Governor Tony Evers of Wisconsin released his biennial budget proposal, which allocates $15.7 million annually to initiatives supporting people experiencing homelessness, by far the largest investment in the state’s history. Governor Evers’ proposal is based on recommendations made by Wisconsin’s Interagency Council on Homelessness and provides higher levels of funding to reflect ongoing needs. Overall, Governor Evers’ proposal includes $11.5 million in new annual spending on homelessness. These funds would provide additional funding for prevention of homelessness programs, diversion from shelter programs, shelter support, housing assistance, and case management.
The Wisconsin Coalition Against Homelessness estimates that on any given night, nearly 20,000 people are experiencing homelessness throughout all 72 counties in the state, and that nearly half of those experiencing homelessness are families with children. Joseph Volk, executive director of the coaltion, indicates that the new proposal is comprehensive and will help address the needs of this community.
Specifically, the governor’s ambitious proposal includes:
- $1 million annually for the Homelessness Prevention Program, which provides assistance to families and individuals experiencing homelessness.
- $500,000 annually for the creation of a new diversion program.
- $700,000 annually for the State Shelter Subsidy Grant, which is designed to renovate or expand shelter capacity.
- $5 million annually for the Housing Assistance Program.
- $500,000 in TANF funds for the Homeless Case Management Services Grant for those living in emergency shelters.
- $250,000 annually for the Skills Enhancement Grant at the Department of Children and Families.
- $2 million annually to create a “new housing quality standards” grant to increase the availability of quality affordable housing.
- $600,000 annually to create a grant to support and hiring housing navigators throughout the state.
- $1 million annually for a new “Wisconsin Housing for Heroes” rental assistance program for homeless veterans. This funding would be directed to each of Wisconsin’s four Continuum of Care organizations.
Governor Evers also proposed a series of initiatives intended to provide additional support for affordable housing availability and housing stability. These additional initiatives include a pilot program that gives priority to homeless children and their families on Wisconsin’s Housing Choice Voucher program waiting list and a requirement for the Department of Public Instruction to collect data and report on the number of children and youth experiencing homelessness in the public school system.
The governor also proposed an increase the State’s Housing Tax Credit program from $42 million to $100 million of tax credits authorized annually. Additionally, the credit period would be increased from six to ten taxable years.
While the budget proposal will need to work its way through the Wisconsin State Assembly, it has early bipartisan support.