Renters Are Getting a Lifeline Just as Wisconsin’s Ban on Evictions Ends
Gov. Tony Evers announces the $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program for people who have lost income because of the pandemic, as the statewide eviction ban is set to end Monday. (Shutterstock image)

Security for hard-hit tenants and their landlords

Wisconsin residents struggling to pay rent and landlords unable to collect that money during the coronavirus pandemic will soon receive assistance through federal and state relief efforts announced days before a ban on evictions is lifted.

Gov. Tony Evers announced the $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program for people who have lost income because of the pandemic. Those qualifying for the program will be eligible for up to $3,000 to pay rent and/or security deposits. 

“Wisconsinites have enough to worry about as we continue to battle the deadly COVID-19 virus. They should not also have to worry about losing the roofs over their head,” Evers said in a news release announcing the endeavor. 

Administered by the state Department of Administration, the program will provide direct financial assistance for rent owed, security deposits, and other services intended to help people remain in their homes. 

The program is funded by federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars.

To be eligible for the program, an applicant must be an adult Wisconsin resident who saw income loss related to COVID-19 and has a household income at or below 80 percent of the county median income in the month of or prior to the application date. 

The Department of Administration will partner with Wisconsin Community Action Program Association member agencies to accept applications and distribute rental assistance.

“Collaborations with ‘boots-on-the-ground’ partner organizations will be critical to ensuring eligible Wisconsin residents are aware of this new program and are able to receive rental assistance relief quickly,” DOA Secretary Joel Brennan said.

On March 27 Evers ordered a 60-day temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures related to economic challenges people would face because of COVID-19. In ensuing weeks, many tenants have not been able to pay rent because of lost income, officials and housing advocates said. 

Funding to assist renters and landlords comes at a critical time, advocates for affordable housing across Wisconsin said. Many renters are struggling to make payments and have lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic. 

More than 2 million unemployment claims have been filed in Wisconsin since March 15, and of those more than 675,000 remain unpaid. 

Many people who rent are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19-related shutdown because they work in economic sectors such as hotels, restaurants and other service jobs. Amy Bliss, executive director of the Wisconsin Housing Alliance, praised Evers’ announcement, saying it will provide much-needed funding necessary to keep people in their homes. 

“People are desperate for this money now,” Bliss said. “It really can’t come fast enough.”

The money will benefit not only renters but landlords, she said. As rent payments have been deferred, property owners also have gone without income. 

Further details about the program, including how soon people will begin receiving money, have not yet been made available. Bliss hopes renters can access assistance soon enough to keep as many renters in their homes as possible. 

“Hopefully when (landlords) hear this relief is coming, they don’t pursue evictions,” she said, referencing the end of the statewide eviction ban on Monday.