Eviction moratorium ends; Beloit landlord says rental assistance program helped tenants

Local News

BELOIT, Wis. (WTVO) — Since last year, a federal eviction ban has offered protection for tenants who’ve missed payments, mandating that they could not be forced out of their homes if they declared a financial hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ban expired on Saturday.

Matt Finnegan owns nearly 100 rental units in Beloit. Even though the moratorium has ended, he says he wants to avoid forcing renters out.

“Evictions are not something fun. It’s not something you want to do. You don’t want to kick people out of their homes,” Finnegan said. “That’s very undermining to a family, so we avoid it at all costs, anyway.”

At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns, Finnegan said he was worried when some of his tenants stopped paying rent.

“There were several, but then we kind of backed off and worked the best we could,” Finnegan said.

He said the reason his business is surviving is because he started using Wisconsin’s Emergency Rental Assistance.

“Frankly, I’ve got the forms right here. I go right to people’s houses and help them do it. It’s to their advantage and my advantage,” Finnegan said. “The Community Action Program in Beloit did a great job at getting those funds out there.”

Elizabeth Knapp-Spooner is the Community Action Program‘s director. She says the need for assistance isn’t slowing down, despite the lockdowns being lifted.

“We are receiving the same amount of pre-screens and documents every week [as we have] since the beginning,” she said.

Knapp-Spooner says providing rental assistance to struggling tenants is part of Beloit’s mission to keep people off the streets.

“Preventing homelessness in Beloit, Rock and Walworth County is very important, to keep people…housed, and that’s where the WERA funds have been able to help so many households,” she said.

Finnegan says their efforts are working. “I’ve got to praise them. They’ve done a great job [getting money to residents]. It’s really helped Rock County and Walworth County.”

In Winnebago County, over $1.5 million has been paid out since the start of the pandemic.

Winnebago County Board Member Paul Arena says that money helped nearly 300 residents pay rent on time.

But, he says the help can’t last forever.

“We are continually evaluating and improving our procedures,” Arena said in a statement. “But we will not compromise the financial well-being of the whole county by cutting corners in our compliance with federal regulations.”

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