Dane County, City of Madison announce $16.2 million emergency aid package for rental assistance

MADISON, Wis. — Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced an emergency relief package on Tuesday that would provide a combined estimated $16.2 million for rental assistance.

The two were joined by Tenant Resource Center Executive Director Robin Sereno during a press conference to discuss the aspects of the relied package, which includes direct assistance for tenants, housing counseling, landlord education on federal mortgage protections, case management, outreach and mediation services. The city and county are rushing the package before the federal moratorium is set to end on Jan. 31, according to Rhodes-Conway.

“I want to be clear, the state has preempted local government from instituting a moratorium on evictions, so neither the city nor the county can issue one,” Rhodes-Conway said. “I’m calling on both the state and federal governments to issue strong moratoria on evictions at least through the middle of 2021.”

The announcement comes after Congress approved $900 billion Covid-19 relief bill delivering more funding late last month, including $25 billion for rental assistance. Mayor Rhodes-Conway said Congress’ bill was in some ways “too little and much, much too late.”

The emergency relief package will provide Dane County with an expected $8.5 million, and the City of Madison with an expected $7.7 million. The aid is “based on where the need exists, and unfortunately there’s a lot of need out there. But we’re estimating in the ballpark of $16.2 or $16.3 million,” Parisi said. 

Last year, $9.6 million was given in direct financial rental assistance, which helped an estimated 17,000 people across Dane County. Last summer, Dane County infused $10 million from CARES into eviction prevention.

However, Dane County will still need state and federal government’s aid to provide rental and Covid relief for a while to come, according to Parisi. Projections based on unemployment and rent rolls put the current local need for rental assistance around $40 million, Sereno said. 

“This in no way will meet the full scope of the need in our community. This, again, just barely scratches the surface of the need that’s out there,” Rhodes-Conway said. “We know that our communities of color have been hardest hit by the pandemic and unemployment crisis, and I am committed to making sure that this aid gets to the people who need it the most.”

The pandemic, Sereno said, turned eviction into an overnight crisis. Those struggling before the pandemic began are particularly hard hit now — many suffering from unemployment and food insecurity in addition to the threat of eviction.

“I know it’s been a long 10 months, it feels like years in all honesty to most of us,” Sereno said. “This housing crisis, this pandemic, the general state of our nation, it’s pushed all of us to our limits, but I also know it’s brought out some incredible change and attention for the need to partner in ways that truly serve all of our community.”

Landlords have also been hit hard by the pandemic and will be able to apply for aid on behalf of tenants.  Rhodes-Conway called on property managers and landlords to work with the city and county to avoid evictions.

Dane County is anticipating more funding to come when President-Elect Joe Biden comes into office, Parisi explained.

“What we’re doing now you could think of as a bridge, a very important bridge that will keep people in their homes,” Parisi said. “We want to get this money out the door as quickly as possible in full anticipation that there will be more dollars coming from the state and the federal government.”

Rhodes-Conway said the resolution will be introduced at the Jan. 19th city council meeting. The application process to receive aid is set to begin the first week of February.