A “for rent” sign is seen outside of a home on Griffin Street in Milwaukee on June 29, 2021. With long waits for rental assistance and the growing tide of evictions looming, some renters are questioning how Milwaukee County and the city will keep thousands of residents afloat. Credit: Isaac Wasserman / Wisconsin Watch
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If I haven’t applied yet, am I still eligible and what help can I get? 

Yes. Eligible applicants may receive up to 15 months of aid in a combination of rental payments and/or security deposits. These payments will be paid directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant. To apply, applicants must:

  • Be an adult Wisconsin resident; assistance does not require that a recipient be a legal resident of the United States.
  • Have a household income at or below 80% of the county median income in the month of or prior to the application date and experienced financial hardship or significant costs due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • Be at risk of becoming homeless or experiencing unstable housing.

How do I apply?

There are two programs in Milwaukee:

  • Community Advocates serves Milwaukee and Waukesha counties and can be reached online or at 414-270-4646. You can also pick up and drop off a hard copy application at their office at 728 North James Lovell St. in Milwaukee from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Waukesha County residents can pick up and drop off hard copy applications at these sites.
  • The Social Development Commission (SDC) serves the city of Milwaukee and can be reached online or at 414-906-2700. You can also head to their main office at 1730 West North Ave. in Milwaukee to get in-person help with your application.

If you do not live in Milwaukee County, there are other agencies that can help you.

The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) coordinates the program through its member agencies. Most agencies offer online applications, but some instruct applicants to send an email requesting a WERA application. Apply at the agency that serves your county, as outlined below: 

If you live in Brown and Dane counties or the city of Madison, here’s where renters there can go: 

  • Newcap serves Brown County and can be reached at 800-242-7334. 
  • Tenant Resource Center serves Madison and surrounding Dane County. It can be reached online or at 608-257-0006.

To apply you must provide the following information and documentation:

  • Driver’s license or state ID.
  • Documentation of income you receive.
  • Proof of financial hardship (including loss of employment, reduced hours of employment and an applicant or other adult in household not working in order to supervise virtual learning). 
  • Eviction notice or arrears statement.

If I’m in Milwaukee, should I apply to both SDC and Community Advocates?

SDC and Community Advocates have recommended against applying to both programs, because it would add to the backlog of cases still needing to be processed by the agencies. Representatives of the Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union, however, have recommended that residents apply to all programs they are eligible for because one application could be processed much faster than the other.

Am I eligible if I am undocumented, a non-citizen or have no Social Security number?

Rental assistance funds come from the federal government, and Congress left eligibility open to non-citizens — including those who lack Social Security numbers or are undocumented. Neither states nor local governments may impose their own immigration restrictions in lieu of the federal government, according to a National Housing Law Project fact sheet.

Wisconsin residents can apply for rental assistance as long as they meet income-related requirements.

Applicants will not be asked about their immigration status at any point during the process.

Accepting rental assistance should not harm an immigrant’s application for legal status under the concept of the “public charge,” legal experts say.

What do I do if my application is still pending and my landlord still hasn’t received payment?

Try asking the organization you applied to for an update. 

If you’re a Milwaukee resident struggling to get a hold of a representative, contact the Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union at 414-410-9714 or via email outreach@matunion.org to speak with volunteers who can directly reach out to their contacts at either SDC or Community Advocates. 

Alternatively you can contact us, News414, by texting “MKE” to 73224. For Spanish, text “MKEESP” to 73224. We will try to connect you with the right folks to get an update on your application and any other information you might need.

Who else can I contact for help?

  • Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee: 414-727-5300
  • Mediate Milwaukee: 414-939-8800
  • Legal Action of Wisconsin: 855-947-2529
  • Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union: 414-410-9714

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Vanessa Swales / Wisconsin Watch

Vanessa Swales joined the Center as an investigative reporter in 2020. Swales is a multilingual British-American-Iranian reporter who has worked in London, New York, San Francisco and Málaga, Spain. She most recently completed a reporting fellowship at the New York Times. Swales is a graduate of the Spanish-language journalism program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in investigative and data journalism. She previously worked for NBC Investigations, Reveal, Diario SUR and SUR in English.