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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: This statewide program supports individuals affected by COVID. Here is how they can help.

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As people strive to move forward with their lives after the pandemic, they might need extra help in doing so.

Project Recovery, a program to support people in Wisconsin affected by COVID-19, helps with problems, whether big, small or unique, said Phoebe Frenette, a Project Recovery team leader for Waukesha County.

“We are a hotline and can help with basic needs, and we also provide mental health support,” said Frenette of this FEMA-funded statewide program. She said Project Recovery trains counselors to provide free, confidential, local support and education to help people cope with pandemic stress and hardship.

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Project Recovery serves Wisconsin individuals and communities with the focus on Brown, Dane, Jefferson, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine, Rock, Walworth and Waukesha counties. In those counties, Frenette said, there are more Project Recovery staff working to provide services. In other counties, people can still call the hotline to be referred to resources in their area.

Project Recovery also hosts a podcast and weekly Facebook discussion group, said Frenette.

She said the program helps with a variety of issues.

One client had a school-age boy whose father died of COVID-19, said Frenette, and his mother also not able to afford his son’s karate lessons. Frenette said Project Recovery found a free grief support group for kids and found a church that had a program to cover the cost of karate lessons.

A videography business owner needed help as his business was dwindling due to COVID-19. Project Recovery connected him with payroll protection and other loan programs.

A young mother had COVID-19 and was bedridden. Project Recovery connected her with a food pantry program that delivers.

“Everyone is inherently resilient,” said Frenette. “Most will be OK on the other side (of the crisis). Some are working through it and thriving, and others need more support.”

Emotional support

Frenette said people can call the hotline just to talk.

Some callers have anxiety stemming from COVID-19. “We talk about how they are feeling, we listen and may do breathing and meditation with them,” said Frenette. “A lot of us do need to talk. It is really good to open up, as COVID-19 is a crisis, and we all deal with it on all levels. Some people are upset and their finances are out of whack.”

She said some callers have needed to talk about changes in safety requirements at work and in the community and the stress of socializing after being at home, she said.

Frenette said the emotional support service is confidential, free and nonjudgmental. She added that if callers want, counselors follow up with them to see how they are doing.

“We all have been through this. We want people to know that what they are feeling is normal,” she said.

Rental assistance

Frenette said another service that Project Recovery helps with is connecting people with rental assistance programs and creating awareness about these programs.

Project Recovery partners with Community Advocates in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties and the Social Development Commission in Milwaukee to help callers apply for rental assistance.

“We definitely want to expand our outreach of the program, especially to inform tenants that future rent can be covered. Some tenants think they can only apply if they are already behind,” said Deb Heffner, housing strategy director at Community Advocates for Waukesha and Milwaukee counties.

These groups manage federal funds such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in December and through state and local funding.

The program will make payments to landlords or utility companies for up to three months of rent at a time, 12 months of back-rent and utilities costs accrued since March 13, 2020, and electricity costs.

“This can be if people lost their job or could not work as much, as they had to be with their kids, or if hours were cut at work,” said Frenette. She said the assistance is only for rentals and not mortgage support and added that there is help for internet assistance.

“Landlords can also be a great support with helping to spread the word,” Heffner said.

“They are so many ways we can help,” said Frenette.

For more information

To contact a Project Recovery counselor, call 608-237-1255 from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. or send email to

To listen to the Project Recovery podcast or for more information, visit

Cathy Kozlowicz can be reached at 262-361-9132 or Follow her on Twitter at @kozlowicz_cathy.