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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





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

(608) 266-5780

Toll Free:
(888) 534-0095


Friends and Neighbors,

As businesses reopen and Wisconsinites begin resuming activities, the Department of Health Services (DHS) continues to remind people of the importance and availability of COVID-19 testing. Due to incredible efforts by the Governor and DHS to create public-private partnerships, Wisconsin increased their lab capacity from 0 tests just two months ago to over 14,000 tests per day currently. Increased testing capacity is fundamental to “boxing in” COVID-19. It indicates where public health experts should be looking for more infections and allows the State of Wisconsin to appropriately allocate resources to local health departments as necessary.

Now, everyone who needs a test can get a test. If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or have had previous exposure to COVID-19, the DHS encourages you to contact your health care provider to get tested. Symptoms include: cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, sore throat, runny nose, muscle pain, headache, and a new loss of taste or smell. Furthermore, the Wisconsin Commissioner of Insurance recently released a statement explaining that COVID-19 tests must be covered by private health insurance providers (more information on COVID-19 testing coverage is available in a later article).

Please continue following safety guidance provided by the La Crosse County Health Department, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and the Center for Disease Control—wash your hands often, practice physical distancing, and stay home as much as possible, especially if you are sick. Together, we will get through this.

Please continue reading for additional details about Wisconsin’s testing efforts, new statewide initiatives to assist Wisconsinites, proposed legislative action for COVID-19 relief, and more.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. I will continue posting frequent updates and helpful information on the Rep. Jill Billings Facebook page. You can also contact my office by calling (608) 266-5780 or emailing Rep.Billings@legis.wi.gov. 

Best Wishes, 

Jill Billings
State Representative 
95th Assembly District

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Federal CARES Act Funding Allocated

On March 27, 2020 the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The CARES Act allocated funding to be used by the states for certain purposes. Wisconsin is expected to receive nearly $2 billion in federal funds through the CARES Act. Over the past few weeks, Governor Evers announced several initiatives that invest in the needs of Wisconsinites and help our state recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The following six articles outline how some of the funding will be utilized by the state.

CARES Act Funding: Statewide Efforts to Support COVID-19 Testing, Contact Tracing, and Other Measures

Governor Evers and his administration have been working tirelessly to increase testing capacity, improve contact tracing efforts, acquire additional personal protective equipment, and increase health care system capacity. Knowing that these measures are necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect the people of our state, on May 19, Governor Evers announced a robust $1 billion statewide effort to support COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, acquisition of needed supplies, emergency operations, and resources for local communities throughout Wisconsin. This effort is funded by $1.17 billion in federal CARES Act dollars and builds upon our state’s previous efforts, beginning in March, to combat this virus.

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CARES Act Funding: Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program (WRAP)

On March 27, Governor Evers directed Secretary-designee Palm to prohibit landlords from evictions during the public health crisis. The temporary ban on evictions expired on May 26. To assist those who may still need assistance in keeping their home, Governor Evers launched the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program (WRAP), with $25 million in funding for those who have experienced income loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WRAP will provide direct financial assistance for owed rent, security deposits, and wrap around services for program eligible individuals. Eligible applicants must be an adult Wisconsin resident with a household income at or below 80% of the county median income in the month of or prior to the application date. Once approved, eligible individuals may receive assistance of up to $3,000 in a combination of rental payments and/or security deposits. These payments will be paid directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant.

The Governor’s press release for this program is available here. More details about the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program, including complete eligibility criteria, application documentation requirements, and the distribution process for the rental assistance, will be shared in the upcoming days. Initial details regarding the program are available here.



CARES Act Funding: Small Business Assistance

Last week, Governor Evers and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) secretary-designee Hughes announced the We’re All In Initiative. The We’re All In Initiative is a $75 million rapid grant program for small businesses. As small businesses across Wisconsin continue to keep their employees and customers safe, WEDC will provide Wisconsin small businesses with cash grants to assist with the costs of business interruption or for health and safety improvements, wages and salaries, rent, mortgages, and inventory. Businesses can begin applying for grant assistance in early June.

The Governor’s press release is available here. If you are interested in receiving up-to-date information on the We’re All In Initiative, including the timeline for the applications for the grant program, you can subscribe to daily alerts at www.wedc.org/focus-forward.

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CARES Act Funding: Food Security and Farm Support

The Governor has committed $50 million in funds from the CARES Act to the Wisconsin Farm Support Program. This investment will provide direct payments to Wisconsin farmers in support of the agricultural sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible farmers will be asked to apply for the aid through the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR), which is working in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Farm support payments could begin arriving as early as June.

To complement the Wisconsin Farm Support Program and combat food insecurity, Governor Evers has also committed $15 million to the Food Security Initiative. The funding will go toward helping food banks, pantries, and other nonprofit organizations fight food insecurity. Grantees of the Food Security Initiative may use the funding to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19, including costs associated with following social distancing and public health guidelines, expanding curbside pick-up and delivery services, and purchasing prepared meals from local restaurants. Grantees may also use funds to purchase, process, and store Wisconsin agricultural products for local distribution. Furthermore, successful applicants are encouraged to partner with organizations that work directly with Wisconsin’s agricultural producers and food processors to maximize the use of Wisconsin products.

The Governor’s press release for these two programs is available here. More information on the application process has yet to be released.

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CARES Act Funding: Local Government Aid Grants

Earlier this week, Governor Evers announced the “Routes to Recovery: Local Government Aid Grants” program—a $200 million effort aimed at helping local communities address their most urgent and unique COVID-19 recovery needs. The Routes to Recovery Grant program will provide reimbursements to Wisconsin municipalities for unbudgeted expenditures incurred this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. More information regarding the Routes to Recovery Grants, including the allocation amounts for counties and municipalities, is available here.

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CARES Act Funding: Direct Care Provider Payments

Governor Evers announced that $100 million in CARES Act funds will be directed to long-term care, home and community based services, and emergency medical services to offset losses and compensate for additional expenditures that are the direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor’s press release explains how the program will be administered: an initial release of funds to support immediate needs, and a second, targeted release for additional needs of individual providers. Both rounds of funding will be allocated to support expenses directly related to COVID-19 as well as expenses associated with the interruption of typical operations, such as overtime pay, changes to sanitation procedures, and disruption to the standard delivery of care. This grant program will support providers who are experiencing significant challenges as pandemic related expenses have increased operating costs. More information on the application process, eligible cost and losses, and eligible providers has yet to be released.




Legislative Democrats’ COVID Response Plan

While Governor Evers has been announcing the distribution of federal funding to address COVID-19 needs in Wisconsin, I’ve continued to advocate for actions the Wisconsin Legislature can take to expand upon these investments. As mentioned in a previous E-Newsletter, Wisconsin Act 185 was signed into law on April 15, 2020. This bipartisan legislation was a good first step in providing some immediate relief to Wisconsinites and capitalizing on the availability of federal funds; however, we must take further legislative action to support our economy, health care systems, and democracy as we navigate these unprecedented times.

My democratic colleagues and I have released our multi-faceted plan to provide much needed relief to our state. The plan includes supporting our health care heroes, increasing access to health care, capitalizing on federal dollars, expanding grant and loan programs for small businesses, providing support for our child care providers and school employees, and much more. An interactive website with more details on our COVID-19 Response Plan is available here.

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COVID-19 Tests Must Be Covered by Private Health Insurance Providers

Last week, Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable issued a notice to insurers to help clarify language relating to testing for COVID-19 that was passed in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). Testing for COVID-19 must be covered by private health insurance, including cost-sharing like co-pays for office, urgent care, and emergency department visits under the FFCRA and CARES. Individuals with private insurance who have been tested for COVID-19 and subsequently received a bill to cover associated costs like the office visit or handling costs should speak to their insurer about having those services covered without cost-sharing. Wisconsinites can also file a complaint with OCI online here or by calling 1-800-236-8517. The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance’s (OCI) full statement is available here.


UPDATE: State Park Operations

As of last week, all Wisconsin state park system properties have returned to regular operating hours of 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. Properties are no longer closed on Wednesdays. In addition, a limited number of day-use area restrooms at park properties will reopen for public use beginning Wednesday, June 3. However, visitors are reminded to plan ahead and bring hand sanitizer in the event that it is not available at facilities. Read more, for the all the details on the DNR’s adjustments to operations to maintain the safest environment for visitors and staff, in accordance with public health guidelines and safety recommendations.

Note, all group, family, and indoor group campsites will remain closed through June 7. All events and shelter reservations will also be cancelled through June 7. Permit and reservation holders will be contacted and provided a full refund. The status of events, reservations, and camping after June 7 is currently under review.

Finally, you can now purchases your annual state park passes online.




May is Mental Health Month

It is always important to raise awareness about, provide support to, and destigmatize mental health issues. The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted many lives, added additional stressors, and created unexpected changes that can especially affect a person’s mental health, so I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with resources that can be used by you and your family and peers or shared with others during these trying times.

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