State News

Evers requests funding for homelessness initiatives after bills stall in Senate

Gov. Tony Evers urged the Joint Committee on Finance to release funding for homelessness initiatives after a bill package stalled in the Senate Thursday. This comes as a bill to aid homeless youth awaits the Governor’s signature.

Gov. Tony Evers urged the Joint Committee on Finance to release funding for homelessness initiatives after a bill package stalled in the Senate Thursday. This comes as a bill to aid homeless youth awaits the Governor’s signature.

Image By: Will Chizek

Gov. Tony Evers called on the Republican-held Joint Committee on Finance to release funding for homelessness programs Thursday — the last day the Senate was in session until this January. 

Evers urged committee co-chairs Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, to bypass stalled bills in the Senate and approve $3 million annually for programs. 

In June, the Assembly passed a package of eight bills recommended by the Interagency Council on Homelessness, which was formed under former Gov. Scott Walker’s administration. The proposals included providing grants and loans for housing costs, creating more beds at emergency shelters and expanding funding for other programs.

The bills were blocked by the Senate, prompting Evers to send a letter to the Joint Committee on Finance asking to push through funding and work together to combat homelessness as winter closes in. 

“Without acting to provide this help, which has broad bipartisan support, we will continue to put [homeless] people in jeopardy,” Evers said in the letter. “I am hopeful that you will share my concern about the continued delay in release of this funding and act immediately to consider these requests.”

The bill package included Assembly Bill 119, which would increase funding to homeless shelters. It was passed unanimously in the Assembly and Senate committees, but was eventually voted down along party-lines in the Senate.

Headlined, “Senator Darling Leaves Homeless in the Cold,” the State Senate Democratic Committee released a heated statement criticizing Darling, who co-authored the bill but failed to support it in the Senate or JCF Friday. 

“It is unconscionable that she is willing to leave children and families out in the cold while prioritizing tax breaks for her wealthy donors,” SSDC Executive Director Katie Iliff stated. “To make matters worse, Senator Darling and the rest of the Senate Republicans called it quits until next year, further delaying action on AB 119.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has not explained why the homelessness bills were not put to a vote.

This comes as Assembly Bill 52, another initiative to aid Wisconsin’s homeless, awaits Evers’ signature. 

The bill was passed unanimously in the Assembly and Senate on voice votes and was presented to Evers on Nov. 15, allowing homeless 17-year-olds to enter a shelter without parental permission. The minors must be deemed homeless — with their consent — by a school district liaison. 

The proposed legislation aims to help minors enter shelters, protecting them from dangers associated with complicated family situations and other vulnerabilities of homelessness during the winter. 

Data reported to the U.S. Department of Education showed that 18,592 Wisconsin public school students experienced homelessness in the 2016-17 school year — and 274 of those students were unsheltered.

Wisconsin’s homeless initiatives will be in limbo as Assembly Bill 52 awaits Evers’ potential signature or veto, and the bill package remains stuck in the Senate until they reconvene in January. 

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