who receive federal rental assistance or live in federally subsidized housing, or Section 8, could not be evicted under the CARES Act for not paying rent. That protection expires on Friday.

"The funding that we have right now does not cover Section 8," said Hinton.

State rental assistance is generally not available to people protected by the CARES Act. That includes 5,500 people in Milwaukee with Section 8 vouchers, and 4,000 in public housing units, but rent adjustments can be made with their housing and case managers -- if their income has been cut.

For others...

"It's important that our landlords be patient, and it's important that our tenants be patient with this process because it does take a while to get the money out," said Hinton.

Milwaukee rent

Both the SDC and Family Promise have already asked for more funding from the state -- and federal government. They've also been speaking with lawmakers.