Wisconsin Fund grant program aims to help repair failing septic systems

For the Tomahawk Leader

WISCONSIN – The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) is currently accepting applications for the Wisconsin Fund, a program that provides financial assistance to homeowners and small businesses with a failing private onsite wastewater treatment system (POWTS), commonly called septic systems.

In a release from Tuesday, Oct. 17, DSPS said failing POWTS, even if still operating, are a health concern because they contaminate well and ground water with disease-causing bacteria and other microbes.

“Repairing or replacing these systems can easily cost several thousand dollars, a large financial burden for many homeowners and small businesses,” DSPS stated. “The Wisconsin Fund exists solely to help Wisconsinites with limited resources pay for these repairs.”

Eligibility is based on several criteria, including household income and age of the system. Currently, 67 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties participate in the program. DSPS said individuals interested in the funding should contact their county or tribal government to find out if they are eligible and for help preparing grant applications.

The state has administered the Wisconsin Fund since the program started in 1978. However, the program sunsetted at the end of the 2022-23 biennium.

“Recognizing the importance of the Wisconsin Fund, Governor Tony Evers signed 2023 Wisconsin Act 19, which reauthorized the program,” DSPS stated, noting that due to the timing of the reauthorization, DSPS was unable to accept grant applications for the 2023-24 budget year.

Because grants were not awarded during that year, DSPS will award up to $1,680,000.00 – two years’ worth of grant funding – in a single round next year.

“DSPS and the Evers Administration realize what a valuable financial lifeline these grants can be for folks in rural Wisconsin,” said DSPS Secretary-designee Dan Hereth. “Helping them ensure their well water and ground water are safe is just another way our department protects public safety, and we’re proud to administer this program.”

Applications close on Jan. 31, 2024, and funds will be disbursed after July 1, 2024, as set by statute.

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