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(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

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



Dear Friends and Family,

I hope you all have remained well during this time. I have been staying busy in La Crosse with frequent briefings and teleconferences, phone calls with constituents and business owners, and walks through La Crosse’s beautiful marsh. 

There have been several changes this past week with modifications to the Safer at Home order and certain businesses resuming operations. Further, federal, state and local organizations continue to make programs and resources available to aid during this time. 

Earlier this week, the Governor’s Administration also ordered a 5% state spending cut amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The reduction is in addition to restrictions on state employee travel, a hiring freeze (with exceptions for COVID-19-related positions and those essential for business functions), and a suspension of merit raises. The state cuts are still being finalized, but will amount to nearly $70 million in savings that will be applied in the current fiscal year ending June 2020. The administration is taking proactive steps to begin addressing the anticipated revenue shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As promised, I will continue to provide you with updates regarding the COVID-19 public health emergency. Please continue reading for additional details about the Safer at Home Order extension, the Governor’s plan to reopen Wisconsin, updates from state agencies, resources for your family, 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

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Safer at Home Order Extended and Plan to Reopen Wisconsin Released

As noted in my previous e-newsletter, the Safer at Home Order was recently extended until May 26. The Governor and the Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm explained that the order is necessary to increase testing capacity, reduce the risk of a second wave of the virus, and avoid overwhelming our hospital systems. The extension of the Safer at Home order did include a few changes. Some changes allow more businesses and activities to open up, while other changes make businesses safer for employees and customers. 

Businesses and activities that were permitted to increase services and operations on April 24:

  • Public libraries: Libraries may provide curb-side pick-up of books and other library materials. 
  • Golf courses: Golf courses may open, with restrictions including scheduling and paying for tee times online or by phone only. Clubhouses and pro shops must remain closed. 
  • Non-essential businesses: Non-essential businesses can do more things as Minimum Basic Operations, including deliveries, mailings, and curb-side pick-up. Non-essential businesses must notify workers of whether they are necessary for the Minimum Basic Operations.
  • Arts and craft stores: Arts and craft stores may offer expanded curb-side pick-up of materials necessary to make face masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE). 
  • Aesthetic or optional exterior work: Aesthetic or optional exterior lawn care or construction is allowed, so long as it can be done by one person

The Governor’s press release can be found here, and an FAQ is also available here.

While the extension is not ideal, it has saved lives and allowed our health care system to increase capacity. To preserve the progress we have made as a state, Governor Evers announced the Badger Bounce Back Plan. The plan provides a blueprint of standards our state must meet before we can safely reopen. The criteria includes expanded contact tracing; access to more testing and labs; access to more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supplies; increased hospital capacity; and a reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases. As the state begins to meet these criteria, we will begin to turn the dial on the Safer at Home Order. Please note, the plan is thoughtfully designed so that once we reopen Wisconsin and businesses, we can keep them open while also preventing a second wave of COVID-19. You can read the full plan here, or a brief fact sheet here.


Governor Evers Began ‘Turning the Dial’ on Safer at Home with Executive Order #34

Since extending the Safer at Home order, Governor Evers has already provided more businesses with opportunities to operate under Emergency Order #34. By allowing drop-off of goods or animals for the purpose of service, repair, or care, many non-essential businesses are permitted to open. Below are examples of businesses that may operate as long as payments are completed online or over the phone, proper cleaning procedures are in place, and the service can be provided by one person.

  • Dog groomers
  • Repair services
  • Upholstery businesses
  • Taxidermy businesses
  • Outdoor recreational rental services
  • Automatic or self-service car washes

These businesses can safely provide services without jeopardizing the health of their customers or employees. Emergency Order #34 is just one example of how the Governor continues to modify the Safer at Home Order and the state’s response based on using the best scientific data that is available to him. An FAQ page pertaining to Emergency Order #34 is available here


La Crosse School District is Offering Weekend Meal Packs to Support Students

The School District of La Crosse has already prepared and delivered over 32,000 meals to local families since schools closed in March. Beginning on April 24, the district also began preparing breakfast and lunches for students on the weekend. The weekend meal packs will be available at all of the district’s neighborhoods. A list of the district’s neighborhood food site locations and times is available here. The district also has drive-up locations available at both Spence Elementary and Logan High Schools from 11:00am-12:00pm. Further, school nutrition staff continue to maintain a telephone hotline for those families who are unable to make it to or missed a stop time. Families can call 608.789.5880 for assistance. Nutrition services has a limited number of drivers who will be able to make a delivery stop. 


Children’s Mental Health Resources

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people throughout Wisconsin, including children. Their lives have also been upended with the closure of schools, inability to visit with friends, and changing family dynamics. We must be cognizant of the struggles they may be experiencing during this time. The Office of Children’s Mental Health has developed a biweekly Mental Wellness during COVID-19 e-newsletter. Each newsletter contains: an interview with a mental health professional or state employee on the impact of COVID-19 on their children and on their work; an article from an Office of Children’s Mental Health lived experience partner; a self-care reminder; several links to helpful tips to support children; and a peaceful photograph. 

A recent newsletter from the Office of Children’s Mental Health included 10 simple questions to ask when checking-in on a friend or family member’s mental health. A complete list of the Mental Wellness during COVID-19 e-newsletters is available here

UW System Eases Application Requirements

Due to various challenges of COVID-19, the UW System announced changes to their admission policies that will make it easier for students to enroll this fall. The changes include: reducing the undergraduate application fee; accepting unofficial high school transcripts for admission consideration; holding students harmless for changes in admissions testing and grading formats; scheduling campus visits online; providing virtual tours; and other standard requirements. Further, from June 5-15, all fall 2020 or spring 2021 two-year campus applications will be accepted at no cost. The full press release is available here

DATCP Adopts Emergency Rule Prohibiting Late Fees on Rentals

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has approved an emergency rule to prohibit late fees or penalties for missed or late rent payments during COVID-19. The emergency rule (Wis. Admin. Code Ch. ATCP 134) prevents landlords from charging late fees or penalties for missed or late rent payments during the public health emergency and for 90 days afterward. DATCP will hold a public hearing and comment period on this emergency rule via teleconference.

Federal Government Passed Legislation to Replenish Funds for Small Businesses

As you may recall, the federal government included funds for the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in their early COVID-19 relief packages. Administered through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the EIDL program offers designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19. The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The Small Business Administration (SBA) will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. Due to the high demand, both these programs were exhausted in a few short weeks; however, the federal government passed bipartisan legislation to replenish these funds for small business owners on April 24, 2020. 

UPDATE: Unemployment Insurance Programs

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the federal stimulus package Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act. The CARES Act included Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides unemployment insurance (UI) recipients an emergency increase of $600 per week in unemployment benefits. Those collecting UI benefits should begin receiving an additional $600 this week. The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) explained that it will take several days to make all payments, and payments should be completed by May 8, 2020. The payments will be automatic and claimants do not need to take action to receive the additional $600 per week benefit. More information about FPUC is available here

The CARES Act also included the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who are not eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) such as:

  • Individuals who are self-employed.
  • Certain independent contractors.
  • Individuals with limited recent work history.
  • Other workers not covered by Regular UI.

Weekly payments through PUA will range from $163 - $370 and can be retroactively collected up to the week of February 2. The Department of Workforce Development is currently accepting applications for PUA. More information about PUA is available here.

he 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.

The DWD continues working to hire staff to serve as UI specialists. The DWD has recently identified 90 additional staff from within DWD and other state agencies to answer calls, respond to claimant emails, and process paperwork and system rejection. The Department of Personnel Management (DPM), the DOC, the DOT, and the DATCP have transitioned 16 of their employees to the UI call center. The DWD is hoping to hire an additional 197 people. Further, the agency is in the process of contracting for a general UI call center with 600 employees and another call center focused on PUA claims. Again, for comparison, prior to COVID-19 pandemic the UI call center consisted of 57 employees.

Official counts available April 25 showed claimants have filed a record number of weekly unemployment claims, totaling almost 1.2 million since the COVID-19 public health emergency was declared. Nearly 750,000 of those weekly claims have been paid. The number of claims processed in this five-week period are roughly equivalent to claims processed in an eight-month period during typical (non-pandemic) times for the UI Division. 

UPDATE: The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Reopens Some State Parks and Forests

Governor Evers directed the DNR to reopen 34 state parks and forest today, May 1. To limit crowds, ensure physical distancing, and promote a safe and enjoyable experience for park visitors, the following conditions will be in place until further notice.

  1. An annual park sticker and/or trail pass will be required to visit state parks and trails. Annual passes will not be available for purchase at individual properties. You can purchase a ticket (with a credit card) from 8 am – 3 pm seven days a week by calling 1.888.305.0398. Please note, the DNR call center has received an extremely high volume of calls in the wake of the reopening announcement. They are working to increase their capacity to process these calls and create an online purchasing system.
    1. In the meantime, the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks does sell admission stickers online for an additional donation amount of $10, for a total purchase price of $38. 
  2. State parks and forests will be open from 6 am – 7 pm daily, except Wednesday. Properties will be closed to the public every Wednesday for maintenance and upkeep.
  3. DNR boat launches are open at open state properties. All anglers and recreational boaters should practice social distancing and keep travel to a minimum.
  4. Restrooms at all state properties will be closed. This includes the closure of restrooms on properties currently open to the public.
  5. Properties will have a pre-determined safety capacity. When capacity is reached, visitors may be denied entry to the park until existing visitors leave. You can check the current capacity status of each property you are interested in visiting by clicking here.
  6. Camping, group camps and shelters will remain closed until May 26. Refunds will be issued to all customers.