This page will be updated as more information becomes available
Not sure where to start? This government website is a one-stop, go-to resource for up-to-date information on housing relief options, protections, and key deadlines. Visit cfpb.gov/housing to learn more.
Need updated information for renters and landlords? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a new Rental Assistance Finder, providing state and local program information for renters and landlords seeking assistance.
Need Fair Housing Act information? Landlords and renters can visit hud.gov/fairhousing for details on guidance.
Note the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are working together to help homeowners and renters during the coronavirus pandemic.
Congress has passed several rounds of financial assistance and relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including most recently the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was signed into law on March 11, 2021.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 contains billions in funding to help ensure that families and individuals have a roof over their heads, including:
- Emergency rental assistance. The legislation provides more than $21.5 billion in emergency rental assistance, to be administered by Treasury, to help millions of families keep up on their rent and remain in their homes.
- Homeowner Assistance Fund. The legislation provides nearly $10 billion, to be administered by Treasury, to help homeowners behind on their mortgage and utility payments and avoid foreclosure and eviction.
- Emergency housing vouchers. The legislation provides $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers for individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.
- Homelessness assistance and supportive services program. The legislation provides $5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program to help create housing and services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
- Housing assistance and supportive services programs for Native Americans. The legislation provides $750 million for assistance for Native Americans and Native Hawaiians, helping reduce housing-related health risks during the pandemic.
- Emergency assistance for rural housing. The legislation provides $100 million, to be administered by USDA, to help people in rural communities keep their homes during the pandemic.
- Funds for housing counseling. The legislation provides $100 million, to be administered by NeighborWorks, for grants to housing counseling providers to provide services to households facing housing instability.
- Relief measures for section 502 and 504 direct loan borrowers. The legislation provides $39 million, to be administered by USDA, for USDA Section 502 and 504 home loans, which help low- and very-low income borrowers purchase, repair, and rehabilitate housing in rural areas, while helping existing borrowers who are struggling to afford housing.
- Funds for fair housing activities. The legislation provides $20 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program to investigate fair housing complaints, strengthen enforcement, and assist those who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- To find and connect with your local public housing agency (administering public housing and Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers in Wisconsin), click here
- To find and connect with a HUD-approved housing counselor, click here
- HUD is also providing COVID-19 guidance to public housing agencies, homelessness organizations, CDBG grantees, and other HUD-assisted housing providers on its website at: https://www.hud.gov/coronavirus
- Additional information can be found at: https://www.hud.gov/states/wisconsin/renting
- Information and guidance on the Fair Housing Act for landlords and renters can be found at: https://www.hud.gov/fairhousing
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- USDA is providing COVID-19 guidance to assisted households, grantees, property owners, and single family and multifamily borrowers on its website at: https://www.rd.usda.gov/coronavirus
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
- CFPB offers a centralized website as a one-stop shop for both homeowners and renters to learn about programs and resources that can help them stay in their homes by reducing the risk of eviction and foreclosure. For up-to-date information on relief options, protections, and key deadlines, visit: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/mortgage-and-housing-assistance/
Legal Services in Wisconsin
- Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. (LAW)
- Legal Action provides free civil legal services to low-income Wisconsinites and senior citizens regarding housing. Visit https://www.legalaction.org/ or call 855-947-2529
- Wisconsin Judicare, Inc. (Judicare)
- Judicare provides legal services for cases involving housing to residents in certain counties. Visit http://www.judicare.org/
- To connect with the entity administering the Emergency Rental Assistance Program in your area, please visit https://wiscap.org/wera (statewide) or click on the relevant link below:
- To connect with your local community action agency and see what resources are available in your area, please visit: https://wiscap.org/member-agencies/
- For more information on how to apply for help paying your utility bills, please call 1-866-HEATWIS (432-8947)
- For more information on the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP), visit http://www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov/. Utility customers experiencing other housing or home energy needs should contact 1-800-506-5596 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Update: Gov. Tony Evers, together with the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) and the Public Service Commission (PSC), has announced more than $21 million to cover utility bill arrearages for more than 36,000 qualifying utility customers across Wisconsin through WHEAP (4-28-2021).
See below for more information from the U.S. Department of Treasury, the agency overseeing implementation of the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program.
What is the ERA program?
The Emergency Rental Assistance program makes funding available to assist households that are unable to pay rent or utilities. Two separate programs have been established: ERA1 provides up to $25 billion under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which was enacted on December 27, 2020, and ERA2 provides up to $21.55 billion under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was enacted on March 11, 2021. The funds are provided directly to states, U.S. territories, local governments, and (in the case of ERA1) Indian tribes. Grantees use the funds to provide assistance to eligible households through existing or newly created rental assistance programs.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) Rental Assistance Finder provides state and local program information for renters and landlords seeking assistance (Updated 08.03.21)
To connect with the entity administering the Emergency Rental Assistance Program in your area, please visit https://wiscap.org/wera (statewide) or click on the relevant link below:
Statewide - https://wiscap.org/wera
Which renters are eligible for Emergency Rental Assistance and how can they access help?
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $21.6 billion to states, local governments with populations over 200,000, and territories to provide emergency rental, utility, and other housing-related assistance and housing stability services to renters.
To be eligible for assistance, renters must:
- Have incomes below 80 percent of the area median income
- Qualify for unemployment insurance or have experienced financial hardship during or due, directly or indirectly, to COVID-19; and
- Have a risk of homelessness
These funds augment $25 billion in funding provided for Emergency Rental Assistance in the December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2021, but provide grantees with some additional flexibility to better stabilize renters. Many states, local governments, and territories have already opened or are about to open emergency rental assistance programs with funds provided in December. Many tribes are also operating Emergency Rental Assistance programs through funding provided in December or Housing Assistance and Supportive Services for Native Americans funding included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
What is the application process?
Treasury disburses ERA funds to states and other governmental entities, not directly to households or landlords. Please contact your state or other eligible governmental entity for information on how to apply to receive assistance under a program funded by the ERA.
ERA2 payments are made directly to states and local governments with more than 200,000 residents. ERA2 sets aside $2.5 billion for eligible grantees with a high need for ERA2 assistance, based on the number of very low-income renter households paying more than 50 percent of income on rent or living in substandard or overcrowded conditions, rental market costs, and change in employment since February 2020.
At least 90 percent of awarded funds must be used for direct financial assistance, including rent, rental arrears, utilities and home energy costs, utilities and home energy costs arrears, and other expenses related to housing. Remaining funds are available for housing stability services, including case management and other services intended to keep households stably housed. ERA2 funds generally expire on September 30, 2025. For ease of reference, the assistance listing number (CDFA number) assigned to the ERA program is 21.023.
Note the ERA1 application process has been completed.
On May 7, 2021, Treasury announced the following allocations for ERA2 funds for Wisconsin:
|Eligible local governments||Allocation||High-Need Allocation|
|Brown County||$ 6,257,190.20|
|Dane County||$ 6,788,742.20||$5,800,264.30|
|Madison city||$ 6,142,189.70|
|Milwaukee County||$ 8,410,244.30|
|Milwaukee City||$ 13,958,935.00||$10,238,888.10|
|Waukesha County||$ 9,560,462.10|
|Remainder High-Needs Allocation||$26,326,205.40|
|Minimum Payment to the State||$254,921,242.60|
|Total Wisconsin Allocation||$306,039,006.10|
Where can I access additional ERA resources?
More information about the ERA program is available on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s website at: https://home.treasury.gov/policy- issues/cares/emergency-rental-assistance-program
The National Council of State Housing Agencies provides links to many of the state-wide ERA programs through a map on its website at: https://www.ncsha.org/emergency-housing-assistance/
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $5 billion in new Emergency Housing Vouchers. Who will be eligible for these vouchers and how will they be distributed?
The bill provides new, targeted housing vouchers for individuals and households experiencing or at risk of homelessness and survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. These emergency vouchers will operate much like Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers administered by local public housing agencies (PHAs), but will sunset once no longer needed by the households to whom they have been awarded. The Department of Housing and Urban Development must notify PHAs of their allocations of emergency housing vouchers within 60 days of enactment.
Are there resources for homeowners who need individualized advice or legal help?
There are numerous state, local, and non-profit housing counseling agencies that give free advice and assistance to homeowners and those facing foreclosure. To contact one of these agencies, homeowners can contact a HUD-approved housing counselor. If you are in need of legal assistance, you may wish to contact a legal aid attorney.
You may also want to visit consumerfinance.gov/housing for up-to-date information on your relief options, protections, and key deadlines.
What if borrowers are having trouble paying their property taxes?
Many homeowners have an escrow account from which their servicer pays their property taxes and required insurance payments. When borrowers have an escrow account, even if they are in forbearance, property taxes and insurance will be forwarded on their behalf. But some homeowners with a mortgage, as well as homeowners who no longer have a mortgage on their property, may pay property taxes directly to their locality. If homeowners fall behind on these property taxes, they can face fees and ultimately tax foreclosure.
If a homeowner is unable to make their property tax payments as scheduled, they should contact their local government immediately to discuss a payment plan. If they have trouble reaching a repayment plan agreement, homeowners can also contact a HUD-approved housing counselor or legal aid attorney.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides funds to help homeowners. What homeowners are eligible and how will those funds be distributed?
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $9.961 billion for a Homeowner Assistance Fund at the Treasury Department, which will provide funds to states, Tribes, and territories to provide direct assistance to homeowners. The law makes assistance available for homeowners who are experiencing a financial hardship associated with the coronavirus pandemic and whose mortgage (if they have a mortgage) is below the conforming loan limit for the area, which is set annually by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and is currently between $548,250 and $822,375 for a one-family home. Homeowners are not required to have a mortgage to receive assistance, and funds can be used to provide mortgage payment assistance, help reinstate a mortgage, facilitate interest rate reductions, provide utility or broadband internet assistance, cover housing-related insurance costs, among other purposes which may be determined in the future. We expect Treasury will put out guidance to further clarify eligible uses of funds, as well as more technical guidance on how funding recipients can determine whether a household is eligible for assistance.
When will Homeowner Assistance Fund money be available?
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 requires the Treasury Department to determine how much in funding each state, Tribe, and territory will get and to begin making payments to those states, Tribes, and territories that tell Treasury they want to administer the funds within 45 days after the bill is enacted, which will be before the end of April 2021. The minimum allocation to each state is $50 million, and funds to Tribes are distributed based on the FY 2020 Indian Housing Block Grant formula. Wisconsin is expected to receive $92,705,301 from the Homeowner Assistance Fund.
Additional Information and Resources
For general information and resources about coronavirus for Wisconsinites, please click here.
For more information about the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, please click here.
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