In December, U.S. Lawmakers passed a massive, $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. Included in that deal was $25 billion for rental assistance.
Now, the city of Madison and Dane County are lining up for their slice of that money — as Madison is seeking about $7.7 million from the funding, while Dane County is requesting $8.5 million.
The county and city will partner with Dane County’s Tenant Resource Center to distribute the combined $16.2 million.
Ninety percent of that money has to go directly towards rental assistance. And that funding may be coming just in time, as a federal evictions moratorium is set to expire at the end of this month — potentially thrusting thousands of Wisconsinites out of their homes in the dead of winter.
Mayor Satya-Rhodes Conway said in a press conference today that the exact rules for distributing the money still need to be determined by the feds. But, early requirements stipulate that residents are eligible if they make fifty percent of area median income, if they show loss of income or risk of homelessness or housing insecurity.
“And much more information will be available as we get the final rules and regulations from the federal government and develop the program further,” Rhodes-Conway said.
In May, about $9.6 million in CARES funding helped more than 17,000 Dane County residents keep their homes. Two-thirds of those 17,000 residents were in the city of Madison alone.
According to Robin Sereno, Executive Director for the Tenant Resource Center, this new round of funding will likely support less people than that first round. That’s because, as we enter month ten of the pandemic, many residents have sunk into further financial hardship.
“So right now, the current need, based on unemployment, is right around $40 million as of December 31st,” Sereno told reporters today. “Going forward, a little over five million dollars a month is the need in Dane County for rental assistance, but we have to think about that $40 million of back-owed rent.”
County Executive Joe Parisi expressed optimism about securing future funding to address those financial concerns. He says that — with the U.S. Congress, Senate and White House in Democrat’s hands — a future, more robust relief bill is likely.
“So, what we’re doing now, you could think of as a bridge — A very important bridge that will keep people in their homes,” Parisi said. “But we wanted to get this money out the door as quickly as possible in full anticipation that there will be more dollars coming from the state and federal government to address the remainder of the need.”
The state of Wisconsin is also receiving nearly $387 million from the relief bill. Both Rhodes-Conway and Parisi say they’ll be negotiating with state leadership in the coming weeks to secure additional funding from that pool.
Sereno says that the application process will likely begin the first week of February, just a few days after the CDC’s eviction moratorium is set to expire. That moratorium was originally going to end at the end of December, but was extended as a provision of the federal relief package.
(Photo: Brian Standing / WORT)