Madison mayor calls on state, federal leaders to act as pandemic relief nears expiration

MADISON, Wis. — Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway called on state and federal leaders to continue programs to help Wisconsinites deal with the issues caused by the coronavirus, as some are set to expire by the end of the month.

“This is unacceptable,” Rhodes-Conway said. “People need help. The pandemic has created unprecedented public health and economic challenges. And we need every level of government to take action.”

On Tuesday, she said she sent a letter to the state Public Service Commission asking them to extend the moratorium on utility shutoffs to April. The agency responded Wednesday saying the moratorium will end on July 25 as previously decided.

The federal moratorium on evictions for subsidized housing ends next week too. The state moratorium is already done. July 31 marks the end for the extra $600 for unemployment insurance.

“When you think of the number of people that could be evicted and become homeless and you’re not doing anything, shame on you,” Common Council President Sheri Carter said.

Martha Cranley, the vice president of community impact at United Way Dane County, said the need right now — even with these programs — is already great. She said the organization’s 211 line is getting triple to quadruple the normal number of calls.

“Here in Dane County we are fortunate that our area businesses and individuals are very generous with their treasure and support of the nonprofit sector,” Cranley said, “but philanthropy alone cannot and will not address the significant needs of the community caused by a global pandemic.”

Rhodes-Conway said the city is already doing what it can, with things such as testing and housing for those experiencing homelessness. With massive revenue shortfalls, she said cuts are likely unless the city can get federal dollars through the federal HEROES Act.

“This is of a scale that we’re not just talking about cutting back services to our most needy,” she said. “We’re talking about needing to cut into basic services that local government provides.”

The HEROES Act is currently sitting in the U.S. Senate after passing the House.

Some Republicans have criticized it, calling the $3 trillion spending bill a “partisan wish list.”

Sen. Ron Johnson has said instead he wants the federal government to use some of the unspent funds from the CARES Act where it’s most needed.