$387 Million in Emergency Rental Aid Will Help Struggling Wisconsin Utility Customers

In response to the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin and local units of government have $387 million available to help renters with overdue rent payments and utility bills.

Wisconsin’s Department of Administration this week unveiled a new $322 million program that will help renters pay overdue rent and utility bills.

The program implements for Wisconsin a program that Congress passed in December nationwide. Congress made $25 billion available nationwide.

The new program comes as utilities are seeing higher than usual balances of unpaid bills from customers. The Public Service Commission, citing public health and safety concerns, has barred disconnections of residential customers until April 15.

The statewide funding of $322 million will be supplemented by another $65 million that will be made available through local units of government, including the cities of Madison and Milwaukee, as well as Milwaukee, Waukesha, Dane and Brown counties.

Beyond the immediate threat to health and safety, one of the most challenging aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the toll on household budgets for Wisconsin residents hit hard economically by the pandemic. The more we can do to help customers avoid eviction and stay current on utility bills, the lower the tab for all customers down the road.

Wisconsin residents at risk for housing instability, lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and earn a household income at or below 80 percent of the county median income may receive up to 12 months of assistance. Rent and utility bill payments will go directly to the landlord or utility provider.

It’s unclear what the breakdown will be in terms of how much will be allocated for rental assistance and utility bill assistance. To find out more about this program, head to CUB’s COVID-19 Resources page and find out more from the Department of Administration.

Here’s the breakdown for Wisconsin’s share of the $25 billion that was authorized by Congress in December:

       Wisconsin Total Allocation = $386.8 million
       Statewide = $322.2 million
       Brown County = $7.9 million
       Dane County = $8.6 million
       City of Madison = $7.8 million
       Milwaukee County = $10.6 million
       City of Milwaukee = $17.6 million
       Waukesha County $12.1 million

It’s possible that more funds for folks hit hard economically by the pandemic may flow toward the state in the months ahead. The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill being considered now in Congress could lead to more funding for low income energy assistance programs as well as for unpaid utility bills by both renters and struggling homeowners.

Check out CUB’s COVID-19 Resources page for more information on the PSC disconnection moratorium that was put in place in light of the pandemic, and ways those who are struggling can get help.