NS Banner

(608) 266-5780 | State Capitol, Room 307 West, P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708 |



La Crosse County Health Department

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Wisconsin COVID-19 Information 

Safer at Home

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

La Crosse Area Shops and Restuarants












State Capitol
Room 307 West
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708

(608) 266-5780

Toll Free:
(888) 534-0095


Friends and Neighbors,

The Wisconsin State Assembly is meeting in an historic tele-session today to consider a package that works to address many of the challenges facing Wisconsinites due to COVID-19. I believe this legislative package will be a good first step in providing much needed assistance to our state, but more will need to be done. The legislative package my colleagues and I will be voting on today includes several urgent matters. The bill would: repeal the one week waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits; allow the Department of Health Services to change eligibility requirements for Medicaid programs to capture more federal funding; expand the period to apply for the low-income home energy assistance program; relax certain regulations to allow new and retired healthcare workers to enter the workforce; prohibit retail establishments from accepting certain returned goods in order to discourage hoarding; and more. I am ready to act on legislation that addresses the needs of the Coulee Region and our state.  

session 2.png

 typically send out these updates on Fridays, but, due to Wisconsin Ethics Rules regarding distribution of materials during election years, (known as the 50 Piece Rule), this will be the last general e-newsletter I send to you until after the fall elections. However, a piece of the legislative package that we are voting on today, will allow me, and other legislators, to continue to provide our constituents with resources and updates on the state’s public health emergency. If this passes, you will continue to receive updates from me regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, including more details on the legislation that is being voted on today. As always, I will keep posting frequent updates and helpful information on the Rep. Jill Billings Facebook page.

In a recent update, the Wisconsin Department of Health Service Secretary-designee Andrea Palm explained that it appears the social distancing measures and Safer at Home order is working to flatten the curve and slow the rate of infection. On Monday, the DHS reported the lowest increase in day-to-day COVID-19 cases since March 24. Although it’s too early to know if we are at peak, the precautionary measures taken have been important in keeping the public healthy and not overwhelming our health care system.

Please continue reading for additional details about the contents of the legislative package, updates from state agencies, legislation to address future 2020 elections, and other useful information.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. You can always contact my office by calling (608) 266-5780 or emailing me at Rep.Billings@legis.wi.gov. 

Best Wishes, 

Jill Billings
State Representative 
95th Assembly District

NS Facebook.pngNS Twitter.pngNS Website.png


Vote by Mail 2020 Legislation Introduced

Despite incredible efforts by local clerks to process record levels of absentee ballot requests and ensure clean polling locations, the April 7th election left tens of thousands of people disenfranchised and forced many people to decide between their health and their right to vote. These choices could have been avoided—and we need to take action to avoid this for future 2020 elections.

I recently co-authored legislation that would make vote-by-mail the standard for all of Wisconsin's remaining 2020 elections. The Vote by Mail 2020 legislation (LRB-5972) would provide all registered voters a mailed ballot that must be postmarked by the day of the election and returned no later than 5 pm on the Tuesday following the election. Since all registered voters are automatically mailed a ballot, the photo ID requirements are removed as there is no opportunity for them to be implemented under this system. Further, witness signatures, which have proven difficult for many self-isolating voters to obtain, will not be required. The legislation does allow limited in-person voting access for use by voters who are unable to use a mail-in-absentee ballot due to a disability or difficulty reading, writing, or understanding English.

The public health experts and scientists are making no guarantees that we will be back to normal during the near-future elections. This plan provides certainty, equality, and safety to allow people the freedom to vote. It allows clerks and the postal service to plan for workloads. It provides voters time and access to safely receive and return their ballot. It’s the right thing to do for public health.

We cannot precisely know the trajectory of the COVID-19 virus in the future, or the length of time we will need to practice social distancing. But we can make a plan to avoid repeating the voting access inequity we saw this past week. Developing a vote-by-mail system for the 2020 election cycle would allow everyone to know the rules and have equal access to cast their ballot. This is a common sense proposal that will ensure the democratic process while we all work together to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can read a recent column I wrote on Vote by Mail 2020 here.


Food Drive Fridays

La Crosse County Health Department has partnered with The Hunger Task Force of La Crosse to provide food to families in need. The Hunger Task Force of La Crosse is La Crosse’s only free and local food bank, providing free food to 91 food pantries, meal sites and youth programs in La Crosse County alone. To address the growing need for non-perishable foods, the La Crosse County Health Department is teaming up with iFeed, Rotary, and Rotary Lights to hold “Food Drive Fridays”, where donors do not need to leave their vehicles to donate non-perishable goods. Collections will be held every Friday from 11am-1pm starting this Friday, April 17 through May 29, 2020. Drive-thru locations:

     1. O
nalaska Area: Valley View Mall parking lot (by former Macy’s location), 3800 Hwy 16, La Crosse

     2. Downtown La Crosse: La Crosse County Building parking lot, 333 Vine St, La Crosse
     3. Southside La Crosse: Big Lots parking lot located at 3960 Mormon Coulee Rd, La Crosse


Pearl Street Brewery Created a Fund to Assist Local Bars and Restaurants

Pearl Street Brewery’s Brewmaster Joe Katchever recently announced the creation of the La Crosse Bar and Restaurant Relief Fund to assist local bars and restaurants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief fund is set up through their Sprouts for Kids Foundation, a 501C3 Non-Profit. Anyone can donate to the fund by sending a check to the Sprout for Kids Foundation, Re: La Crosse Bar and Restaurant Relief Fund, 1401 Saint Andrew Street, La Crosse, WI 54603 or making a donation through PayPal. Further, restaurants and bars can arrange a curbside or carryout event with Pearl Street Brewery to help raise money for the relief fund. All of the money raised will be donated back to La Crosse area bars and restaurants.


Health Insurance Options for Individuals Who Have Lost Health Coverage

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many Wisconsinites losing their employer-based health care. Navigating health insurance options can be incredibly difficult, especially while managing the many other challenges COVID-19 presents. For those who have lost coverage recently, you have several options: (1) buy health insurance through the HealthCare.gov Marketplace (2) enroll in Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, BadgerCare Plus (3) keep your employer-based insurance via COBRA.

HealthCare.gov is the website that is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and allows individuals and families to shop for and enroll in health insurance plans. It is the online Marketplace created as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The open enrollment for healthcare.gov has closed; however, if you have just lost your health insurance, you are eligible for a 60-day special enrollment period. 

BadgerCare Plus is a joint federal and state program that provides health care coverage for people from birth to age 64. Low-income adults, pregnant women, and children may qualify for coverage under this program. Coverage is no different than any other health insurance coverage, but eligibility is limited based on factors like monthly income and the number of people in your household. To find out if you are eligible for BadgerCare Plus, you must apply at access.wisconsin.gov.

COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, is a federal law allowing most employees, spouses, and their dependents who lose their health coverage under an employer’s group health plan to continue coverage, at their own expense, for up to 18 months. If you choose COBRA coverage, you pay 100% of the premiums, including the share the employer used to pay, plus a small administrative fee. 

For more information about these programs, the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) has prepared a guide to help Wisconsinites better understand the health insurance options that are available to them. 


Resilient Wisconsin Initiative to Provide Mental Health Resources

Governor Tony Evers and DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm recently announced the Resilient Wisconsin Initiative to provide tools and resources to Wisconsinites managing stress and mental health challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly affected our lives in more ways than we can count, including increasing stress about current challenges and uncertainty about the difficulties that lie ahead. Resilient Wisconsin helps people improve their mental health during these trying times by providing guidance on how to practice self-care, stay connected, and reduce stress. Further, the Resilient Wisconsin Initiative recognizes that some occupations, like first responders, health care workers, caregivers, and parents, may experience especially high stress during this time, so they created more specific guidance for those serving in these roles. To view these resources, please visit COVID-19: Resilient Wisconsin.


Governor Evers Announced a COVID-19 Volunteer Program

The State of Wisconsin is seeking volunteers to support the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Active and retired healthcare professionals and those who wish to help in non-clinical support positions are encouraged to sign up to volunteer through the Wisconsin Emergency Assistance Volunteer Registry (WEAVR). Wisconsin is expected to see an increase in patients needing care for COVID-19 over the next few weeks. By building a network of individuals capable of providing support in times of crisis now, we are much better prepared to assist our hospital and clinics should the need arise at a later date. 


Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) Closures and Constructions

The Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is further limiting in-person services to protect customers and employees from the spread of COVID-19. Beginning on April 8, 2020, the DMV is only open, by appointment, for the following services: commercial drivers licenses (CDL), voters needing identification who need to use the Identification Card Petition Process (IDPP), and new Wisconsin residents who need a driver license or ID for voting. To make an appointment for one of these services, call the DMV Communication Center at (608) 264-7447. Please note, many other vehicle-related tasks can be resolved using the DMV’s online services.

The DOT recently announced that they will be moving forward with the construction of 371 roadway infrastructure projects throughout the state. The DOT has been working closely with staff, contractors, and laborers to follow guidance that prevents the spread of COVID-19 and maintains a safe and productive work environment. Decreased traffic on Wisconsin roads has allowed more flexibility for some projects as safety zones can be expanded and lane restrictions cause less impact. The DOT has already started work on more than 65 of the roadway infrastructure projects.


UPDATE: Unemployment Insurance Updates- Individuals Should Apply Online if Possible

Governor Evers and the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) continue to take action to improve the efficiency of the unemployment insurance claims process by increasing employees working in the call center, updating the online application process, modifying programs and policies, and more.

The DWD continues to urge people who can to file unemployment insurance applications online. This will allow call center lines to be available for those who do not have online access. Over 99% of the people who have applied online have been able to successfully start, complete, and file their claim for unemployment benefits.

Some Wisconsinites may be eligible for additional unemployment benefits due to federal legislation passed in recent weeks. The DWD expects to begin accepting applications for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program the week of April 21, 2020. PUA temporarily expands UI eligibility to those who are otherwise ineligible for state UI benefits, including those who are self-employed, free lancers, independent contractors, and part-time workers impacted by COVID-19. Workers will be eligible for retroactive benefits (as far back as Feb. 2, 2020) and can receive benefits for up to 39 weeks. Further, the CARES Act also created the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, which provides an additional $600 per week through July 31, 2020 to those who are eligible for UI or PUA benefits. Wisconsin hopes to take initial claims the week of April 21, 2020 and start making these payments the week of April 26, 2020. There is no need to call the Unemployment Insurance Call Center for the federal programs at this time. The DWD will announce when you can start filing your initial claim. 

I encourage you to visit DWD’s website and the Unemployment COVID-19 FAQ for the most up-to-date information.


UPDATE: Child Care Program to Connect Essential Workers with Child Care Providers

To meet the needs of essential workers’ continued need for child care, Governor Evers created the Child Care for Essential Workers Taskforce. Led by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the taskforce is working with the Early Childhood Association (WECA) and Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) to connect essential workforce families with locally available child care resources. 

DCF recently launched two new tools to facilitate this connection. Healthcare workers and essential employees can submit a request for care through the department’s updated Child Care Finder or view up-to-date availability across the state using the department’s new child care map. More information for providers, essential workers, and families can be found on the DCF COVID-19 Child Care webpage.

DCF is also working with health care providers, child care centers, community organizations like YMCAs, schools, and other partners to open emergency child care centers for essential workforce families. New centers will be opened as demand for child care increases. DCF has provided guidance and resources for organizations interested in opening child care centers.


REMINDER: Loan Programs for Small Businesses are Available

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) created the Small Business 20/20 (SB 20/20) Program to support small businesses economically impacted by COVID-19. SB20/20 will provide grants of up to $20,000 to targeted businesses with no more than 20 employees to cover rent and to meet payroll expenses, including paid leave. The SB20/20 program has the capacity to award a total of $5 million to small businesses in Wisconsin.

Further, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) approved access to low-interest federal disaster loans for Wisconsin small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, businesses may qualify for up to $2 million in loans to cover losses resulting from the pandemic. For more information about these loans or to apply, visit SBA’s Disaster Assistance webpage.


REMINDER: State Tax Deadline Moved to July 15th

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) is providing flexibility to tax filers by extending income tax payment and return due dates until July 15, 2020. A few things to note about this deadline: this relief is solely for income tax payments, you do not have to file any extension forms to be eligible, there is no limit on the amount of payment to be postponed, there are no income exclusions, and this applies to individuals, trusts, estates, partnerships, associations, companies, or corporations.

The DOR also took steps to assist small businesses with sales tax payments due on March 31. Small businesses can immediately request an extension to file sales and use tax returns due March 31, 2020 until April 30, 2020 and due April 30, 2020 until June 1, 2020. More information can be found on the DOR’s COVID-19 Information and Announcements webpage.

Stay Safe

The Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are recommending that you should wear a cloth face cover when you are outside your home conducting essential activities. Wearing a cloth face cover may help protect others from germs you may be spreading without knowing it. The face covers are not a replacement for hand washing and social distancing and these practices should be continued frequently. The DHS notes that wearing cloth face cover is preferred as it allows more surgical masks and respirators to be used by health care providers and first responders.

If you need a cloth mask but do not have access to one, you may be able to make your own mask by sewing one.

Face Masks.png