Community Action News
Giving Tuesday 2021

More than 1 in 10 of our state’s residents live below the poverty line. Last year, an alarming 17,000 homeless kids were enrolled in Wisconsin’s public schools. More than 320,000 low-income Wisconsin renters pay more than half their income for housing. In urban and rural areas alike, from factory closings to declining farm communities, Wisconsin has witnessed its share of economic and social challenges and unparalleled income disparities. As we approach 2022, we continue to see the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on low-income households.

 Poverty is real in Wisconsin - but you can combat it. For over 40 years, WISCAP has been a catalyst for change and a vital part of the effort to help families escape poverty. WISCAP and our statewide network of community action agencies have always been there, providing immediate relief, while creating opportunities for families to attain economic security and advocating for meaningful public policies. For example, as of November 2021, our network has responded to the COVID-19 crisis by providing almost $81 million in emergency rental assistance to more than 20,000 households through the Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance (WERA) program.

You can help fight poverty in Wisconsin by supporting WISCAP and our four core focus areas: policy & advocacy, public education, research, and member services. Your contribution will help us push for responsible budgets and public policies, raise public awareness, catalyze action, support the annual Poverty Matters Conference, and provide us with resources to support our member agencies with trainings, securing new funding and promoting best practices.

WISCAP believes that all of us are vulnerable to poverty and that the costs and consequences have a significant impact on everyone, whether poor or not. Poverty matters, and we can do something about it. Donate today – and become part of “Wisconsin’s Poverty Fighting Network”!

 You can make a financial contribution to WISCAP in two ways:  ONLINE by visiting our donate page or if you prefer by MAIL by sending cash or making a check out to “WISCAP” and mailing to our office at 30 W. Mifflin Street, Suite 406, Madison, WI 53703. WISCAP is a charitable organization that falls under section 501(c)(3) and therefore all donations are tax-deductible.

 WISCAP sincerely appreciates your support.

Giving Tuesday Logo

Representative Subeck and Senator Smith Highlight Poverty, Homelessness in Wisconsin

DATE: Thursday, November 18, 2021
CONTACT: Rep. Subeck, 608-266-7521 (office)
Sen. Smith, 608-266-8546 (office)

Representative Subeck and Senator Smith Highlight Poverty, Homelessness in Wisconsin

MADISON – Today, Representative Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) and Senator Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick) held a press conference to highlight the state of poverty in Wisconsin and is a precursor to future legislation to tackle poverty and homelessness. The most recent data on poverty comes from the report Tracking the COVID-19 Economy’s Effects on Food, Housing, and Employment Hardships. Rep. Subeck and Sen. Smith were joined by Brad Paul, the Executive Director of WISCAP; George Hinton, Board President of WISCAP; Michael Jahn, a veteran and CAC client from Madison; and Annie Culver, owner of Annie’s Fountain Café in Fond du Lac.

Rep. Lisa Subeck: “Too many Wisconsinites live paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make ends meet. Despite their best efforts, our cities, counties, schools, and service organizations struggle to meet the needs of families, seniors, and disabled individuals living in poverty. Due to the scarce resources and strain on current organizations that fight poverty, Senator Smith and I look forward to introducing comprehensive legislation to address immediate and long term solutions to end poverty in our state.”

Sen. Jeff Smith: “I appreciate the work of the numerous organizations already involved in this effort to support our rural communities and Representative Lisa Subeck’s leadership on this issue. I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues, community advocates, and other stakeholders to develop a comprehensive legislative package designed to aid communities in the fight against poverty. We have a lot of work to do, but I’m feeling encouraged and inspired that we can make a difference.”

WISCAP Executive Director Brad Paul: "WISCAP and the statewide network of Community Action Agencies supports the emerging package of legislative proposals to battle poverty in Wisconsin. We are there with you as a resource and partner every step of the way."

2021 WISCAP Annual Awards

2021 WISCAP Annual Awards

The 2021 WISCAP Annual Awards was held virtually on May 11, 2020.  WISCAP presented these awards on behalf of its network of sixteen Community Action Agencies, the Foundation for Rural Housing, and UMOS so as to recognize individuals or organizations who have gone above and beyond in helping to improve and further the goals of Community Action in Wisconsin in fighting poverty. 

William Steiger Human Services Award

Senator Joan Ballweg is this year’s recipient of the William Steiger Human Services Award, given in recognition of a Republican lawmaker for outstanding support of Community Action and low-income families. The Senator was nominated by Mike Bonertz, Executive Director of ADVOCAP. Over her career, Senator Ballweg has exhibited leadership in the areas of education, business, and health care. She has served as a member of the Waupun Memorial Hospital Board of Directors, co-founder of the Legislative Children’s Caucus, and most recently, as National Chair of the Council of State Governments. In this role, the Senator has led efforts to increase legislative diversity and improve legislative ethical standards. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the Committee on Human Services, Children and Families and is a member of the Joint Committee on Finance.  Previous recipients of the William Steiger Award include former Representative Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) and Representative Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Gaylord Nelson Human Services Award

The Gaylord Nelson Human Services Award recognizes a Democratic lawmaker for outstanding support of Community Action and low-income families and this year’s recipient is Senator Jeff Smith, who was nominated by Anna Cardarella, Executive Director of Western Dairyland Community Action Agency. As Minority Caucus Chair and as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Sporting Heritage, Small Business & Rural Issues, Senator Smith has been a forceful advocate for those living in poverty, taking on so-called "Pay-Day" lenders and working to bring greater broadband access to rural communities especially hard hit by the COVID 19 pandemic. Previous recipients of the Gaylord Nelson Award include Senator LaTonya Johnson (D-6th), in 2019, and Senator Janet Bewley (D-25th) in 2020.

Self-Sufficiency Award

The Self-Sufficiency Award recognizes an individual who, with the aid of their local Community Action Agency, has overcome poverty and achieved self-sufficiency. Le Anne Martinez was the recipient of this award and she was nominated by Becky Koske, Assistant Department Director at Couleecap. Le Anne struggled with homelessness and was referred to Couleecap's Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) Program by the Coordinate Community Services program through La Crosse County. After working with Couleecap, Le Anne was able to transition from the TBRA program to Section 8 and remain in the apartment she grew to love.

Le Anne has used her experience to help others. She is currently a member of the Consumer Advisory Council, which is a collective group of individuals who have lived experience and who advocate on behalf of those who have experienced homelessness. This group has been an active and vital part of the Coulee Collaborative to End Homelessness. Le Anne is quick to volunteer her time and her energy to help with other community events, such as the Point in Time Count and Homeless Connect. These events reach out to those experiencing homelessness to try to make connections to services that might be able to help. Le Anne's advocacy is also evident close to her home. When the Coulee Region received funding for the Wisconsin Energy and Rental Assistance Program (WERA), Le Anne took the initiative to reach out to her landlord to share this information, along with hanging the flyer in the buildings of her apartment complex. She looks for ways to reach out to others in need whenever she can. 

Exceptional Community Action Staff Member Award

The Exceptional Community Action Staff Member Award was established as a tribute to Richard Strand, former Executive Director of Southwest CAP and long-time member of the WISCAP Board, in recognition of a Community Action employee who has demonstrated hard work and embodying the spirit of community action in Wisconsin. This year's recipient was Shelly Teadt, Planning Director of Couleecap, who was nominated by Hetti Brown, Executive Director of Couleecap. 

Shelly Teadt, Planning Director at Couleecap, has dedicated the last 27 years to community action. Shelly has worn many hats at the agency, starting in the Crawford County field office in prevention programming and working her way up to Director of Planning. She cares deeply about her work, her community, and her co-workers. Throughout her tenure at Couleecap, Shelly has consistently been willing to take on new challenges to better the agency and our service to clients. Years ago, she picked up supervision of marketing and fund development when Couleecap was in the early stages of understanding what that was and how it would look for the agency. Since that time, she has written hundreds of grant applications to bring in new programs that would forever shape the agency, including the original New Hope Permanent Housing grant, which became a 20-year program, Monroe County Safe Community Coalition grant for substance abuse prevention, which just wrapped up its 10th year, and Federal Home Loan Bank grant to increase affordable and decent housing. Shelly also helped to plan special projects, such as a fluoridation project in the mid-2000’s through the Wisconsin Partnership Program School of Medicine and Public Health. Shelly also helps to foster the next generation of community action advocates. She has supervised many student volunteers and interns to develop the future workforce. Additionally, she speaks to each cohort of Viterbo nursing students on rural poverty. This helps to build an understanding in future healthcare providers of the unique challenges associated with people with low income in rural parts of the state. Above all, Shelly is an exceptional team member. When anyone or any team in the agency needs help, she is willing to jump in without hesitation.

Outstanding Friend of Community Action Award

The Outstanding Friend of Community Action Award recognizes an individual or group outside of the CAA Network, whose actions have promoted or enhanced the efforts and services of community action. This year’s recipient was Central Rivers Farmshed. This organization was nominated by the Hmong UPLIFT Program within CAP Services. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hmong families in Portage County, particularly elders and individuals with disabilities, have struggled with isolation and food insecurity. Although there are meal programs in the area, none are culturally-appropriate for the Hmong community. Sib Pab
(Helping Hands) Meal Project was created by CAP Services to bridge this gap. With support from the Portage County COVID-19 Relief Fund and local partners, CAP Services' Hmong UPLIFT program launched Sib Pab meals in June of 2020. For eight weeks, the program contracted with local Hmong restaurants to provide two meals per week to 50 individuals. Knowing that the pandemic was not going to go away anytime soon, Hmong UPLIFT program staff realized they would not have the capacity to continue managing the project. In July, UPLIFT coordinator Phong Vang reached out to Central Rivers Farmshed to help continue the project. Since then, Farmshed has maintained the Sib Pab Meal Project as part of their ongoing programming. They have worked tirelessly to recruit volunteers, to provide economic benefit to area farms through the purchase of healthy local ingredients, and to secure funding to support the work of preparing, cooking and delivering meals to participants. To date, Farmshed has prepared and delivered more than 5,000 Sib Pab Meals!

WISCAP President's Award

Each year, the President of the WISCAP Board of Directors identifies a person or an organization that deserves recognition by the community action network for going above and beyond a typical partnership. In the recent past, the winners have been individuals that have had long standing relationships with the network, and these relationships have clearly demonstrated an effort to help WISCAP and its members advance our mission. 

This year, George Hinton, CEO of Social Development Commission and President of the WISCAP Board of Directors, awarded Kitty Kocol with the 2021 WISCAP President's Award. Kitty Kocol is the State Administrator of Poverty & Hunger Relief Programs for the State of Wisconsin. She has exhibited leadership addressing poverty and advancing solutions through administration of the Community Services Block Grant. She has worked tirelessly in managing The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to prevent hunger and establish food security for low-income families

Kitty has always displayed unfailing support for the mission of Community Action and she has always shown passion and patience in her work. Commitment to social & economic justice has been a hallmark of her career and the difference she has made to the lives of Wisconsinites living below the poverty line is immeasurable. 

WISCAP is honored to have Kitty Kocol as a long-time friend of community action in Wisconsin and we extend our deepest respect and appreciation for all that she has done and continues to do.


Governor Tony Evers Proclaims May 2021 Community Action Month

Community Action Month in Wisconsin 2021

May 6, 2021

View the proclamation here

Whereas;  one in ten Wisconsinites lives below the federal poverty line,
and more than 18,000 kids and youthacross our state experiencedpicture of proclamation homelessness in 2019; and

Whereas; community action agencies are robust state and local forces that connect the people they serve to lifechanging services and create pathways to prosperity, and they can be found in almost every county in the United States; and

Whereas; community action agencies in Wisconsin have made essential contributions to our state, creating economic opportunities for low-income and working poor Wisconsinites and strengthening our communities; and
Whereas; the Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) is comprised of 16 community action agencies, United Migrant Opportunity Services, and the Foundation for Rural Housing, which work together to fight poverty and help folks across our state achieve economic self-sufficiency; and

Whereas; since 1974, community action agencies in Wisconsin have contributed to policy development , community support and advocacy, and programming in the areas of affordable housing, weatherization, food security, employment, entrepreneurship, child development, community economic development, health, and education; and

Whereas; Wisconsin ' s community action agencies are committed to incorporating and amplifying the voices of the people living in the communities they serve, with a board structure that includes low-income individuals and families, elected officials or their representatives, and local professionals, groups, and interests ; and

Whereas; while the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique and unprecedented challenges over the past year, our community action agencies have consistently stepped up to meet these challenges , developing creative and innovative ways to ensure that all Wisconsinites continue to have access to the quality services and programming they need; and

Whereas; this month, the state of Wisconsin renews its resolve to partner with community action agencies and groups like WISCAP to fight inequities, reduce economic disparities, and provide resources and support to individuals, families, and communities throughout our state;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Tony Evers, Governor of the State of Wisconsin, do hereby proclaim May 2021 as
throughout the State of Wisconsin and I commend this observance to all our state's residents.


WERA Announcement


For Immediate Release:logo for WERA
February 25, 2021

Kassidy Farrey
Communications & Outreach Manger
(608) 244-4422

Gov. Tony Evers Announces $322 million Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance (WERA) Program

The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) supports Gov. Tony Evers for his announcement of the $322 million Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance (WERA) Program. The program will provide financial assistance for rent, rental arrearages, utility costs, utility arrearages, and wrap around services for eligible households who have experienced impacted income resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

From June through November 2020, WISCAP’s network, in partnership with the Department of Administration (DOA), distributed over $28 million in rental assistance through the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program (WRAP). Building off that experience, the partnership between DOA and WISCAP’s network is now helping to distribute WERA funds. Eligible applicants include Wisconsin residents who demonstrate a risk of experiencing housing instability, have seen their income impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and earn a household income at or below 80 percent of the county median income. Rental and utility assistance payments are made directly to the landlord or utility provider on behalf of the tenant.

Residents of Brown, Dane, Milwaukee, and Waukesha Counties and the cities of Madison and Milwaukee can apply directly to their local government’s rental assistance provider.

The pandemic has put an additional strain on an already fragile situation for low-income households in Wisconsin where, prior to COVID-19, over 306,000 low-income renters in the state paid more than half their income on housing,  “Our communities throughout the state — rural, suburban and urban — are struggling with the effects of this public health emergency, and it is with respect to housing security where so many Wisconsinites are especially vulnerable,” said WISCAP Executive Director Brad Paul. “The Governor’s announcement of this new round of rental assistance is extremely encouraging as it provides critical resources to prevent eviction, homelessness, and ensure greater housing stability.”

“Eviction has long-lasting, devastating effects on a family’s future wellbeing and on the community as a whole,” says Hetti Brown, executive director of Couleecap, a Community Action Program in Southwestern Wisconsin. “Housing stability creates a feeling of safety and security, a foundation for a child’s educational success, and sense of community. The WERA program is an investment in these fundamental needs that we all share.”

The WERA program is coordinated by WISCAP, local community action agencies, and Energy Services, Inc. The program is administered by the Department of Administration (DOA) and funded by the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury. You can stay up-to-date regarding WERA by visiting our WERA page.

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