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Internet services now included under state emergency rental and utility assistance program

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Eligible residents will be able to secure assistance for the cost of internet through the state’s emergency rental assistance program, Gov. Tony Evers announced Wednesday.

Evers said the addition of internet services to the Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program highlights the need for broadband across the state — a need that has been significantly amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The past year and a half has underscored the fact that access to affordable high-speed internet is a necessity to how we live, learn and work,” Evers said in a statement. “This additional resource coupled with our recent announcement of Broadband Access funding across the state should go a long way toward helping folks remain connected, make ends meet, and bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The state’s emergency assistance program has provided more than $38 million in rental and utility assistance to nearly 11,000 households, the Evers administration reported Wednesday.

Households eligible for the assistance program include:

  • Households with one or more individuals who have qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income or experienced financial hardship due, directly or indirectly to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Households with one or more individuals at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
  • Households at or below 80% of the county’s median income.

State Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan said the hope is to build more awareness of the program as the federal moratorium on rental evictions concludes at the end of July. Wisconsin received more than $322 million in the first round of federal Emergency Rental Assistance Funds, which are administered by the state Department of Administration.

“We are determined to get assistance out to eligible households as quickly as possible through our network of partners across the state,” Brennan said in a statement.

Evers announced in May plans to use $100 million in federal stimulus funds to provide broadband expansion grants in the state. While Evers requested spending another $200 million in state funds over the next two years in the 2021-23 budget, Republicans, who control the state budget committee, instead voted to borrow $125 million for broadband expansion.

Evers has until Friday to come to a decision on the budget.

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