Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday, Feb. 25, that more than $322 million in funding is now available to provide direct financial assistance for renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funds from the Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program, administered by the Department of Administration, can also be used for utility costs, security deposits, lot rent for mobile homes and late fees. People in subsidized housing, including senior housing, can apply for the aid. That’s unusual in these types of assistance programs, according to Millie Rounsville, executive director of Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency.

She said the funding can be used to cover up to 15 months of rent, including past due amounts, as well as future rent payments. It is available on a first come, first served basis. The help is available, even if renters have received prior aid. She encouraged people who are struggling to apply.

“You don’t have to be behind on your rent to come in and sign up for assistance,” Rounsville said. “If you’ve been drawing down savings or whatever you needed to do to stay current, we can certainly help you going forward. You don’t have to be in rent arrears to be eligible.”

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Applicants must be Wisconsin residents who demonstrate a risk of experiencing housing instability, have seen their income reduced by the COVID-19 pandemic, and earn a household income at or below 80% of the county median income. In Douglas County, that equates to a monthly income of up to $3,588 for a single person; $4,100 for a household of two; $4,613 for a household of three and $5,121 for a household of four.

Rental and utility assistance payments are made directly to the landlord or utility provider on behalf of the tenant. The effort is funded by the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

The first step is to apply for the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program. Applications are available at Northwest Wisconsin Community Service Agency’s offices in Ashland, 623 2nd Ave E.; and Superior, 1118 Tower Ave. Residents can also call 715-392-5127 or email sjohnson@northwest-csa.org for applications or information.