Madison community leaders worried as eviction moratorium expires

Requests in rental help have more than tripled in the week leading up to the expiration date, but there is not always enough funding to help everyone.
Published: Jul. 31, 2021 at 11:11 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The federal freeze on evictions is set to expire July 31 at midnight, nearly a year after the moratorium was put in place by the CDC. 3.6 million Americans could face eviction according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In Wisconsin, nearly 14,000 people are worried they could be evicted within the next two months. One Madison organization has seen requests for rental help more than triple in just the last five days, and there is not enough funding to help everyone.

“On Monday, [we] had 13 requests, and as of today, we already have 48,” said Feeding the Youth founder and CEO Jazzman Brown.

Brown said she usually gets five to 10 requests a month. Most of those 48 have come in just the last week.

“A lot of the people that are affected are going to be families with kids,” she said.

Those calls for help come as a year-long federal freeze on evictions ends, putting those families at risk of losing their housing.

“Most of the people that have reached out to us aren’t a year and a half behind in rent, they’re three or four months behind in rent because something happened,” Brown explained.

She said many of these families were already struggling, but the impacts of COVID-19 like job loss and schools closing down forced them to choose between rent and other needs.

“My kids needed formula at the same time that they needed shoes,” Brown said as an example.

With the moratorium ending, Brown is worried about a spike in homelessness.

“Most of these people are going to be living on the street or in their car or on a friend’s couch,” she said.

Other organizations in Madison are trying to offer rental assistance to struggling households as well.

“We’re just trying to help them just to get on their feet,” said Mt. Zion Baptist Church treasurer Harry Ogden.

In a partnership with the city of Madison, Mt. Zion is using funds from the city and federal money to provide rental assistance to Madison residents. Ogden said they have seen more and more people come in every weekend as the word spreads.

“A lot of them that come in have the five-day notice already, and if there wasn’t a moratorium on evictions, they would be evicted already,” Ogden described.

The program allows tenants to catch up on rent and maintain credit, but it is also a way to help landlords who have lost income during the pandemic.

“The landlords are suffering too,” Ogden said, explaining, “We pay the funds directly to the landlords, we don’t pay it to the tenants.”

The church has helped about 20 households, but Brown and Ogden said there are always more requests than they can fill.

“If we are able to receive additional funding through the city of Madison, through Dane County, that would help in terms of being able to reach as many tenants as possible,” Ogden explained.

Brown added, “The hardest part is sifting through those cases and finding the saddest story.”

President Joe Biden has called on Congress to pass legislation extending the moratorium, but community leaders like Brown said that is just a short-term solution. Brown said what the city needs long-term is more additional housing.

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