As rent issues continue for thousands in Wisconsin, advocates worry for what’s to come

MADISON, Wis. – Although a federal eviction moratorium was extended until the end of January, those who help provide rental assistance say they’re worried for what’s to come for families struggling to pay the bills.

Marc Perry, Executive Director of Community Action Inc. in Rock County, says rental assistance programs are not enough alone to help.

“Think about a single mom in the service industry who was used to working 30 to 40 hours a week whose hours were cut maybe in half,” he said. “That single mom is also paying rent, utilities, gas for work and also paying for childcare. Then you’re having to make choices like, do I pay my electric bill, or do I buy food?”

Perry said in August, the state gave Community Action Inc of Rock County more than $1 million to help families struggling with rent. After just 12 weeks and 700 families assisted, the money was gone.

“We distributed all of those funds and then some,” Perry said.

The funds came from $25 million total allocated by Governor Tony Evers for rent relief. Perry said many of the families were given the maximum amount of $3,000 – five times the federal stimulus approved last week.

In Madison, a homeless encampment at McPike Park has grown since given the city’s permission to be there this summer.

“A lot of people can’t find jobs right now because a lot of places are closed,” said John Brown, a community advocate. “Those who did have jobs, their jobs have shut down. It puts them in a place where they have a lack of income. With that lack of income, the landlords won’t renew their leases.”

Brown said he too worked with organizations that tried to help with rent relief.

“We tried to pay back rent, but it was so much citizens in need of back rent we ran out of money,” he said. “Most of those we couldn’t reach wound up in the park.”

He said now, he’s worried how many could join the dozens in the park when the moratorium ends next month.

“We need a safety net right now,” he said. “We’re in a crisis. A pandemic.”