As a federal moratorium on evictions is set to expire at the end of this month, Madison and Dane County have a message for financially stressed tenants and landlords: rental assistance is coming.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced Tuesday at a virtual press conference funding for an approximately $16 million emergency package to help prevent evictions. The funding comes from the federal government’s $900 billion COVID relief bill approved late last month.
“COVID-19 has put people out of work, caused families to struggle to put food on the table and to pay rent and to cause some of our small businesses to shutter for good,” Rhodes-Conway said. “Today, I hope we are turning a corner.”
Under the relief bill, the city and county expect to receive approximately $8 million each. An estimated 90% of the direct assistance must be spent on direct rental assistance with the remaining to be used for eligible programming that supports housing.
The Madison City Council and the Dane County Board will take up legislation on the funding in the coming weeks.
The need is urgent as an expected flood of evictions is expected once the moratorium lifts. Madison and Dane County cannot set their own moratorium as they are preempted by the state from doing so.
“While the vaccine brings hope on the horizon, people are scared, people are struggling and they need our help now,” Parisi said.
Those who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic were struggling before navigating a public health crisis and ravaged economy. Robin Sereno, the Tenant Resource Center’s executive director, said the pandemic turned Dane County’s existing housing crisis into an “overnight emergency” that forced many tenants into unsafe living situations.
“This pandemic has further forced an unprecedented and disproportionate financial burden on our low-income renters,” Sereno said.
Sereno said the application process for rental assistance is scheduled to begin Feb 3. The Tenant Resource Center, which is partnering with the city and county to administer the funds, will also oversee services like housing counseling, education for the landlord on federal mortgage protections, case management, outreach, and mediation.
Those eligible for rental assistance include renters making 50% or less than the county median income, experiencing a loss of income and are at risk of homelessness or housing insecurity.
Both the mayor and county executive acknowledged the coming assistance still won’t be enough with Parisi describing it as a bridge to keep people in their homes and Rhodes-Conway saying it “barely scratches the surface” of the community need.
“This in no way will meet the full scope of the need in our community,” Rhodes-Conway said. “It is clear to me that we are going to need both the state and federal governments to continue to provide rental assistance, specifically, and COVID relief money, more broadly, to our community."
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