RACINE — A new rental assistance program created by the City of Racine and Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan plans to start accepting applications on Monday.
The City of Racine was awarded two rounds of Emergency Solutions Grants through the CARES Act for homelessness assistance and homelessness prevention. The first round, announced in April, was for $574,928 and a second round of $649,751 was awarded in June.
At a June 29 special meeting, the City Council approved the allocation of $396,712 of those funds for Lutheran Social Services to distribute as rental assistance. Of those funds, LSS was allocated $17,447 for case management services and $36,065 as an administration fee.
Mayor Cory Mason said the goal of the program is to keep about 300 families from being evicted due to non-payment.
“Many Racine families are struggling to pay rent and have faced record unemployment due to the coronavirus. This program is one way the city is doing our part to help our struggling neighbors avoid eviction and prevent homelessness during this pandemic,” Mason said in a press release. “The City of Racine’s Emergency Eviction Prevention Program will help tenants, and in turn, landlords. Keeping our city’s residents housed is critically important in the mist of this crisis.”
LSS Vice President Dennis Hanson, who oversees the organization’s residential and housing unit, said that, “it should not be problem,” processing applications in time for when rent is due on Aug. 1.
When in doubt, apply
The program must comply with several federal requirements regarding income and the habitability, but city officials stress that if someone is unsure whether or not they qualify, they should reach out to LSS.
Vicky Selkowe, the city’s manager of strategic initiatives and community partnerships, said the city chose to partner with LSS because of the agency’s experience managing the paperwork necessary for the federal funds and with case management. If someone does not qualify for the ESS funds, LSS case managers could connect them with other forms of assistance.
To qualify, a household has to earn less than 50% of the area’s median income ($38,450 for a family of four) and prove that their income has been affected by COVID-19. That does not mean that someone from the household has to have been infected with COVID-19.
Given the fluidity of the COVID-19 situation and its impact on incomes — such as businesses closing, then re-opening at reduced capacity — Hanson said his case managers are prepared to work with people in a variety of situations.
“It’s not like we get their 2019 tax return and that’s what we use,” said Hanson.”That’s all taken into account.”
Since the funds are paid directly to the landlord, the rental unit has to meet certain habitability requirements. LSS will conduct those unit inspections and if any violations are found, will work with landlords to fix the situation.
Assistance would be limited to no more than $3,000 per household or up-to two months of rent, with some exceptions. Applicants must not have received assistance from other programs, such as the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program.
LSS staff is scheduled to start helping tenants apply at 8 a.m. on Monday. Tenants can call toll-free 1-855-397-9520, where they can leave a message and LSS staff will call them back to walk them through the next steps.
For additional information, go online to: lsswis.org/housing.
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