Eviction Prevention: “More Help is Desperately Needed”

A program that provided $1.7 million in rental and security deposit assistance to prevent evictions in La Crosse, Monroe, Crawford and Vernon Counties, has ended, although demand for support remains high.

The Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program (WRAP), which was announced by Gov. Tony Evers in June, served 865 households across the four counties until it ended Nov. 24. The program was administered locally by Couleecap and provided support to households who faced a significant loss of income due to COVID-19.

“We are glad we had the opportunity to help people through a very difficult time and landlords maintain their businesses,” said Hetti Brown, Couleecap’s Executive Director. “However, many of our clients are not back to full employment and we were still receiving a high volume of applications from newly unemployed residents through the last day of the program. We hope this will be an indicator to lawmakers that more help is desperately needed.”

A federal eviction moratorium ends Dec. 31, which is fueling concerns of a surge in evictions early next year. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington this week proposed a new $908 billion coronavirus stimulus bill that includes $25 billion in rental assistance funds but it’s unclear if the proposal can win enough support to pass.

Funding for the WRAP program came from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities (CARES) Act, a huge relief bill passed by Congress earlier this year. Community action agencies like Couleecap worked closely with the state to deliver assistance across Wisconsin, serving over 14,000 households. In total, over $28 million was expended throughout the five-month long program.

In addition to rental assistance, each household was registered for energy assistance, a lasting benefit that can result in weatherization, monthly bill assistance, and emergency furnace support, according to Couleecap. Over $125,000 in financial aid was also distributed by Couleecap to help rental program clients pay other bills. Support for that funding came from the La Crosse Community Foundation, Great Rivers United Way, and private donors.  All clients received financial counseling, referrals, and help with landlord negotiations.

“It’s not just about paying rent, but about helping people navigate financial insecurity that may last for many more months,” said Kim Cable, Couleecap’s Housing and Community Services Director. “By linking people to other programs in our community, we are providing more than emergency relief.”

Couleecap continues to help people avoid eviction and homelessness through programs funded by the State of Wisconsin Bureau of Supportive Housing and City of La Crosse. Assistance varies by county and details can be viewed at this link. Couleecap is also fundraising to continue programs for those impacted by COVID-19. Those wishing to support these efforts can donate at www.couleecap.org or mail contributions to 201 Melby Street, Westby, WI 54667.

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