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Applications exceed money available for one agency providing Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program dollars

Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 5:57 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -

As Wisconsinites wait weeks for unemployment benefits to come, many are looking to programs and services to help pay the bills. One program, however, is beginning to show signs that it could run out of funding soon.

“It is not acceptable for us at the state level to be struggling around this issue,” Gov. Tony Evers said Tuesday about unemployment backlogs. During the media briefing, he did not have new answers for people who are still waiting to get benefits.

He said they allocated much of the $2 billion Wisconsin received in CARES Act dollars towards funding basic needs for people who are in that situation and are struggling due to COVID-19.

“We’ve done several things where people have gotten money directly and I’ll use the $25 million for rental assistance as one,” he stated.

Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program in high demand as people wait for unemployment benefits.
Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program in high demand as people wait for unemployment benefits.(AP Images, Wisconsin DOA)

The state partnered with the Wisconsin Community Action Program Association to allocate funds to agencies covering various counties. He encourages people eligible for the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program (WRAP) to apply.

This week, however, a NewsChannel 7 viewer who applied for WRAP told 7 Investigates they were told there is already a waitlist for funding and that more people are applying than there is money available.

“We know that the need greatly exceeds the resources available and so yes, we do have a waiting list at this time,” Nicole Harrison, CAP Services President and CEO told 7 Investigates.

CAP Services helps provide community services for Portage, Waupaca, Outagamie, Waushara, and Marquette counties. Their agency was given roughly $1 million for WRAP. Since the program opened June 4, it has received more than 1,500 applications. Harrison said their projections for the number of current applicants that have not yet been reviewed and the amount of money available ($3,000 maximum per applicant), they will not have enough funds.

“We don’t want to give people false hope at this time because we know that if everyone we’ve contacted to request that documentation do return that documentation, we would be out of resources,” she explained.

That is why they created a waitlist. Applicants have 30 days to get the rest of the paperwork due to the agency. She said the application process is not closed and it is still worth applying for those who are in need of that assistance.

“It’s possible that some individuals who applied won’t meet that criteria or will not be able to submit their required documentation, so then we may be able to connect with all families. It’s just hard to say that at this time,” she said.

7 Investigates reached out to the Department of Administration, but it said answers will be available next week.

Other agencies that received funding for WRAP that represent north-central Wisconsin told 7 Investigates they did not have an issue with having enough funds. Several agencies said they are having issues with getting applicants to completely fill out the applications and provide all of the documentation; that includes getting their landlord to verify that they are a tenant.

Diane Sennholz is the executive director of North Central Community Action Program, which was allocated $680,000 in WRAP funds and represents Marathon, Wood, and Lincoln counties. She said it can take about two weeks for the money to get to landlords because the state writes a check once a week on Wednesdays.

NCCAP, as well as the other CAP services agencies, offer other COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related assistance as well or at least can get people directed to the proper resources. You can find contacts for your service area below.

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