What Does the End of the Eviction Moratorium Mean for Milwaukee?
Uncertainty and sudden changes regarding the nationwide eviction moratorium have renters in the Milwaukee area reeling as they determine next steps.
The eviction moratorium wrapped briefly at the end of July. An updated version of it was then enacted in early August by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), under the direction of President Joe Biden. However, the Supreme Court of the United States put an end to the updated eviction moratorium on August 26.
Renters throughout the country, including in the Milwaukee area, now face uncertainty stemming from the eviction moratorium ending, as they look to keep their housing in the coming weeks and months while facing financial hardship amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The moratorium was first enacted to help ease financial hardship concerns caused by the effects of the pandemic and helped keep many Wisconsin renters and their families from experiencing homelessness from eviction. The eviction moratorium, however, did not keep debt from accumulating for renters in Milwaukee or elsewhere.
The CDC extended the eviction moratorium multiple times throughout the pandemic before letting it expire. But now that the program seems to have come to a permanent conclusion, those who seek assistance are asking questions.
No More Eviction Moratorium: Next Steps for Milwaukee Renters
Earlier this year, the state government passed legislation enabling $322 million in funding for the Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance program. The program provides funding for up to 12 months to renters in need of help paying utilities, rent, and other housing-related costs. The money comes from one of the stimulus bills funded by the federal government in 2020 for coronavirus relief.
Select counties in Wisconsin, which include Milwaukee County, also received federal funding, pushing the state’s total earmarked for assistance to about $387 million, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
Funds for Milwaukee-area renters looking for assistance following the discontinuation of the eviction moratorium are being distributed by the state’s Department of Administration and will be paid directly to utility companies and landlords. For households to qualify for this help at least one member of the household must meet a set of criteria which include:
- Qualify for unemployment insurance, a reduction in household income, or experienced financial struggles due to the pandemic
- Be able to demonstrate risk of eviction
- Have a household income that is at or below 80 percent of the county’s median income
Many Milwaukee renters have been utilizing the Milwaukee Emergency Rent Assistance (MERA) program, which was designed to provide financial relief from COVID-19 for Milwaukee residents who rent. According to the city government, the program has doled out more than $16 million for an average of over $2,300 per household that received assistance.
Providing Assistance For Milwaukee Renters Beyond the Eviction Moratorium
Ensuring continued access to necessary funds for commodities such as housing, groceries and transportation is critical in helping Milwaukee households financially recover from the pandemic and the end of the eviction moratorium.
According to the Rent Debt Dashboard, the national accumulated rent debt as of mid-August is more than $21.3 billion with an estimated $3,300 owed per household. The numbers are only slightly better in Wisconsin, with renters owing an average of $2,700 per household with 63,000 households behind on paying rent.
Of the households in Wisconsin that are behind on rent, 42 percent consist of people of color, 83 percent bring in less than $50,000 annually, and 53 percent receive assistance from unemployment insurance. More than 15,000 of those households behind on rent are in Milwaukee County, emphasizing how the eviction moratorium didn’t erase debt. It just enabled households time before facing repayment.
For those unemployed, or underemployed, that’s a tough pile of debt to overcome. The bills don’t stop coming in and having a safe home is essential in helping come back from that. Low-income families that rent have been among the hardest-hit Americans as a result of the pandemic. Those most affected must continue to have access to safe and affordable housing, which is critical in propping up local communities, including in Milwaukee.
CommonBond has been working for 50 years to help make affordable rental homes available in the Upper Midwest. We believe it’s essential to relieve financial stress on cost-burdened households in our local communities and continue working so that affordable housing is available to all those who need it.