Community funds help renters at-risk of eviction

MADISON, Wis.– Wisconsin’s moratorium on evictions ended at the end of May, and as the courts reopen, legal experts said COVID-19 related eviction cases are on the rise.

“We have seen a definite increase in the number of people who have come to us for help. It’s people that have had a lot of income before and now have none,” Legal Action of Wisconsin attorney Erica Lopez said. “This is a new situation to be in for a lot of people, but it’s something that we have expertise in, because we represent low-income people all the time.”

Legal Action of Wisconsin is an organization that provides free legal services to people with low-income. Lopez said she works on eviction cases year-round and advises her clients to apply for community resources.

“Unfortunately, there’s not one directory of all of these different funds. It’s really not in one place,” Lopez said.

United Way and 211 Wisconsin connects people with resources for a variety of needs, including rent and mortgage assistance and utility payment assistance. Call 211 or visit unitedwaydanecounty.org to get connected.

Dane County and the Tenant Resource Center launched a $10,000,000 emergency eviction program, aiming to help more than 9,000 renters at risk of eviction because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The application can be filled out online at tenantresourcecenter.org

The Community Action Coalition offers housing and food security programs, including W.R.A.P., which assists renters suffering significant losses due to COVID-19. The application can be filled out online at cacscw.org.

“There are a lot of resources, but it’s taking time to access them,” Lopez said.

Lopez said simply staying in communication while waiting on resources to come through can often buy time.

“Talk to their landlords. Talk to people who are trying to repossess their cars, and say we have a payment, a stimulus payment, coming. We applied for it, but it hasn’t come yet,” Lopez said. “It’s unique now with this pandemic in that some landlords are willing to negotiate.”

Lopez said legal representation can help.

“People don’t know about these things, and that’s why we are a resource for areas like benefits, unemployment benefits, or other types of benefits,” Lopez said. “When people are being denied, we can help people, but there are also other community agencies doing the same thing.

Community Justice, Inc. is a non-profit law firm that offers affordable legal representation on a variety of issues, including landlord and tenant areas.