Victor Campbell is struggling to make ends meet as the pandemic adds even more challenges to his life.
And making sure he’s able to pay rent is the priority for the 62-year-old Sherman Park resident.
In June, he reached out to the Wisconsin Rent Assistance Program for help but has not heard back.
For him, and so many others, the clock is ticking as rent becomes due this week.
“It doesn’t matter how many programs we have if they’re not actually helping people,” Campbell said.
He filed for unemployment the last week of March and initiated contact with the rent assistance program June 8.
The Social Development Commission, or SDC, received $6.7 million to assist residents of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Washington counties with rental assistance as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act package.
A ban prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants expired May 26.
Even before the rental assistance program launched, thousands had contacted the Social Development Commission in need of help, SDC officials said.
What you need to know about WRAP
Eligible applicants must be an adult Wisconsin resident with a household income at or below 80 percent of the county median income in the month of or prior to the application date.
Once approved, eligible individuals may receive assistance of up to $3,000 in a combination of rental payments and/or security deposits. These payments will be paid directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant.
SDC officials say the organization has been swamped with requests and has a backlog of cases.
We talked with Kim Dawson-Brooks of the SDC to answer questions about the process.
How long should people wait to hear from you after filling out the online form before reaching out?
The SDC is calling people back on a “first come-first serve basis.” There are currently more than 24,000 names on the list. We have hired extra staff dedicated exclusively to the WRAP program.
Is there a best time of day to call?
A staff member will call you. They communicate with renters at times that work best for them.
How long is the application process?
Once required information is returned, the application process is quick. The length of the application process depends on how long it takes for the renter and landlord to provide requested information. The application process is not designed to provide funding on the same day. There are a series of checks and balances within the program that help reduce fraud, ensure landlords are properly paid and renters have access to all the help available to them.
Was the SDC prepared for how many people would need assistance?
They didn’t have a lot of time to prepare but during a crisis you rarely do. Once Community Action Agencies around the state received required state training, the State of Wisconsin opened up the program and SDC began processing applications.
How can people make this process easier for themselves?
1. Submit information through WRAP website as opposed to calling.
2. Work with the landlord and return requested information as quickly as possible
3. Have information ready in advance. Applicants (adult Wisconsin residents) will be asked to provide the following information during the application process:
- Social Security numbers and birth dates for everyone in the household
- Current gas, electric or oil energy bill (or lease/letter from your landlord if heat is included in your rent)
- Monthly rental amount and total amount due
- Proof of all income sources for the entire household’s gross income for one month before the application month (child support, wages, pension, unemployment, etc.)
- Seasonal employees and self-employed persons will require the prior year’s entire tax package. Rental income must be verified by taxes and Schedule E.
Does meeting the eligibility guidelines make someone immediately available for funds?
No. You can be eligible. However, if you do not verify eligibility through proper sources, you may not receive assistance.
Is there anything else people should know?
We want people to know that we understand the importance of this program and are working as quickly as possible to help them access this resource
Who can I call for financial or legal help if I’m worried about eviction?
- Community Advocates rent helpline: 414-270-4646
- Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee: 414-727-5300
- Mediate Milwaukee: 414-939-8800
- Legal Action of Wisconsin: 855-947-2529
- Social Development Commission: 414-906-2700
Resources for tenants, landlords and homeowners:
● Community Advocates has a special rental help line, specifically as a result of COVID-19, to connect people to rent assistance as well as other benefits including energy assistance, unemployment and FoodShare Wisconsin.
It has updated its rent assistance app and recommends applying directly online instead of calling.
The organization also provides services for landlords, including mediation and assistance working out agreements between tenants and landlords.
You can call 414-270-4646 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
●Mediate Milwaukee offers mediation for tenants, landlords, homeowners and lenders to help work through conflicts and come to agreements. You can call them at 414-939-8800 or email them at email@example.com.
●Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee can provide legal assistance to income-eligible tenants in dispute with landlords, as well as to homeowners. You can call them at 414-727-5300.
●Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council can help homeowners protect themselves from mortgage and foreclosure prevention scams, as well as from predatory home loans. You can call them at 414-278-1240.
●Housing Resources Inc. can provide counseling to homeowners and has programs to help people prevent foreclosure. You can call them at 414-461-6330.
●If you think you are at risk of becoming homeless, you can always call 2-1-1 or text your ZIP code to TXT-211 (898-211).
●If you want to learn more about evictions in the city or see your landlord’s track record of evictions, you can check out the maps and data on mke-evict.com.
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