As the coronavirus Public Health Emergency comes to an end, emergency federal funds – critical supports in our community that helped thousands of families maintain stability through the pandemic – are nearly depleted. Yesterday, the City and County announced that one of those supports, our joint Emergency Rental Assistance program known as Dane CORE 2.0, will soon end as the federal funds used to support it are almost gone. More specifically, the CORE 2.0 application portal will close on May 31st.  Our dedicated partner organizations, Community Action Coalition of South Central Wisconsin and Urban Triage, will continue to process all applications received by that date and they will continue to make payments for approved applications until all of the available funding is used up. We believe that there will be enough funding to make payments on all approved applications received by May 31st.

This program and partnership has filled a critical need in the community over the past two years, providing unprecedented rent and utility cost assistance to eligible households that faced financial hardships. Between April and September of 2021, the City and County paid out $14 million in rental assistance through the original CORE program administered by the Tenant Resource Center. And since the program was relaunched in September 2021 as Dane CORE 2.0 following changes to federal guidelines, more than 5,500 renter households in the City of Madison alone shared in $33 million of assistance - funds that were used to help bridge gaps between their incomes and their expenses.

Without question, these funds overwhelmingly went to support the most economically vulnerable households in our community at a time when it was needed most – the average household receiving support had an income of just under $19,000 per year at the time they applied for assistance. In total, over two-thirds of all households we served were under 30% of the area median income – in other words, those at the absolute greatest risk of housing instability.

Here in Madison, we can take pride in knowing that this assistance was also distributed with an unwavering eye toward equity. Within the CORE 2.0 Program, 62% percent of all Madison households that received assistance identified as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color. This is no doubt due in large part to key community partnerships the City fostered with the African Center for Community Development, Meadowood Health Partnership, and Nehemiah with FOSTER of Dane County, who provided in-person assistance and connections across our community.

The impact of this program was truly monumental at a time when so many faced the real threat of losing their housing. As one Program participant shared “Dane CORE 2.0 was a lifesaver for me as an elderly woman. I lost my part-time job during the pandemic and I could not find work. The disability benefit I received was not enough to make ends meet. I could not have stayed in my apartment without this program. I could not have afforded my bills if the Dane CORE program did not help me. I thank God for this program!”

Despite the benefit this program has provided, I know there are still many households that need help. So while Dane CORE 2.0 will be ending on May 31st, the City will continue to support other efforts through our partners who are out in the community every day connecting residents to resources. We will also continue to provide funding to the Eviction Diversion and Defense Partnership, coordinated through the Tenant Resource Center, which will provide a line of defense to households that face eviction proceedings. This initiative, which has now been in place for over 18 months, connects households facing eviction with a range of services from housing counseling and court navigation to tenant/landlord mediation, and referral to legal aid partners who can provide free representation in court. The Partnership has already helped nearly 800 Madison households through almost $7 million of financial assistance and other services, while preventing the loss of housing.

Finally, I want to say that I am very grateful to the Federal and State governments for providing us with the means to support Madison renters struggling to maintain stable housing. And I am grateful to the Tenant Resource Center, the Community Action Coalition of South Central Wisconsin, Urban Triage, the African Center for Community Development, Meadowood Health Partnership, Nehemiah with FOSTER of Dane County, the collaborative partners of the Eviction Diversion and Defense Partnership, the many landlords and property managers in Madison that worked with this program, and City and County staff – all of whom helped make a tremendous difference in the lives of so many residents in our community. Thank you to all. 

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