Milwaukee leaders move to provide relief on delinquent property tax payments during pandemic

Alderman asks Evers to reinstate moratorium on evictions

Downtown Milwaukee's skyline.

City of Milwaukee leaders have endorsed a directive to provide relief to property owners who are having trouble making tax payments due to hardships stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Milwaukee Common Council on Monday approved a resolution that directs the city treasurer to waive interest and penalty charges on outstanding balances in property tax installment payments between April 1 and Sept. 30. The program extends to both residential and commercial properties.

The resolution was put forward by Alderwoman Milele Coggs and co-sponsored by Alderwoman Chantia Lewis. It later received unanimous co-sponsorship from council members.

Coggs said the move provides “an opportunity for financial relief for property owners right here in the city of Milwaukee, through allowing those who qualify to not have to pay the late fees and penalties that they would ordinarily have received during this time.”

To be eligible, a taxpayer’s property tax installment payments must be current and not delinquent as of April 1, and the taxpayer must be found to be experiencing economic hardship. The resolution states every Milwaukee taxpayer is experiencing hardship due to the pandemic and is therefore eligible.

Coggs said the city was able to waive fees after authorizations from leaders at both the state and Milwaukee County. But the authorizations limit the fee waivers to the six-month period from April to September.

More assistance could be on the way for property owners and renters alike in the city.

At least one council member, Alderman Khalif Rainey, has backed additional efforts to provide residents continued relief during the pandemic. Last week, Rainey called for Gov. Tony Evers to reinstate the moratorium on residential evictions during the coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter sent to Evers, Rainey writes, “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. 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.”

And on Friday, Rainey announced Milwaukee renters could soon participate in the state’s $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program. Also known as WRAP, the program is funded through federal coronavirus aid dollars and provides direct financial assistance for owed rent, security deposits and wrap-around services.

Rainey said in a statement that local agencies responsible for administering the funding are expected to begin processing applications on or around June 8. The agencies are to begin training this week in order to begin processing the applications and administering the programs.

Mayor Tom Barrett said recently that a portion of the $103 million the city received from the federal government for COVID-19 relief efforts could be used to help residents afford rent payments. This would be in addition to other efforts the city is enacting, such as its small-business restart grant program.

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