Milwaukee Emergency Rent Assistance Program


Welcome to the Social Development Commission’s Milwaukee Emergency Rent Assistance program, also known as MERA. MERA is a new program that provides a new opportunity for City of Milwaukee residents who are experiencing financial hardship due to the impact of COVID-19. We understand that many people are going through challenging times and we are here to help you get back on the right path. 

In 2020, the Social Development Commission helped over 7,000 families by providing more than $16 million in rent assistance through the Wisconsin Rent Assistance Program-WRAP and Milwaukee Rent Assistance Program-MRAP. While payments varied, on average, we distributed $2328.00 to individual households in need of rent assistance help.

We believe rent assistance is essential as we help local families impacted by the pandemic. Below you will find the eligibility criteria for rent assistance and the process so you can know what to expect. We have made updates to our application process so that we can better serve you during these trying times.

What is MERA?

The Milwaukee Emergency Rent Assistance program, also known as MERA, is a new program administered by SDC providing rent assistance to eligible residents of the City of Milwaukee. Through MERA eligible households experiencing financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can qualify for the following help:
  • Up to 12 months of rent assistance.
    • Only past due rent starting March 13, 2020, is eligible.
    • Once back rent is reduced, assistance is only provided for up to 3 months at a time.
    • Recertification of the household’s income eligibility is necessary after three months.
  • An additional three months (15 month program maximum) if:
    • Extra months are needed to ensure housing stability and
    • Funding is available.
  • Approved rent assistance checks are mailed directly to the landlord.
MERA is provided on a first-come, first-served basis, and is only available while funding is available.


What is not covered?

  • Residence outside the City of Milwaukee
  • Mortgage payments

Who can apply?

Individuals and families who live in the City of Milwaukee, who have experienced a loss or reduction of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and meet the following criteria:
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Reside in the City of Milwaukee
  • Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a significant reduction in income, incurred significant costs, or experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • At-risk of becoming homeless or experiencing unstable housing
  • Has a household income at or below 80% Milwaukee County Median Income (CMI)
  • Households with income at or below 50% of Milwaukee County Median Family Income or includes an individual who has been unemployed for 90 days or more will be prioritized for assistance. Within those prioritized categories, households will be selected at random (not first come, first serve).

Application Process

For help with completing your MERA application, watch these helpful videos on:

How to Create an Account
Signing in to Your Account

The MERA application process can be completed by the landlord and the tenant on a computer, tablet, or mobile device.

Key information needed to complete the online application:

  • Applicant Information: gender, race, ethnicity, social security number (if applicable), household size, date of birth, military and disability status
  • Rental Property Information: address, lease type (month-to-month, annual), and rent amount
  • Landlord Information: name, address, phone number, and email
  • Income Sources for all Household Members: earned wages, SSI/SSDI, unemployment, etc.
  • Income Loss Information and Documentation

All applications are processed through our new online portal. Once you have created your profile inside the application portal, you can save your application at any time and come back to it.

If you need help or have questions regarding the application process, you can contact a member of our team at

*Please note that all services the Social Development Commission (SDC) provides are free of charge, including rental assistance application processing. Under no circumstances should you be asked for payment for our services. If you are asked for payment in order to receive or fast-track services, please do not provide this information. Immediately contact our team at 414-906-2700.

Step 1: Create a profile in the application portal.


Your profile will be unique to you and once it is created, you will be able to log on with your email and password to complete and save your application. You can also come back and check your application status.

Step 2: Complete the online application.
You will need to complete the application completely with all required information and documentation. You can save your application at any time and come back to complete it if necessary.

Step 3: Submit the online application.
Once the application and required documentation are completed, you will be prompted to submit the application. Once you have successfully submitted the application, you will receive an email confirmation immediately.

Step 4: Landlord verification.
Once your application is submitted, your landlord will receive an email notifying them that the request was made. The landlord will be asked for proof of residency, proof of ownership and other necessary information.

Step 5: Review process.
Following submission, one of our MERA team members will be assigned to review your application. They will reach out to you by email to get additional information as needed. Additional documentation may also be required. Remember, you can always check on your application status by logging into the online portal using your email and password.

Step 6: Decision notice.
If your rent assistance application is approved, you will receive an email confirmation and a rent payment assistance check will be mailed to the landlord.

Each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If you are not eligible for rent assistance through this program, you will be notified of the reason why. You may contact us at to determine whether any adjustments can be made to your application to make it eligible for the MERA program.

How to Create an Account

How to Sign in to Your Account

Landlord Information

As a Landlord, you have the ability to apply for rent assistance on behalf of your tenant.
CLICK HERE to apply on behalf of your tenant. 

If you are a Landlord and have questions please CLICK HERE

MERA in the News

Milwaukee police enter an apartment during an eviction as the property owner stands by

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Article: MCSO deputies enter an apartment during an eviction as the property owner stands by.

“It could be bad, if landlords do not show some tolerance for tenants still struggling,” Hinton said. “Hundreds and hundreds of people could be evicted.”

– Dr. George Hinton, CEO, Social Development Commission


The federal ban on evictions was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium that was scheduled to expire on June 30, 2021 was extended through July 31, 2021 and this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium. SDC’s CEO Dr. George Hinton provided his perspective on the current and pandemic-related rental crisis for a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

M.E.R.A. Funders & Partners

City of Milwaukee

City of Milwaukee logo

Supportive Services

The Social Development Commission has existed for more than 50 years empowering Milwaukee County residents with the resources to move beyond poverty. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are experiencing poverty.

We are built to help communities in crisis.

We are here to help those individuals and families find their pathway to success. We encourage you to check out some of our other services that may help you find your path, especially during these troubling times.

CR-Social Development Commission is an Equal Opportunity Employer and Service Provider and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, political affiliation or belief. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities. If you need this information interpreted to a language you understand or in a different format, please contact La Toya Jones, Equal Opportunity Officer, at 414-906-2823 or Callers who are deaf or hearing or speech-impaired may reach us at Wisconsin Relay Number 711.

SDC-Main Office
1730 West North Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53205

6850 North Teutonia Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53209

9155 North 76th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53223

2968 South Chase Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207

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