City-County Building (copy)

Homelessness initiatives were the top priority of the special budget outlined Thursday night in a Dane County Board of Supervisors committee of the whole session. Of the $23 million in federal emergency money the county proposed to spend, the two largest line items were $10 million for eviction prevention and $9 million for homelessness services, as well as an additional $740,000 directed toward community-centered housing initiatives.

The county requested an additional $5 million to be allocated to Second Harvest, an organization that provides goods to food banks across Dane County. Also included was support for reimbursement of community partners’ coronavirus-related expenditures, county human resources administrative costs, projected public health expenses, Boys and Girls Club outreach and gift cards for families in the child welfare system.

This budget allocates part of the $95 million that Dane County received from the CARES Act, federal government funds to be used for expenses incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The county received this money on April 23.

So far, Dane County has distributed $15 million of CARES Act money to homelessness services, as well asadditional funding for Public Health Madison & Dane County, asmall business grant program andgrants for child care providers. In total, $33 million has been spent, or about one-third of the fund.

In reference to the money already allocated, District 32 Supervisor Mike Bare asked: “How were the entities getting a piece of the $95 million determined? What methodology was used to determine the need in the community?”

“Identifying what priorities clearly align and addressing those priorities is something Dane County has always tried to do its best at,” said Charles Hicklin, Dane County controller. “The next step is finding partners that could address those needs in a timely fashion that had the capacity to do that. Anybody can look at any of these initiatives and maybe they’re not perfect. But perfection takes time, and time is of the essence when it came to meeting the most immediate needs.” 

The original Treasury Department guidelines state that this money cannot be used to make up shortfalls in the county budget and must be spent by Dec. 31 of this year. However, those guidelines might be changing due to new federal legislation, according to Hicklin. Several of the items proposed Thursday night hinge on that change. 

If this budget is approved, the county proposed reserving the remaining $31 million for future expenditures, including $23.9 million in proposed revenue replacement.

“When the eviction moratorium is lifted, there will be a lot of people experiencing financial stress, and that $10 million will go a long way helping people in that position,” said Hicklin. That moratorium is scheduled to expire May 26.