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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Dane County, City of Madison gets $16.2 million for rental assistance

On Jan. 12, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced their plans to dedicate approximately $16.2 million of federal emergency funds towards rental assistance programs. 

According to estimates, approximately $8.5 million of the package will be distributed to the greater Dane County area while the City of Madison is due to receive $7.7 million. 

The additional funds that officials plan to dedicate toward housing insecure residents of Dane County and Madison comes as part of a $25 billion emergency spending package passed by Congress this past December to lessen the financial impact of COVID-19. 

Rhodes-Conway and Parisi announced that they plan to both distribute federal funding directly to tenants in need of assistance as well as to public programs that will provide services such as housing counseling and mortgage protection education for landlords.

“We must take steps to ensure that all within Madison who are eligible for this assistance have access to it,” said Rhodes-Conway in a public statement. “I anticipate using at least 90% of available funds for direct rental assistance with the balance going to support the work of community partners and other services that promote housing stability.”

A federal moratorium,  set to expire at the end of March, currently bans landlords from existing tenants. However, tenants have not been excused from paying rent, which has resulted in some community members falling behind on rent payments due to COVID-19 related economic hardships. 

To combat this, the Dane County Board of Supervisors awarded a contract to Tenant Resource Center (TRC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating landlords and tenants on rental rights, to assist in the administration of funding.

According to estimates made by the TRC, as many as 23,000 local residents have experienced housing insecurity within the last year as a result of the economic fallout caused by COVID-19.  Robin Sereno, the executive director of the non-profit believes that the incoming federal funding will be instrumental in providing relief to these renters.

“I know it’s been a long 10 months, it feels like years in all honesty to most of us,” Sereno stated in an interview with Channel 3000. “This housing crisis, this pandemic, the general state of our nation, it’s pushed all of us to our limits, but I also know it’s brought out some incredible change and attention for the need to partner in ways that truly serve all of our community.”

Dane County Board Chair Analiese Eicher also voiced her excitement for the upcoming spending package that she similarly believes will greatly benefit local tenants. 

“The pandemic has caused a surge in unemployment and housing insecurity,” Eicher stated during an interview with The Cap Times. “These federal funds will help to keep a roof over the heads of many Dane County residents, some of whom have never faced such economic stress and the potential of eviction before.”

Several local officials, including Rhodes-Conway, have also pointed out that they feel that the recent federal funding, although helpful, is not enough to address housing insecurity in the Madison and Dane County Area.

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In an interview with Channel 3000, Rhodes-Conway stated her belief that the current amount of federal funding is insufficient to meet the needs of the Madison and Dane County communities. 

“This in no way will meet the full scope of the need in our community,” Mayor Rhodes-Conway explained. “This, again, just barely scratches the surface of the need that’s out there.” 

According to a public statement issued by the city of Madison, the application process to receive housing assistance funds is set to begin during the first week of February.  

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