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Milwaukee Alder Seeking State Extension Of Eviction Moratorium As Pandemic Continues

Milwaukee County Offering Delinquent Property Tax Forgiveness

Signs reading "No Job No Rent"
Signs reading “No Job No Rent” hang from the windows of an apartment building in Northwest Washington, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Two days after the state’s coronavirus-related moratorium on evictions expired, a Milwaukee Common Council member is asking Gov. Tony Evers to consider a “modest” reinstatement of the order.

In a letter to Evers, Alder Khalif Rainey wrote it is not too late to consider a reinstatement, especially for people who were already struggling financially when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Rainey represents Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood in the central city, which has been a consistent hot spot for COVID-19 cases.

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“We cannot know the stories of all those facing eviction, but surely we can assume the majority of them were hard-working, rent-paying residents,” Rainey wrote to Evers. “Now, in the face of a global pandemic that has created one of the highest unemployment rates in this state’s history and done particular harm to the low-wage service sector, we have the spectacle of landlords seeking evictions even before they are permitted to do so.”

During a typical year in Milwaukee County, there are about 14,000 evictions filed, according to Raphael Ramos, an attorney with Legal Action Wisconsin who directs the group’s Eviction Defense Project.

Evers’ spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said the governor can’t extend or reissue the eviction and foreclosure moratorium order since it requires a public health emergency declaration.

“The governor’s original public health emergency has expired and Republicans in the Legislature have said they are not willing to extend the public health emergency,” Baldauff said.

On May 20, Evers announced a $25 million rental assistance program. Eligible residents who have lost income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can receive up to $3,000 for owed rent, security deposits and wrap-around services.

Rainey said Evers’ rental assistance program will help, but worries that because all of the details have not yet been finalized, people will fall through the cracks.

“In the meantime, many people here within my district and in the city of Milwaukee stand to be evicted as a result of the byproducts that have been created by COVID-19,” Rainey said when reached by phone Thursday. “To think hard-working people, who have seen reduced work schedules, been furloughed and laid off — this seems to be a formula for destruction.”

Milwaukee County Offering Property Tax Relief

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution Thursday to waive interest and penalties on delinquent property tax payments between April 1, 2020 and Oct. 1, 2020 for property owners struggling to make payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resolution aligns with Wisconsin Act 185, which empowers county boards to allow their municipalities to temporarily waive interest and penalty fees from delinquent real property tax installment payments. The county had to pass the resolution first, before municipalities could pass individual tax relief legislation.

The county will use money from the federal coronavirus aid bill to purchased software for $200,000 to track any waivers of penalty and interest.

Supervisor Sequanna Taylor introduced the resolution, saying housing is a human right.

“The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to take bold steps to protect the health of our community, and bold steps are also required to keep people in their homes and protect the economic security of working families,” Taylor said in a statement.

As of Thursday, Milwaukee County had 6,848 confirmed coronavirus cases and 264 deaths, according to the Milwaukee County coronavirus dashboard.