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April 14, 2020

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Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Today, I was proud to vote for bipartisan legislation that helps address the challenges from the Coronavirus outbreak facing our state. I understand that this virus has affected everyone differently and I appreciate all the feedback my office has received during these difficult and uncertain times. Many of the provisions in this bill address the concerns presented by constituents in the 51st Assembly District. The bill passed today ensures our state can better respond to the public health emergency while protecting the integrity of our state budget.

The COVID-19 Response Bill eliminates the one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits. This change will be applied retroactively to claims made after March 12 and run through February, 2021. The bill also allows the state to capture at least an additional $300 million in federal medicaid matching funds to help provide coverage for those who lost coverage due to a loss of work during the pandemic.

The legislation also provides the following:

  • Eases licensing requirements for health care professionals and emergency medical responders
  • Allows pharmacists to extend prescriptions
  • Expands SeniorCare to include coverage of vaccinations
  • Ensures no co-pays for COVID-19 testing
  • Prohibits health insurance coverage discrimination based on COVID-19
  • Provides the needed flexibility to school districts to complete the school year online
  • Sets aside $75 million to address future, unexpected needs that federal dollars don't cover
  • Requires the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to develop a plan to assist the state's main industries (tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, construction, and retail)

Finally, the legislation ensures that Wisconsin will receive the entire $2 billion in federal assistance that Governor Evers has sole discretion in spending. I have asked the Governor to prioritize the needs of the health care industry, workers, small businesses, and local governments when allocating these dollars.The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration on Wednesday.

Federal CARES Act:

The bill passed today ensures that Wisconsin can take advantage of federal funding in the CARES Act passed by Congress and signed by President Trump on March 27. Since its signing, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) has estimated the amount of funding Wisconsin can expect to receive from this federal legislation. I've highlighted some of these below. You can access a complete summary from the LFB here.

  • $49.74 million for housing and energy assistance programs to help individuals stay in their home
  • $51.3 million for Wisconsin Shares, which provides child care assistance for low-income families.
  • $7.3 million for elections security
  • $15.8 million for aging and disability service programs
  • $14 million for state and local law enforcement to help prepare for coronavirus
  • $174.8 million for K-12 schools - 90% of these funds will be distributed directly to districts. an additional $47 million for K-12 schools is to be distributed by the governor.
  • $2.3 billion to assist state and local governments. Of this, approximately $400 million is required to be directed to the state's largest units of local government.

 

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Coronavirus Update

Testing:

As of April 13, The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has received 36,769 negative test results and 3,428 positive test results for COVID-19. Of those who tested positive for the virus, 993 (29%) were hospitalized. The most up-to-date testing information can be found here.

Rumor Control and Scams:

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency has created the Coronavirus Rumor Control page to help distinguish between rumors and facts.
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security released an alert regarding cybercriminals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to read the alert which includes indicators for detection.

State Updates:

  • The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has announced that more than 215,000 FoodShare households will be receiving additional benefits to families stay healthy during the pandemic. Click here to view the press release.
  • Governor Evers has issued Emergency Order #26 suspending administrative rules for the Department of Children and Families. The order aims to give flexibility to child care providers to maintain child care opportunities to critical staff during the pandemic. Click here to view the order.
  • Governor Evers announced an application has been submitted to FEMA to begin the development of a second alternative care facility in Wisconsin at the Alliant Energy Center.
  • You may have seen a memo released by the Board on Aging and Long Term Care stating that "window visits" at nursing homes or assisted living communities are not longer permitted. The memo has since been revised and this provision removed. Click here to view the revised memo.
  • The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has put together a FAQ regarding health insurance after job loss.
  • Some Milwaukee Alderman are demanding answers as to why the city dramatically cut its number of voting sites to just five for Tuesday's election. Click here to view the story.

Federal Updates:

  • U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue unveiled the COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide, providing a one-stop-shop of federal programs for rural communities.
  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury released eligibility guidance for CARES Act funding to State, Local, and Tribal governments today.
  • The IRS has launched a website for those who did not file a 2018 or 2019 federal tax return, or were not required to file, to provide information to get their federal stimulus payment. The website will soon be equipped to allow Americans to check the status of their payment. Click here to visit the website.

Education:

  • The UW System announced changes to admissions policies that provide flexibilities to students enrolling this fall, including a reduction in the undergraduate application fee, accepting unofficial high school transcripts, and holding students harmless for changes in admissions testing, grading formats, and other standard requirements.

Small Business Owners:

  • The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is conducting a state-wide survey to better understand and measure the hardships and and impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on the state's business community.

Unemployment:

  • The Department of Workforce Development has launched a new page on its website with information on the Federal CARES Act as well as information for regular claimants, PUA claimants, and those seeking extended unemployment benefits.
  • The Department of Workforce Development reports that initial applications for unemployment insurance as of Monday for the week of April 12, 2020 have reached 20,256. Comparable claims last year at this time for the week were 1,894. This data can be found here.

  • Due to the unprecedented number of unemployment applications, DWD has asked that those needing to file for unemployment do so through the department’s website.

  • Those seeking unemployment are encouraged to register on JobCenterofWisconsin.com. This website continues to be updated with new job postings.

    Agriculture:
  • The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection has provided guidance for Dairy Farmers on Emergency Milk Disposal advising farmers to create and maintain a record of every milk disposal. These records may be important in the event that state or federal programs become available to help farmers with lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection's Wisconsin Farm Center is offering services to farmers feeling the effects of COVID-19. These services include financial and business consultation, legal services, and more. These services are provided at no cost.

Medical Developments:

  • A patient at UW Hospital has received the first transfusion of plasma from  local patient who has recovered from COVID-19. This comes as part of a nationwide effort to study whether plasma from people who have recovered from the virus can help shorten the duration or severity of the illness when given to patients. Click here to view the story.

Useful Links:

 

 

 

Best Practices:

The Centers for Disease Control have posted the following tips to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Wear a facemask if you are sick
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily

More information on coronavirus from the CDC can be found here

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How You Can Help

  • Support Local Business - Do your part to make sure your favorite spots are around when we get through this. Many restaurants are offering generous discounts and providing pick up and delivery service. Call your favorite spot to see what they are offering and tip a little more than usual as restaurants are serving fewer people. If you prefer to dine in, consider purchasing a gift card for later use. The Wisconsin Restaurant Association is compiling a list of restaurants remaining open for pick up and delivery. If you are a restaurant owner or you know of a restaurant offering these services, feel free to add their information.

 

  • Give Blood - The American Red Cross reports that they are facing a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during the coronavirus outbreak. Click here to learn more about how you can donate and locate a blood drive taking place in our area.

 

  • Give to Food Banks and Delivery Services - Organizations like Feeding America and Meals on Wheels are in need of donations and volunteers to provide food to those in need during this difficult time. Charity Navigator has also compiled a list of trustworthy charities in need of resources. Click here for a list of soup kitchens and food pantries in our area.

 

  • Volunteer - Volunteers are needed to staff shelters and provide food delivery services throughout the state. United Way Wisconsin has provided a dashboard to connect volunteers with organizations looking for help. Click here to view.

 

Stay Well and Be Safe!