Reentry Ready Resources

Toddler and man

Recently released from prison or jail?

Have questions?

We have some answers for you

Housing

How can I find housing?

Stable, affordable housing is a key part of a successful transition after release from incarceration. It can be challenging to locate, apply for, and be accepted as a tenant. Using the resources below can improve your chances of  securing the housing that works best for you.  

Housing Authorities in Wisconsin – If you would like specific information about public housing programs such as housing choice vouchers (Section 8), please contact your local Public Housing Authority or Agency. 

Wisconsin Community Action Agencies – In Wisconsin, there are 16 Community Action Agencies to help people get out of and stay out of poverty. These agencies provide services for their local population. Agencies offer affordable housing using several programs. Many manage rental properties and have homeownership and rental assistance programs. To get help from community action, you must contact the agency that serves your local area.  

Wisconsin Housing Coalitions – The Wisconsin Balance of State is comprised of local coalitions of housing providers throughout 69 counties in the state of Wisconsin. All coalitions share a common purpose to provide quality homeless services and affordable housing options to end homelessness.  For the other three counties not included in Balance of state, contact: Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County, Milwaukee Continuum of Care, or Racine Continuum of Care.

Rent Smart – This virtual class is 6 hours and taken on Zoom. If you attend all 6 hours, you will receive a certificate that you can then include with your rental application.

Below are several websites that advertise and list rental vacancies. UW-Madison Division of Extension does not endorse any of the following websites.  

Helpful links:

Where can I find local homeless and housing services?

Housing providers across Wisconsin are supported by the Wisconsin Balance of State. You can search for available housing at https://www.wiboscoc.org/find-services.html

Additional homeless assistance agencies can be found at https://www.hud.gov/states/wisconsin/homeless/agencies.

Identification

How do I get my drivers license renewed?

You will need your Wisconsin Driver’s License number or Wisconsin Identification number, the last four digits of your Social Security number, and your date of birth OR your name, Social Security number, date of birth and gender.

Check to see if you are eligible at Reinstatement Eligibility Inquiry. The online system will tell you if you are able to reinstate your Wisconsin Driver’s license. It will also tell you if you need to do anything to reinstate your license.The online system will tell ou if you are able to reinstate your Wisconsin Driver’s license It will also tell you if you need to do anything to reinstate your license  

You might need to:  

  • Pay fines. 
  • File proof of your auto insurance. 
  • Obtain an Ignition Interlock Device. This is a breathalyzer that is installed on your vehicle. You must breathe into the device to start your vehicle. If the device identifies any alcohol use it will not allow your car to start. 
  • Pay a reinstatement fee with a credit or debit card. Many times you will be able to do this online.
  • If your driver’s license is renewed or reissued during this process, you will be given a driving receipt.  Print this receipt. This will be your driver license until you receive the card in the mail.  

What is an occupational license?

A Wisconsin Occupational Driver’s License is a Driver’s License that may be available to you if your license has been revoked or suspended. It would allow you to continue driving for work and household reasons. An Occupational Driver’s License has rules for what vehicle you could drive and when and where you could drive. It is very specific.  Check to see if you are eligible for an occupational license here: Occupational License Eligibility Check

Where can I drive with an occupational license?

Most people can drive to…

  • the agency where you are completing your Intoxicated Driver Program (IDP) assessment and Driver Safety Plan (DSP) 
  • work and back
  • school, college or university and back
  • your place of worship and back
  • attend to necessary family needs such as medical appointments
  • places that you need to visit to maintain your household or “homemaker duties” (and back)
  • grocery store
  • transporting children to and from school or day care
  • pharmacy
  • bank
  • laundromat
  • dependent/minor child visitation
  • gas station

Why would I not able to get an occupational license?

You may not be able to get an occupational license if you…

  • are not a Wisconsin resident 
  • are a juvenile who committed offenses under Ch. 938 Wis. Stats. 
  • are suspended for failing to pay a forfeiture (such as a traffic ticket or municipal citation) 
  • your license has been canceled (rather than revoked or suspended) 
  • have never held a driver license 
  • are currently eligible to reinstate your driver license 
  • have two or more revocation or suspension cases from separate incidents in a one-year period 
  • have not served all mandatory waiting periods for an Occupational License 
  • for a commercial driver license (CDL) 
  • if you are permanently revoked under 2017 Wisconsin Act 172. 

How do I apply for an occupational driver's license?

  • Check to see if you are eligible to apply for an occupation driver’s license at Occupational License Eligibility Check
  • Complete the Application for Occupational Operator License form MV3027. Fill out and print the completed form. Bring it with you. On this form, list: 
  • the counties or states in which you will be driving 
  • the time(s) of day you will be driving
  • your occupation and employer
  • other occupational uses. This may be church, homemaker duties, student and emergency service provider.
  • your participation in a  Driver Safety Plan
  • Complete the Wisconsin Driver’s License application form MV3001. Fill out and print the completed form. Bring it with you. 
  • Complete your vision screening.  
  • Provide proof of your identity and proof of legal presence through: 
    • a certified birth certificate
    • a valid (or expired five years or less) US Passport
    • a valid (or expired eight years or less) photo driver license or photo identification card
    • other options see proof of identity
  • Provide SR-22 Certificate. This is a high-risk insurance offered through some Wisconsin auto insurance agents. It is more expensive than regular auto insurance.
  • Pay the nonrefundable application fee
  • Submit the above at a DMV Customer Service Center. Be sure to arrive 2+ hours before the center closes.
  • Your card will be mailed to you.

Learn more at Wisconsin DMV Occupational License.

What forms of ID can I get if I can't get a drivers license?

Not eligible for a driver’s license? Apply for an ID card.

  1. Complete a Wisconsin ID card application. You can print it here or pick it up from a DMV Customer Service Center.  When filling out this form, you will be asked for the things below. 
  2. Go to the DMV Customer Service Center and give them your ID card application. 
  3. All ID cards are mailed. A receipt including your photo will be provided to you. This receipt is acceptable photo identification for voting and serves as your ID until your card arrives in the mail

Missing some or all of the items above?  You can still get an ID for voting. Just bring what you have to the DMV and fill out two forms (form MV3004, and form MV3012). 

Not sure what you need?  Use this interactive guide to determine your eligibility, look at a checklist of requirements, and allow you to pre-fill any required application(s). 

Not eligible for an ID card?

You may need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).  An ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, is a tax processing number only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a Social Security Number (SSN). 

Do I need an ITIN? The answer is yes if…  

  • You do not have an SSN and are not eligible to obtain one, and 
  • You have a requirement to have a federal tax identification number or file a federal tax return, and 
  • You are in one of the following categories: Nonresident alien who is required to file a U.S. tax return 
  • U.S. resident alien who is (based on days present in the United States) filing a U.S. tax return 
  • Dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen/resident alien 
  • Dependent or spouse of a nonresident alien visa holder 
  • Nonresident alien claiming a tax treaty benefit
  • Nonresident alien student, professor or researcher filing a U.S. tax return or claiming an exception

Not sure if this is you?  Use the IRS’s Interactive Tax Assistant tool to help determine if you should file an application to receive an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). 

For more detailed information on ITINs, refer to: ITIN FAQs in English  or ITIN FAQs in Spanish.

How do I get a replacement social security card?

Getting a Social Security Card is free! 

  • Use your personal my Social Security account to request a replacement Social Security number (SSN) card online if you: 
    • Are a U.S. citizen 18 years or older with a U.S. mailing address 
    • Are not requesting a name change or any other change to your card 
    • Have a driver’s license or a state-issued identification card 
  •  Log in to your personal my Social Security account 
  • Select ”Replace your Social Security Card” 
  • Answer the screening questions to confirm eligibility 
  • Enter in personal information such as name, SSN, date of birth, address, and state driver’s license or ID information 

What if I do not have a my Social Security account?

If you can’t apply for a card online,

  • Fill out and print anApplication for a Social Security Card 
  • Find at least 2 documents that will prove your citizenship, age, and identity.  
    • U.S. birth certificate or passport 
    • Something that is current and shows your name, date of birth or age, and preferably a recent photograph of yourself such as a U.S. driver’s license or state ID
  • If you do not have one of these documents, you will be asked to show other documents such as:
    • Employee identification card 
    • School Identification card
    • Health insurance card 
    • U.S military identification card  
  • Look up your local Social Security office for their address and business hours
  • Bring documents and the completed application with you to your Social Security office

Where can I find resources about drivers licenses, ID cards, ITIN cards, and social security cards?

  • Lift Wisconsin (Legal Interventions for Transforming Wisconsin): https://www.liftwisconsin.org/
    • Residents of Dane, Sauk, Columbia, Marquette, Dodge and Jefferson counties can get free legal advice and an understanding of the steps it might take to reinstate a license or to resolve other suspension issues.

Work

How do I apply for a job with felonies on my record?

You may apply for positions directly with employers or with help from someone like an employee at the Job Center of Wisconsin. Staff can assist with job applications, resumé writing, and interview tips.

The Federal Bonding Program helps justice-involved individuals find work. The job applicant can obtain a fidelity bond:, a business insurance policy that protects the employer in the case of loss of money or property due to employee dishonesty. The bonds cover the first 6 months of employment and there is no cost to the applicant or employer.  

The job applicant, or employer, must contact a local bonding coordinator in a Wisconsin Job Center. Call 888-258-9966 or visit https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/bonding/ for more information.  

It also is helpful to know that employers can benefit from the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) when they hire justice-involved individuals who are reentering their community.  

Helpful links:

What if I don't have anything professional to wear to a job interview?

Some communities have a local career closet, where people can find professional clothing. Career closets provide free or low-cost clothing for people in need who are preparing to attend a job interview or begin work at a new position. These services can often be found at local community centers such as the YWCA or YMCA. Students may also find this at their college or university’s career center. 

Resources in Madison, WI 

Goodman Community Center

Resources in Milwaukee, WI

Bottomless Closet : Their mission is to provide work-appropriate, gently-used clothing and supportive services to men and women entering or re-entering the workforce. 

West Allis-West Milwaukee School District Community Closets: Community Closets are a resource available to all West Allis-West Milwaukee community members. The Community Closets are filled with many items (e.g., non-perishable food, clothing from birth through adults, school supplies, etc.) to help families in need.   

Capuchin Clothes Closet: Located at the House of Peace site, serves the guest from both there and St. Ben’s Community Meal.

Father Gene’s Help Program: Father Gene’s Help Program gives clean, used clothing to low-income individuals and families. 414-258-4357

Resources in Racine, WI

Dress for Success: The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. YWCA Southeast Wisconsin operates Dress for Success Racine at their Regency Mall location.

Will I have fines, child support or legal financial obligations taken out of my paycheck?

What is a wage garnishment? A wage garnishment is when a court judgment takes money belonging to you from a paycheck or bank account.

How much money can be taken from my pay due to a wage garnishment? Generally, no more than 20% of your pay may be garnished.

Are there any situations in which garnishment of pay is not allowed? Yes. Those situations are:

  • Your income is below the federal poverty level
  • You receive public benefits, or at least 25% of your earnings are for child support payment.

What must happen before a wage garnishment starts?

  1. A debt collector files a lawsuit against you to collect the debt
  2. The court awards the debt collector a judgment against you
  3. After the judgment against you is made, the creditor files a court request for garnishment
  4. A garnishment notice is issued to your employer and/or bank
  5. Garnishment begins and continues until debt is paid

Where can I find legal help for wage garnishment? If you are having trouble with debt collectors, utility shut-offs, payday or car title loans, mortgage foreclosure or are thinking about bankruptcy please consider contacting the following resources:

Legal Questions, Tax Guidance, and Voting

How can I get affordable legal help?

The Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) is a good place to start with your questions. This public service can help you determine if you need a lawyer and how to proceed if you do. By calling the service, you will speak with a legal assistant who will help you find the right kind of support for your situation. If a private attorney is a good option, it is important to know that the attorneys who are referred through this program charge no more than $20 for a 30-minute consultation. In some cases, you may fix your legal issue at the first meeting. Call 800-362-9082 for help. LRIS is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

If free attorney services are needed, you may qualify for free legal help from Legal Action Wisconsin (855-847-2529). This service provides free legal services to low-income people who would be denied justice without their help. Offices are available in La Crosse, Madison, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Milwaukee, and Racine.  

Legal Action Wisconsin’s Reentry Legal Services Program works with clients before and after their reentry into the community. The program helps with applying for disability, health care and other public benefits. More information is available at https://www.legalaction.org/services/reentry-legal-services-program.

Judicare Legal Aid (formerly Wisconsin Judicare) serves the northern 33 counties providing legal representation to individuals with low incomes. More information is available at http://www.judicare.org/Content/Get_Help.cfm.

Helpful links:

How can I get help filing my taxes?

Volunteers trained by the IRS and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) prepare basic income tax returns for free as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. 

VITA income tax assistance is available for:

  • Low-to-moderate income individuals
  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Non-English speaking taxpayers
  • Military personnel
  • Senior individuals
  • Individuals who qualify for the homestead credit or the earned income credit

Generally, the program’s services are offered from Feb. 15 through April 15 at various community centers, churches, and libraries. You can find a nearby VITA location at https://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/.

More information can be found at https://www.revenue.wi.gov/Pages/FAQS/pcs-vita.aspx.

Can I vote? How?

If you have been convicted of a felony you are disqualified from voting in the state of Wisconsin until you complete your sentence. This includes any term of imprisonment, extended supervision, parole, or probation for the crime that led to disqualification from voting.  

Once you have completed your sentence, your right to vote is automatically restored. If you were incarcerated in a state prison or otherwise under the supervision of the Department of Corrections (DOC), the DOC must inform you in writing that your right to vote is restored. If you were held in county jail, the sheriff is responsible for providing the written notification to you. 

If you are reentering a Wisconsin community from prison, you will need to register to vote again, even if you were registered prior to your conviction. 

If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor (except for misdemeanor treason or bribery), you do not lose your right to vote. This means you can vote even if you are in jail or prison, or “on paper” (on probation, parole, or extended supervision) for a misdemeanor. Persons who are in jail and are eligible to vote can apply to vote absentee by mail. 

Voting details: 

Income and Benefits

How do I find out if I qualify for disability or social security payments?

The Social Security’s website https://beta.ssa.gov/prepare has questions for you to answer to find out if you are eligible. The questions will take less than 10 minutes.  

Once you find out that you are eligible, you can apply for social security here: https://beta.ssa.gov/apply. You will be asked questions about your parents, your children, your bank account, and your family’s financial resources. The link https://beta.ssa.gov/apply has all of the information that you will need. Gather it all together and then complete the form.  

Visit https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/qualify.html to find out if you qualify for social security disability insurance (SSDI). The website  https://www.ssa.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits.htm is another resource to check out. It has adult and children disability “kits” where the information is all in one spot for easy printing. This information is available in both English and Spanish. 

Can I qualify for public benefits like Food Share?

Programs have different income limits and different rules. You need to apply to see what help you can receive. At ACCESS you can apply for all these services in one place.

To find out what you may be able to qualify for:

  • Go to the “See if you can get help” webpage for Access
  • Answer the questions about..
    • Your household – number of people in your home
    • Your income – money from your job, child support, side-businesses
    • Assets—things you own and money you have
    • Expenses – bills, rent, utilities
  • The website will then tell you what help you may be able to get

To apply for ACCESS:

  • Create an ACCESS account. Make sure you save your login name and password in a safe place.
  • Log into Access.
  • Complete all the questions

After you complete your application you will be told what to do next. You might need to show proof of identity, income, rent and utilities, and more. Make sure to open all letters sent to you. The letters tell you the status of your benefits and if you have to provide more information.

The easiest way to view letters and provide proof is to download the My ACCESS app.

Log in to your ACCESS account
In your profile and change to online only.

The MyACCESS app is available for iPhones and Androids.

Apple App Store and Google Play Images

How do I open a bank account?

  1. Decide if you want a checking account or a savings account. A checking account gives you a way to pay your bills and make purchases. A savings account gives you a way to save money. 
  2. Get your paperwork ready. Most banks will require the following items… 
    • government-issued photo ID. This could be a driver’s license, a state ID card, or a passport.
    • a second form of ID. Generally a utility bill with your name and address, your social security card, or your birth certificate will work.
    • your social security number or taxpayer identification number.
  3. Go to the bank and ask to speak to a customer service representative.  
    • Show them your paperwork and ask if they need anything else. 
    • Ask questions. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created “Opening a Checking or Savings Account” that lists some you may want to ask.  
    • Be sure to ask about the different fees that you could be charged and if they require a minimum amount of money in your account(s). 
  4. Feel free to take the materials home to review them. You do not have to make any decisions at the bank.
  5. You may also want to have a trusted friend or relative read the documents with you.  
  6. When you are ready, return with your documents and at least the minimum deposit.

Helpful link: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “Opening a Checking or Savings Account”: https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/cfpb_your-money-your-goals_open-checking-savings_tool_2018-11.pdf 

Expenses

How can I change how much child support I pay?

The Wisconsin Division of Economic Support: Bureau of Child Support has information related to child support orders. The Office of Child Support Enforcement has an online guide for Changing a Child Support Order

This Department of Children & Families website contains information about options to change a court order for child support.  A change request could be intended to increase or decrease the amount of child support. You can find your local child support agency at https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/cs/agencylist

Helpful links:

How do I find out about my student loans?

In August 2022, a Student Loan Forgiveness program was announced. For the most up-to-date information, visit the Federal Student Aid website

You can learn more about the status of your federal student loans through the U.S. Department of Education. A great place to start is to contact the financial institution that services your federal student loan. A list of federal student loan servicers can be found on the Federal Student Aid website, “Who’s My Student Loan Servicer?”.  

Private student loans are also maintained by servicers. However, there is no single website that contains all the information about your private loans. You will need to contact the financial institution that services your private student loan for more details. If you do not know which servicer maintains your loan you can request a free credit report, search the report for the organization that services your loan, and then contact your loan servicer. 

Helpful links:

What are the best ways to use my money?

What resources are available to me? 

Managing financial resources can feel overwhelming. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension has developed resources to help you create a financial plan that works for you.  

Extension financial educators can help you find resources and come up with a personal plan. Find contact information for an Extension financial educator on this webpage. You can also contact your local Extension office for more information. 

Budgeting

Saving

When You Need to Reduce Expenses

People to contact:

How can I find out what's on my credit report?

What is a credit report?  

Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. By law, everybody can obtain three free credit reports each year (one from each of the three credit bureaus). The information in your credit report affects your life in important ways—your ability to get a loan, how much you pay for credit and insurance, securing a job, renting a house or apartment, and preventing identity theft. It is important to check your report regularly to make sure it is accurate and up to date.  

How do I get my credit reports?

You can request one free credit report every year at AnnualCreditReport.com from each of the three main credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Companies use the information in your credit report to calculate credit scores. AnnualCreditReport.com and its related mailing address and phone number are the only official ways to receive the free credit reports you are entitled to by law. 

How do I request my credit reports by mail? 

Annual Credit Report Request Service 

P.O. Box 105281 

Atlanta, GA 30348-5281 

Requests by mail may take two-three weeks for delivery. 

How do I request my credit reports by phone?  

You can call (877) 322-8228 to request your credit reports.  

What type of information will I need to get my credit reports? 

  • Full Name 
  • Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). If using an ITIN, you must mail a request form. 
  • Date of Birth 
  • Address 
  • Previous addresses from the past two years. 

We recommend having this information ready before starting and not relying on memory if you have moved several times. Entering wrong addresses can delay the process. 

How often should I check my credit reports?  

You could view all three reports at the same time, but we recommend reviewing one report every four months–perhaps Experian on 2/2, Equifax on 6/6, and TransUnion on 10/10 of each year. By spacing it out in that way, you have a good way to make sure all of the information in your report is up to date. 

What is a credit score? 

Your credit score is calculated using the information in your credit report. Financial institutions use your credit score to decide whether to offer you a loan or credit card. Your credit score also determines the interest rates and credit limits that financial institutions offer to you. A credit score is not included with your free credit reports.  

Your Health

Where can I find free or sliding scale medical services?

Many clinics in Wisconsin provide services for people with little or no health care coverage. You can find a free or low-cost health clinic in your area using the links below. 2-1-1 is another resource that can be dialed anywhere in Wisconsin. If you are not getting through by dialing 211, call 877-947-2211.  

Links for Reference:  

How do I sign up for health care?

There are many ways to learn more about government programs that offer low-cost or free health insurance.

Here are some options that might answer your questions, tell you how to apply, or give you qualification options:

Helpful resources:

What mental health services are there in my community?

The Opening Avenues to Reentry Success (OARS) program is available for people in many Wisconsin counties from 6 months to 2 years after reentry. 

The National 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides free and confidential support for anyone experiencing a suicidal, mental health, and/or substance use crisis

Helpful links:

How can I get to medical appointments if I can't drive?

Rides to medical appointments may be available through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. You can learn more here: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/nemt/index.htm

Additionally, you may contact the Job Center of Wisconsin to learn of other possibilities. Your county center’s contact information can be found at http://www.wisconsinjobcenter.org/directory/default.htm.

Insurance

How do I apply for car insurance?

First, you will need to gather documents and information that insurance companies want when considering your car insurance application. These documents and information include your personal information (date of birth, driver’s license info., marital status, etc.) and your car’s information (year, make, model, etc.).  

Next, you will want to shop around with different insurance companies. You may find that some insurance companies will not offer you an auto insurance policy, while others will. However, the difference in costs between your offers can be great. It is important to get a quote from many insurance companies to find the right coverage at the best price.  

If you try several insurers and cannot find coverage, you can be insured through the Wisconsin Automobile Insurance Plan (WAIP). This is a plan created by Wisconsin law to provide automobile insurance to those who cannot get coverage from usual market sources. Rates charged will usually be higher than rates charged in the voluntary market. If your policy is under the Wisconsin Automobile Insurance Plan you should continue to shop for less expensive coverage. 

Helpful link: 

What should I know about renters insurance?

Renter’s insurance is usually not required, but here are two reasons why you should consider renter’s insurance. 

1. Avoid paying out of pocket for stolen or damaged goods – Having to pay out of pocket for damaged or stolen personal items in your rented apartment, condo or house is not ideal for most tenants. Additionally, your landlord’s insurance policy will not cover your personal belongings, making a separate renter’s insurance policy necessary for full coverage. 

2. Protect yourself from liability – Keep in mind that renter’s insurance doesn’t just apply to your belongings. It can also protect you from liability in a situation such as a guest being injured in your home. If you don’t have the money to cover expensive medical bills or legal fees on your own, renter’s insurance can come in handy. 

How to get renters insurance 

1. Figure out what is and isn’t covered by your landlord’s insurance policy 

Your landlord is required by law to have a certain amount of insurance on the building. However, it often only covers the structure itself, not the value of individual tenant’s belongings. Your landlord’s insurance policy will also likely not include bodily injury coverage or certain types of damage, such as water backup damage or appliance-related damages. Speak to your landlord and get a copy of their renter’s policy to figure out what you need to insure.  

2. Do your research 

Learn the basics of different types of renter’s insurance policies so that you know exactly what’s covered and what’s not covered. Keep in mind, the value of your belongings may impact the amount you pay for a renter’s insurance policy. The higher in value they are, the more you might pay, and vice versa. 

Basic renter’s insurance coverage: 

  • Contents – Helps protect your furniture, clothing & other items from covered losses.
  • Loss of use – Provides reimbursement for additional living expenses when a covered loss prevents you from living in your home.
  • Personal liability – Get help paying for covered damage or bodily injury caused by an accident that occurs in your home.
  • Medical payments to others – May help pay for medical or funeral expenses for someone who is injured on your property.
  • Credit card coverage – Pays up to your selected limit for unauthorized transactions on your credit cards and bank debit/ATM card. It also applies to forged checks and counterfeit money.

3. Compare insurance companies 

Before selecting a company, it’s best to shop around and compare rates. It’s also beneficial if you already have auto insurance coverage with a particular company that you trust. You may even qualify for a renters insurance discount by bundling your policies. 

4. Estimate the value of your personal property 

The monetary value of your personal belongings in your rented space may be more than you think. Take an inventory of every item in your space – from electronics to art to home goods to clothing. Estimate the current value of these items (not what you paid for them) and tally them up. This is a good way to approximate how much insurance you will need if your belongings are stolen or destroyed. 

5. Get a renters insurance quote 

Many companies allow you to apply for a free renter’s insurance quote online, but you can also get a quote over the phone or in-person. An experienced insurance agent can help determine the best coverage and plan for your financial situation. Remember that a higher deductible means a lower insurance premium and a lower deductible means a higher premium – plan your renter’s insurance budget accordingly. 

Attend a virtual Rent Smart class to learn more about your rights and responsibilities as a renter.

What should I know about health insurance?

Get to know your coverage options:  

Employer – Some people find affordable coverage through an employer. Contact your human resources department to learn more about your health insurance options.  

HealthCare.gov – The federal Health Insurance Marketplace, HealthCare.gov, helps individuals and families shop for and enroll in affordable health plans.  You can apply for coverage during the open enrollment period, November 1 through December 15 each year. When you apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, you’ll find out if you qualify for help to make your coverage more affordable

You’ll need to answer a few questions about your household to apply for coverage. The process is quicker and easier when you have this information ready. Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • Social Security number(s) 
  • Date(s) of birth 
  • Home address 
  • U.S. citizenship or immigration status 
  • Employment information 
  • Estimated household income 
  • Other income and benefits, like child support, Social Security, or unemployment 
  • Housing and utility expenses 
  • Previous HealthCare.gov account information (for returning consumers) 

Download the HealthCare.gov checklist (PDF)

Ready to apply? 

Apply at HealthCare.gov. If you’re not sure what plan is right for you and need help, you can get help from an expert. Find a local health insurance expert to help you make the right choice today. 

BadgerCare Plus (Medicaid) – BadgerCare Plus, a Wisconsin Medicaid program, provides health care benefits for people ages 0–64 who have a limited income. 

You can check to see if you are eligible and apply at any time during the year.  

Am I eligible? 

  • The only way to know if you are eligible is to apply. If you would like to see if you may be eligible before you apply, go to the online application and choose “See if you qualify.” You will be asked questions to see if you might be eligible.  
  • BadgerCare Plus has a monthly income limit that is based on things like the number of people in your household and how much money your household makes every month. 

When you apply for BadgerCare Plus, you may be asked to provide some or all of the following information for each person applying. Having this information available when you apply will make applying easier and faster. 

  • Social Security number(s) 
  • Date(s) of birth 
  • Home address 
  • U.S. citizenship or immigration status 
  • Employment information 
  • Estimated household income 
  • Other income and benefits, like child support, Social Security, or unemployment 
  • Housing and utility expenses 

Medicare – Medicare is the main insurance for people 65 and older and provides coverage for some people with disabilities. Open enrollment for Medicare is October 15 through December 7. 

Understand your insurance costs 

  • Copay: A payment you make for a health care service.
  • Deductible: The amount you pay for covered health care services before your insurance begins to pay. For example, if you have a $200 deductible each year, you pay the first $200 of covered services yourself. Once you pay the deductible, you will only have to pay a copay for services. 
  • Coinsurance: The amount you pay to share the cost of covered services after your deductible has been paid. The coinsurance rate is usually a percentage. For example, if the insurance company pays 90% of the service costs, you will pay 10%. 
  • Premium: A set amount of money your household pays each month to have health care coverage. 
  • Out-of-pocked maximum: This is the most you will have to pay each year for health care coverage. It includes your deductible and copays. Your insurance will cover all of the costs of your health care once you have paid this amount. This amount does not include any premiums you may have to pay. 

What should I know about life insurance?

Life insurance coverage can help you plan for the future and provide financial protection to loved ones after your death. 

The steps below can help you make important decisions: the policy you choose, the amount of coverage you need, and the insurance company you select. 

1. Decide if You Need Life Insurance 

Before you begin shopping for life insurance, one of the first questions to ask is if you need life insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute , most people do. Though everyone’s personal and financial circumstances differ, a life insurance policy can be a valuable safety net. That’s particularly true if any of the following are true: 

  • Your family or beneficiaries would have financial hardships if they lost your income 
  • Your dependents would be left with a large amount of debt after you die 
  • You want to cover end-of-life expenses, including funeral, burial, or medical costs 
  • You want to pay for a dependent’s tuition, day-care, or retirement costs 

2. Determine How Much Life Insurance You Need 

The amount of life insurance you need depends on various factors, including your personal and household income, the needs of your dependents or prospective beneficiaries, and your financial goals. Here are some questions to ask when determining the amount you need: 

  • How will the loss of my income affect the people I leave behind? 
  • How long would I like my income to provide financial support for those I leave behind? 
  • How much will my dependents or spouse need to cover the mortgage or rent? 
  • What day-to-day expenses, if any, do I want to cover for my beneficiaries? 
  • How will my loved ones cover end-of-life expenses, like funeral costs, estate taxes, etc.? 
  • Do I want my life insurance policy to be used as an inheritance? 
  • Do I want part of my life insurance policy to go to a charitable organization? 

3. Determine Which Type of Life Insurance Is Right for You 

There are two primary types of life insurance to choose from: term life, which lasts for a set period of time, or permanent life insurance, which covers you for as long as you live. Understanding the defining characteristics of each type can help you choose the right one. 

Term Life Insurance 

  • Provides coverage for a limited period, typically between 1 – 30 years 
  • Often the least expensive life insurance option 
  • Predictable premiums and a guaranteed death benefit 

Term life insurance is life insurance that provides coverage for a specific period, called a term. That includes both short-term policies that last one or five years and long-term policies that remain active for 15 to 30 years. 

Term insurance policies typically have fixed, also known as “level” premiums that stay the same for the duration of your policy. Term life insurance also offers a guaranteed death benefit, or a guaranteed sum of money, as outlined in your contract, that your beneficiary will receive upon your death. 

With term life policies you may have the option of two types of death benefits. One is level, which means that it will stay the same for the entire time the policy is active. And the other offers a decreasing death benefit. This means that over time the amount of money your beneficiary would receive will decrease over the life of the policy. 

Term life insurance policies may also be renewable, meaning the policy can be renewed at the end of the initial term. They can also be convertible, which means the policy can be converted to a permanent policy. 

If you choose term life insurance, your beneficiary will only receive the death benefit, as outlined in your contract, after your death. This type of policy does not carry a cash value or investment component, and you cannot borrow against or withdraw from it while you’re alive. 

Permanent Life Insurance 

Permanent life insurance refers to policies that last for your entire life. As long as you make your regular premium payments, your coverage won’t be interrupted. Like term life insurance, permanent life insurance includes a death benefit that is paid out to beneficiaries after you die. 

Permanent life insurance also typically has a separate cash value component. The cash value is separate from your death benefit and functions similar to an investment account from which you can withdraw or borrow available funds. When you pay your premium, part of the payment goes into an investment account. The cash value can also grow or fluctuate based on the type of insurance policy you have. In some cases, growth depends on interest rates or stock and money market mutual fund performance. In others, the value grows as the insurer distributes a portion of company earnings, also known as dividends, to account holders. If you’re shopping for permanent life insurance, it’s a good idea to discuss cash value growth options with an agent to determine which policy is best for you. 

4. Compare insurance companies  

Before selecting a company, it’s best to shop around and compare rates. It’s also beneficial if you already have auto insurance coverage with a particular company that you trust. You may even qualify for a renters insurance discount by bundling your policies. 

Your Future

How do I rebuild relationships with my children/other family members?

Incarcerated men and women face challenges to maintaining their marriages, relationships with their children, and other relationships while incarcerated and when they reenter society. An incarcerated parent’s reentry into society and the life of their child affects the whole family. Reunification and re-entry can be a difficult and challenging process. Research shows reunification is an important time for the relationship between formerly incarcerated parents and their children. 

Below are ideas to consider as you begin the process of connecting with your children and family after release. 

  • Be patient. It can be a long process for both you and your family to get familiar with each other again. 
  • Own your past actions and the results. Forgive yourself for your actions. You can’t change what has happened, but you can accept it and move forward. 
  • Begin rebuilding your life, including finding housing and work, in order to be a positive influence in your children’s lives.   
  • Be committed to the process. Rebuilding your relationships won’t happen quickly. Stay committed and work on it. Accept that it might take time for your children to allow you into their lives.  
  • Listen to your children and family. They will let you know what they need and expect from you during the process.  
  • Meet with the other parent before attempting to engage with children. Listen to the other parent to learn about what your children and family need from you. 
  • Ask for help and find support. Utilize post-release resources and join a parenting support group to help you transition back to your family. 

This is an opportunity for a fresh start with your children. Although you may not have custody of your children, a gradual transition can often strengthen your relationship more than rushing back into their lives.

Are there any resources for dads?

Below are research-based, digital resources for parents to use for guidance and support during reentry. These two podcasts focus on supporting fathers

  • Anywhere Dads Podcast: A podcast about parenting for incarcerated fathers and their families, featuring the voices of fathers who are incarcerated
  • The Black Fatherhood PodcastAims to educate, validate, and elevate, Black Fatherhood to help strengthen individuals, families, and communities

How do I get my GED/HSED and who can help with this?

For a Certificate of General Education Development (GED), you must pass tests in math, science, social studies, language arts, and civics. For a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED), you must pass the GED tests and complete additional work in health, employability skills, and career awareness.

Most colleges and employers accept both to meet their requirements. Some of the requirements to earn a GED or HSED are to be at least 18.5 years old, not have a high school diploma, have lived in Wisconsin for 10 days or more or be a migrant worker or child of a migrant worker, and not be currently enrolled in high school.

Additional information can be found at https://dpi.wi.gov/ged/how-to-gedhsed.

How can I start my own business?

Starting your own business can be an exciting experience. While you may want to jump right in, it is important that your first priority be getting a job. Even the most successful businesses take a little while to get off the ground and, in the meantime, you will need a steady source of income. Getting a job will also, most likely, be one of your community supervision requirements.  

Ready to be your own boss, but not sure where to start? Good news! There are lots of people who can support you on your journey.  

Extension Resources 

Statewide Resources 

  • Partners in Hope is a faith-based prisoner reentry program, run by Community Warehouse, which helps formerly incarcerated people become productive citizens. They host the EIT Partnership’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in Milwaukee. (Email and see if they want to be located under Milwaukee or state) 
  • Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) offers a variety of services through their agencies. Each agency serves a different local area and offers slightly different services. To find out what is offered in your area, visit the WISCAP website and find your local agency at the bottom of the page. Look for Job and Business Development or Small Business programs.  
  • Wisconsin Small Business Development Center’s website has a lot of resources, including a FREE Business AnswerLine where you can ask any questions, you may have! They also have staff across the state who are free to meet with and can advise on your business plans. 
  • Across Wisconsin local chambers of commerce, economic development corporations, and downtown organizations may be able to provide support. Contact your local Extension office if you aren’t sure who to contact in your community.  

Resources in Green Bay, WI 

  • We All Rise African American Resource Center in Green Bay provides employment, mental health and education resources. The vision of We All Rise is “to create and help restore a vibrant African American community. Through uplifting, skill building, and intentionally targeting root causes of systemic oppression, we actively promote the healing of all.”  

Resources in Madison, WI 

  • Nehemiah in Madison, WI is an organization that seeks “to interrupt cycles of poverty, racism and discrimination.” Nehemiah’s Criminal Justice Reentry Program provides a “wide array of culturally competent and relevant programs to meet the needs of men who are leaving jail or prison.” 
  • The Urban League of Greater Madison in Madison, WI offers programs to ensure that African Americans and others of working age are able to identify, train for and secure employment in stable and emerging industries. The Urban League’s Southwest Madison Employment Center hosts job training, placement, and coaching services including job readiness classes, application assistance, and more. 

Resources in Milwaukee, WI 

  • Partners in Hope is a faith-based prisoner reentry program, run by Community Warehouse, which helps formerly incarcerated people become productive citizens. They host the EIT Partnership’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in Milwaukee. (Email and see if they want to be located under Milwaukee or state) 

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