As residents continue to face hardships in paying rent, we are checking in regularly with the two agencies in Milwaukee that are charged with executing the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program.
We’ve previously reported that Community Advocates and the Social Development Commission both have faced challenges meeting the demand for help from residents.
Today we look at the progress the agencies say they are making and hear from a tenant and landlord helped by Community Advocates.
Community Advocates update
Although Community Advocates has struggled to meet the high demand for the rental assistance program, it has been able to provide aid for some.
Community Advocates received $7 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to assist families in Milwaukee County who face eviction or are behind on rent due to a COVID-19-related loss of income.
Over a thousand people initially reached out for help. Since then, Community Advocates has provided aid to 246 households and has another 900 applications that have been moved to case managers for final approval/processing, according to Deborah Heffner, the housing strategy director at Community Advocates.
Tenant, landlord get help
Mercedez Borges, a former Thurston Woods resident, is a small business owner who has lost income because of COVID-19.
The mother of two reached out to the rent assistance program after falling short on bills and struggling to get her landlord to make her home safe for her and her children.
“I had to boil water for my children for almost two months,” she said. “But having a pending eviction on my record made it more difficult to find a home.”
Borges said receiving aid through Community Advocates took almost two months, but she was grateful she applied.
“It was a very emotional time,” she said. “I help people for a living and then the pandemic hits and I’m not even in a position to help myself.”
With the help of Heffner and her team at Community Advocates, Borges was able to move to a more stable home.
“This experience reminded that no one is untouchable when a crisis hits,” Borges said.
Tenants are not the only ones facing challenges to make ends meet.
Some landlords are struggling as well.
Steven Brick, a landlord in Amani, had tenants lose their income because of issues created by COVID-19.
He did not want to evict them because they never had problems paying rent until the pandemic.
“I wanted to work with my tenants because we are all in the same boat,” he said. “It’s just inhumane to evict someone in the middle of a pandemic.”
Brick said Community Advocates worked closely with him and his tenants.
“They went above and beyond to help us,” he said. “Deborah Heffner was sending me documents in the middle of the night and on Saturdays to make sure the process went as smoothly as possible.”
Heffner said Community Advocates is still in the process of training new staff and perfecting a system that will speed up helping people.
Social Development Commission update
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.
Last month, the SDC faced a backlog of more than 24,000 names on the list.
Kim Dawson-Brooks of the Social Development Commission said the agency has provided $635,000 in aid to almost 3,000 families since June 8.
The agency is still in the process of hiring more staff to help speed up the process.
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