'Demand is greater than the supply': Thousands wait for rental help as programs see a growing need

Posted at 6:36 AM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 09:44:05-04

MILWAUKEE — Many people continue to struggle to make ends meet several months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We know just from some of our work in other areas, the economic impact has not gotten better," said George Hinton, CEO of Milwaukee's Social Development Commission.

SDC is the community action agency responsible for giving out state (W.R.A.P.) and city (M.R.A.P.) rental assistance funds.

Hinton says about 7,000 applications have been approved and both programs combined have distributed about $16 million to the community.

Hinton says right now, several thousand people are on a waitlist for Milwaukee rental assistance.

"We're in the process of pushing out about $3 million right now," he continued.

"How many months will that sustain you? Or is it hard to say?" TMJ4's Kristin Byrne asked Hinton.

"It's not going to be months. We're talking about weeks," he said.

"At the most, two weeks I can put that out," said Hinton.

Hinton explains getting that next round of federal funding into the community (money from the $900 billion pandemic relief bill signed into law in December) isn't as easy as one might think.

"It hasn't really passed through yet. Even if the money is sitting somewhere there's not enough detail about how it's supposed to be distributed yet," Hinton said.

He asks for everyone's patience but says if your landlord is trying to evict you, you need to reach out to the Legal Aid Society for free help since the eviction moratorium is now extended through March.

Community Advocateshas been offering Milwaukee County Eviction Prevention funds since June. The nonprofit is receiving about 200 applications a week.

"All along the way it's been kind of like kicking the can down the road a bit," said Deb Heffner, Housing Strategy Director with the Milwaukee non-profit.

Similar to SDC, Community Advocates is operating using CARES Act money and waiting for the new stimulus dollars to come in.

So far the nonprofit has administered nearly $9.5 million out of the $10.9 million of the federal funding it's received.

Heffner said the funds went to 4,000 households in Milwaukee County.

Community Advocates has also received rent assistance dollars from HUD and private funders.

"We've experienced high volumes, like with applications received, you know, a little over 9,000 received, which for us in a typical year you know it'd be a little less than 1,000," said Heffner.

"I think just the number of people that need repeat assistance as well. You know, if someone has not regained employment," Heffner continued.

Heffner admits because of the high volume, Community Advocates has had delays in getting payments to people. Next month, it plans on introducing a new online application system to help streamline the process.

Heffner said by the middle of next month, a rental housing resource center will be opening up to help prevent eviction. Until then, the virtual center is up and running and staff is taking calls/emails and making referrals.

If you need immediate help, call this rent helpline at (414) 270-4646 or 414-895-RENT.

To apply for rental help, click on the below links.

M.R.A.P. offered by SDC:

Community Advocates rent assistance program:

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