A pair of programs designed to keep renters hurt economically by COVID-19 in their homes will roll out in a couple of weeks.
The Superior City Council on May 19 approved allocating $300,000 from an enhanced Community Development Block Grant to rental assistance. The grant was made possible by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The following day, Gov. Tony Evers announced Wisconsin would be launching a $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program for residents who have experienced income loss as a result of the pandemic, funded by the CARES act.
Both programs will be managed by Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency. The agency provides services in Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas, Iron and Price counties in northern Wisconsin.
“Both programs are up to three months of financial assistance,” said Millie Rounsville, director of NWCSA. “Both programs require them to be on the lease and have an eviction … and they both have to be individuals impacted by COVID.”
Whether the individual has lost their job or just had a reduction in income as a result of the pandemic, a family of four with earnings of $57,000 or less is eligible for assistance, Rounsville said.
City residents will be eligible for the program approved by the Council, while people in the five-county region NWCSA serves can apply for assistance through the state program. Counties immediately to the south would be served by Indianhead Community Services Agency, Rounsville said.
“This is a brand-new initiative,” Rounsville said. “The state has never done anything like this.”
Unlike the city program, which is designed to keep people in their homes, Rounsville said the state program will allow someone who has already become homeless because of the pandemic to get housing. It will provide them with money to cover a security deposit and the first month’s rent.
Rounsville said she expects the program to roll out in two weeks at the earliest, so contracts can be signed, and staff can be trained.
Wisconsin has had a moratorium on evictions since Evers signed the first safer-at-home order in response to the pandemic. The moratorium ends Tuesday, May 26, so Rounsville said she encourages people to contact Stacy at NWCSA to get their name on a list if they are at risk of losing their home.
Evers said Thursday the state program should be finalized by the end of the month or early in June.
“Wisconsinites have enough to worry about as we continue to battle the deadly COVID-19 virus,” Evers said in a news release. “They should not also have to worry about losing the roofs over their head. The Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program will hopefully provide peace of mind to a lot of people.”
Rounsville said people started calling about the rental assistance program after Mayor Jim Paine announced plans to use CDBG money as part of a package to stabilize the local economy.
Tuesday, the Council also approved changes to the city’s small business relief fund, which will provide grants up to $750 for businesses hurt by the pandemic. The changes eliminate the requirement that the small business has a brick-and-mortar storefront.
This headline on this story was updated at 6:30 p.m. on May 21. It was originally posted at 2:30 p.m. on May 21.