Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
UW-Madison students vote yes for COVID-19 relief fund that administrators say is illegal
alert top story

UW-Madison students vote yes for COVID-19 relief fund that administrators say is illegal

UW-Madison bridge

Students cross a pedestrian bridge at the bottom of Bascom Hill on the UW-Madison campus.

UW-Madison students overwhelmingly voted “yes” in a referendum this week to put leftover student fees toward a COVID-19 relief fund that would help students cover rent payments — an approach administrators continue to say is illegal.

In an election that yielded about 7% turnout, unofficial preliminary results show 2,634 students voted in support of the relief fund and 264 voted against it.

The governor implemented the 60 day moratorium on evictions on March 27, but it was also coupled with $50 million aid from the federal CARES Act. Wisconsin saw a 4,075 reduction in eviction filings during this time, but now with the additional $600 in unemployment insurance ending, landlords and tenants are left to wait for the next federal COVID-19 relief package. In a recent Newsmakers, Colleen Foley, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, provided advice for tenants during this uncertain time, "In terms of renters, take advantage of this public funding while it's available because it is going to go fast and there's a long line for it...I think [that] open lines of communication [between landlords and tenants] serves everyone and continued patience as much as possible," Foley said.

Watch the full program:

Check out more on Newsmakers:

Subscribe to Morning Minute:

#morningminute #wisconsineye #newsmakers #covid19

UW-Madison leaders and the university’s student council have been in a standoff for much of the school year over how to help students struggling during the pandemic.

The Associated Students of Madison (ASM) attempted to establish the relief fund using $2 million from the council’s unspent reserves.

Administrators, including interim University of Wisconsin System President Tommy Thompson, have said the idea violates state law and System policy because students can’t receive direct aid through fees.

ASM came up with several workarounds, such as routing money through the Tenant Resource Center to students’ landlords or through a newly created position known as “Mask Ambassador” that students could apply for in order to receive aid.

UW-Madison officials have said these approaches still wouldn’t work for various legal and policy reasons — a point reiterated by university spokesman John Lucas on Thursday.

The question on the ballot made no mention of administrators’ stance on the fund being illegal, saying only that the proposal complies with System policies and laws.

ASM chairperson Matthew Mitnick said the council is working to implement the fund.

Lucas said the university’s focus remains on routing federal emergency relief money from the Office of Financial Aid to students. As of March 4, UW-Madison distributed about $8 million to nearly 7,500 students, or roughly 16% of the student body. The university also allocated nearly $100,000 in non-federal money to 95 students.

UW-Madison is among the first Big Ten schools to dole out money from the coronavirus relief package passed late last year, Lucas said. Many other institutions are still in the planning phases.

UW-Madison students may be eligible for even more direct aid through the latest COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress this week. Officials are still assessing how much the university expects to receive.

6 lives disrupted: How COVID-19 changed Madison

The torrent of disruption to daily life over the past year has been inescapable.

Calendar squares filled with weddings and events cleared. Vacations vanished. Schools shuttered and hand sanitizer was in short supply. We learned new words, like social distancing, herd immunity and doomscrolling. 

COVID-19 affected every person, every family. It's taken nearly 6,500 Wisconsinites from us, including 278 in Dane County.

Here are six stories from people whose lives and jobs changed over the past year.

Concerned about COVID-19?

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Badger Sports

Breaking News