By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Mar 17, 2021 at 1:01 PM

Roughly 160 million Americans will receive $1,400 stimulus checks this week, but the impact of the money will affect people very differently. For many, the $1,400 won’t begin to cover past-due rent and bills, whereas for others, it’s purely a windfall that will get socked away to savings or used to splurge on something non-essential.

For those in the latter category, Diana Luepke organized an alternate plan called “Pay It Forward Milwaukee.” The mission of the grassroots effort is to connect people who are willing and able to redistribute their stimulus payments to important causes, primarily rent support for the thousands of Wisconsinites facing eviction.

During 2020 and because of the pandemic, eviction filings rose in Wisconsin by 40 percent. Thus, as part of Pay it Forward Milwaukee's effort, the organization is raising money to support the Milwaukee Rental Housing Resource Center.

"This is a unique opportunity. For those of us who are financially stable, we don’t have to decide if giving fits in our budget because this is like extra money falling from the sky. Before we get attached to it, we can pull together as a community and redistribute it to where it's needed," says Luepke.

The Milwaukee Rental Housing Resource Center (MKE RHRC) is a collaborative network that unites residents who are about to be evicted with the resources they need to prevent homelessness. They also provide support for landlords who are unable to make mortgage payments because their tenants cannot make rent.

"The RHRC grew out of a task force studying the eviction crisis as highlighted in (the book by Matthew Desmond) Evicted, and they are working to address the root causes of the eviction crisis in addition to addressing the increased need for rent assistance during the pandemic," says Luepke.

Luepke encourages the “fairly comfortable” to consider donating their stimulus check – or a portion of it – directly to the Milwaukee Rental Housing Resource Center. She has already raised almost $8,000, solely by reaching out to family and friends and decided to take her effort to the next level by engaging more people in a position to donate.

“This is about community members helping each other out during a tough time,” says Luepke. “Income inequality is a major issue in our community and many families really struggle to make ends meet – even while working their butts off – while others of us are fairly comfortable.”

Donations are made directly to the MKE RHRC. Luepke’s self-assigned role is to encourage people to choose this organization and to simplify the redistribution process.

 "A lot of people are already donating to food banks, but housing is another essential need that may get overlooked," says Luepke. "If we have one-on-one conversations with people in our networks who are in a position to donate their stimulus it’s really easy at the end of the day to send fairly large donations to this cause.”

Luepke says hers is one of many “hidden efforts” happening to directly and immediately help people in need.

“I’m hearing all sorts of uplifting stories about people helping people right now,” says Luepke. “One friend told me that by having the conversation with me, he gave his own tenants a rent cut. Another person gave money directly to a friend having a hard time. There are so many ways to directly help people right now.”

For more information about Pay It Forward Milwaukee, go here.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.