RACINE, Wis. — The CDC’s eviction moratorium is now extended until March 31. President Biden also requested more than $30 billion in renter relief money as part of a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that has yet to be passed. It would extend the moratorium through September.
In Milwaukee County, County Executive David Crowley announced $10 million in housing assistance funds this week, available until mid-year. Earlier this month, Dane County officials announced $16.2 million for rental assistance. A second wave of money from the federal government came to Wisconsin this week for those struggling with payments, according to the Department of Trade and Consumer Protection. This, as state and local funding sources are scarce or depleted.
Despite this, there are still millions of Americans behind on their rent. Miguel Garcia-Matos is one of them. He has been out of a job since March and his mother, Maria, has been helping him afford to stay in his Racine apartment.
“I researched on the Wisconsin state homepage to see what was out there and I gave him the number for the Racine office to see if they could help him out with rent,” Maria said. “He called me and said ‘Mom, they said they ran out of funds.”
“I’m thinking I’m going to be homeless it’s cold outside and it’s like what can I do now?” Miguel said. “I can’t just call someone and be like ‘hey can you loan me the money and I’ll pay you back’ because everyone is in the same situation I’m in.”
Miguel lost his license when the pandemic began and could not continue his job as a tow-truck driver. He said the process for getting his license back has been more difficult because of the pandemic.
“If the pandemic wasn’t going on, I could go to the DMV and get everything sorted out the way I’m supposed to,” he said. “I don’t have an answer with everything closed and phones not being answered.”
Miguel’s landlord served him with a 5-day eviction notice this week. He assured Miguel it was a formality and Miguel says he has been working on a payment plan. He admits he fears everyday that he will be kicked out at any moment.
“It’s really hard,” he said. “It’s hard on you mentally and physically, like I haven’t slept more than two hours in the past few days.”
Under the CDC’s eviction moratorium, Miguel could be covered. The current law states tenants who cannot afford their rent for specific reasons are protected from eviction. The most critical document to fill out is the CDC Declaration.
You qualify if:
- You have used your "best efforts" to obtain any and all forms of government rental assistance.
- You either expect to earn less than $99,000 in annual income for 2020-2021 ($198,000 if filing jointly), were not required to report income in 2019, or received a stimulus check from the CARES Act.
- You experienced a substantial loss of household income or "extraordinary" out-of-pocket medical expenses (defined as more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income this year).
- You have and will continue to make your best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to your rent amount as your circumstances permit, taking into account your other household expenses.
- If evicted, you would likely become homeless or would have to move in with friends/family, resulting in close proximity with others where the spread of COVID-19 would be more likely.
Landlords can dispute a tenant’s eligibility. DATCP officials stress keeping a copy of you signed declaration, in case you need to go to court.
“If a landlord does start eviction proceedings, you should go to the eviction proceeding,” said Lara Sutherlin, Administrator for the Department of. Trade and Consumer Protection. “You may believe you’re eligible for this relief, but you need to still go to that hearing and then the courts will then make a determination.”
What this moratorium does not do:
- Prevent landlords from charging late fees
- Exempt you from paying all owed rent in full when the moratorium ends.
- Protect you from eviction for other offenses. These include criminal activity, threatening neighbors, and violating your building’s code.