Republicans reject a majority of Evers’ plan to combat homelessness

NOW: Republicans reject a majority of Evers’ plan to combat homelessness

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Republicans on the budget committee slashed funding in Gov. Tony Evers' budget aimed at combating homelessness, rejecting about $70 million dollars over the biennium.

This was the latest move by Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee to remove several components of Evers’ budget proposal.

The committee on a party line vote, 12-4, approved $1.2 million over the next two years for housing prevention programs. The governor wanted $73 million on a variety of proposals to help homeless people get back on their feet and find affordable housing.

“What it means is that agencies, cities, and counties are just going to have to work that much harder to try and make sure people have a warm, dry, place to stay,” said Joseph Volk, executive director or Wisconsin Coalition Against Homelessness.

Volk added every night there’s about 20,000 people in Wisconsin without a place to sleep.

Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) said they rejected the funding request because the governor already has plans to direct millions in federal funding for housing programs for the homeless.

“We know there was a significant investment made, we know some of those funds have already been distributed,” said Loudenbeck. “We are going to fund what we already know is working.”

As a result of the pandemic, Democrats argued the homelessness problem has only gotten worse.

“There was homelessness crisis long before the pandemic started, and with the pandemic, this has just been exacerbated,” said Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee).

Democrat Rep. Evan Goyke of Milwaukee called the move a “missed opportunity” because the pandemic is still a threat to many people’s housing situations.

The Wisconsin Coalition Against Homelessness and Democrats ahead of the committee vote also called on Republicans to release $5.5 million in funding that’s already available to use towards homelessness initiatives.

“I can’t fathom why that money still exists and why it hasn’t been spent that’s something we can rectify,” said Johnson.

Republicans responded by saying those funds will likely be set aside for separate homelessness bills that are currently introduced in the Legislature.

“We’re not going to create new programs in the budget, we’re going to have ideas go to committee,” said Loudenbeck. “There’s going to be more opportunities to invest in these programs.”

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