Updates from the State Senate - April 2, 2020

The photo above was taken of a rafter of turkeys near Pilla in Shawano County. For those who engage in the Spring Turkey Hunting Season, the opening of the first time slot is just around the corner.


Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District








Dear Friends and Neighbors,


We’re now over one-week into the ‘safer at home’ order issued by Governor Evers on March 25th, and as Wisconsinites are adapting to these life altering, yet temporary changes, I’ve been doing my best to answer all of the questions and concerns raised by my constituents. I wanted to take a few minutes to provide new information on some of the more common questions I’ve heard over the phone and in my email, as well as provide some other important updates.



Thank You!


Before I get to the updates surrounding COVID-19 below, I wanted to say THANK YOU to doctors and nurses, firefighters and EMTs, public health sector employees and researchers, truck drivers, daycare providers, law enforcement officers, farmers, custodial staff, grocery store and gas station employees, and others in our community who are involved in fighting this outbreak and keeping our communities working together during this difficult time!


As our state continues dealing with the measures put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, I’m asking everyone to please keep all of the people working hard to keep us healthy, comfortable, and informed in mind during this unprecedented event.



Federal Legislation and the State Response


I’ve heard several questions lately regarding the new legislation passed at the federal level to help stimulate the economy, keep residents on their feet, and provide a bridge for businesses to make it through these difficult times. As a State Legislator, I did not have input or a vote on this Federal bill, but I have been closely following the progress of this new law as it directly impacts Wisconsin.


An overview of the Federal legislation and its impact on Wisconsin was published yesterday by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a state legislative service agency. This overview will be relied as we work to construct a package in Wisconsin to determine what gaps in the Federal legislation need to be filled by state action, including what additional steps we need to take to fully benefit from the federal changes and how we can best capitalize on the over $2 billion Wisconsin is anticipating.


For example, under the Federal legislation, Wisconsin and other states who waive the one-week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits during this outbreak will have the first week of benefits fully covered by the federal government. I support this change, and I will work with my colleagues on having a temporary exemption from the one-week waiting period during this outbreak included in the Legislature’s comprehensive bill. Combined with additional payments for every week for the duration of benefits, these changes from the Federal legislation will help to ensure we can provide adequate benefits to those facing joblessness during this difficult time while also helping to preserve the long-term stability of our unemployment fund.


To prepare for our role in addressing the gaps in the Federal legislation, earlier today, the Wisconsin State Senate ran a virtual practice session to test how we can pass legislation without requiring the Legislature to convene in-person. We’ll continue working to finalize a state response to COVID-19 with the federal efforts in mind, and I believe I’ll have more details to share on this state package soon.


One specific component of the Federal legislation that I have heard questions about are the stimulus payments. While the state does not have a direct role in processing these funds, I know that the payments will positively impact most Wisconsin residents. To clarify who will receive payments and how they will be made, I can provide the following information at this time:

  • For adults with annual incomes up to $75,000, they can expect a $1,200 stimulus check to be directly deposited into their bank account used for a recent tax return in April. Mailed checks may take longer. Residents with children will receive an additional $500 per child.

  • For Wisconsinites with incomes between $75,000 and $99,000 a year based on a 2018 or 2019 tax return, they will receive a stimulus check with the payment reduced by $5 for every $100 in income above the $75,000 threshold.

  • Further clarification provided by the federal government recently will allow those on Social Security who don’t normally file a tax return to receive a stimulus check in the same manner that they receive their Social Security checks.

  • Adults who are still claimed by another person as a dependent do not qualify for the stimulus payments.


An additional benefit from the Federal legislation directed payments to local governments in an effort to support communities and help control the outbreak. Announced just yesterday, two local governments in the 2nd Senate District will receive funding from the initial round of federal Community Development Block Grant program, including Green Bay which will receive $595,446, and Appleton which will receive $348,255. It’s anticipated that future rounds of funding will help to inject more resources into our communities. Learn more about these grants on the Appleton Post Crescent’s website.



Local Companies Doing their Part


With Green Bay’s well known title as the ‘Toilet Paper Capitol of the World’ along with the strong manufacturing tradition in Northeast Wisconsin, there’s been no question that our area would be key in providing the medical and consumer goods that our region, state, and country need during this outbreak.


The first thing that comes to mind for many residents when they’re looking at what is needed most right now is personal protective equipment for medical providers and first responders. Some local companies have transitioned their production lines to these crucial medical supplies, including Elevate97 in Ashwaubenon which pivoted from retail operations to producing plastic face shields. According to this WLUK article, the first 30,000 face shields are now in production.


Some other companies and manufactures are looking to give back in a different way. Paper Transport, Inc. in De Pere has announced that they’re donating half of their April profits to charities that are assisting in the COVID-19 fight. You can view the announcement of their generous contribution on their website.


But as medical services are in need of goods to fight this outbreak, consumers are also finding themselves short on the goods they need at the grocery store. From manufactures to farmers to truck drivers, they’re working tirelessly to keep the store shelves, and in-turn your home stocked with goods including toilet paper, food, and other essentials to make sure your time at home is as pleasant as possible.


Thank you to everyone involved in the production process, and I’m pleased to continue learning of shining support stories from the 2nd Senate District exemplifying our manufactures’ role in these trying times. To learn more about the role of Wisconsin manufacturers in fighting the outbreak of COVID-19, check-out this WPR article.



Temporary Employment Opportunities


In the last e-newsletter, I discussed some resources for those that are facing the unfortunate circumstance of unemployment due to COVID-19, including opportunities for potential temporary employment at businesses dealing with an onslaught in demand. I’m again including a link to websites that list employment opportunities still available, even in these difficult times.


The Fox Valley Workforce Development Board is also looking to soon establish website with temporary job listings for businesses in their six county region. Learn more about this effort on WLUK’s website.


Also as mentioned in the last e-newsletter, unemployment insurance claims can often be filed online. However, some claims require you to follow-up with a phone call. As the phone lines have often been overloaded, if you’re having difficulties contacting the unemployment insurance division, please feel free to reach out to my office for assistance.



Hospitalization and Tracking Data


As of this afternoon, the state Department of Health Services (DHS) has confirmed 1,730 positive tests of COVID-19 in Wisconsin. An additional 20,317 tests were conducted, but were negative for the Coronavirus. This outbreak has also regrettably lead to 31 deaths in our state.


In the counties that make up the 2nd Senate District, 33 cases of COVID-19 have been reported, including 17 in Brown County, 14 in Outagamie County, and 2 in Waupaca County. To date, Shawano County does not have a confirmed case of COVID-19.


DHS, after repeated asks from my office and others, has provided more information on their website regarding the outbreak. This new public data includes, for the first time, information on hospitalizations as a result of COVID-19. As of this afternoon, 27% of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin, or 461 cases, have resulted in hospitalization. This high rate of hospitalization helps to demonstrate the true severity of this virus.


The updated website also includes county by county data on the number of tests, both positive and negative, along with a breakdown of cases by age group. Information on this website is updated daily around 2pm. To learn more and see the updated data in days to come, visit DHS’s website.



Education from a Distance


Educators in Northeast Wisconsin have been showing their dedication to their students as they work tirelessly to adapt to an online learning platform. As school district administrators and teachers work out the details of new digital learning to help continue classes during the school closure, there’s some other information to help parents and students that I wanted to pass along.


For all parents, but especially those that may be facing a loss of income, many area school districts are offering take-home lunch programs where parents can pick-up meals for their kids. Each school district that’s implementing these support services are establishing programs in a slightly different manner, so I’d encourage you to visit the website of your local school district to learn if they offer a program and how you can participate.


On a statewide basis, PBS Wisconsin has worked with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to make at-home learning just a little easier through all-day interactive educational programming for students of all ages. Their new weekday programming will help to ensure students can combine their distance learning with fun, interactive shows that build on their thirst for knowledge. Learn more and see the daily lineup on PBS Wisconsin’s website.


For even more learning opportunities to keep your children’s minds occupied, there’s no better time than now to request a 2019-2020 Blue Book. You can request a free Blue Book on my website. After it hits your mailbox, check out the study guides on the Legislature’s website to help your kid learn more about state government and Wisconsin history.


If you’re looking for other ways to keep your kids entertained as they’re home from school during the COVID-19 outbreak, I’d encourage you to check out this article with over 100 different ideas to help pass the time while staying indoors.


Finally, if you are a parent and would like to access some tips on discussing these more adult situations with younger children, please take a look at the following potential ideas from UW-Madison, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



How You Can Help


Wisconsin residents have largely come together to combat the spread of COVID-19 and are practicing appropriate prevention steps to protect themselves, their families, and their neighbors. While those prevention steps are the most important thing to limit the impact of COVID-19 in our communities and to help us get through the outbreak sooner, there are other steps you can take to help your neighbors and community in these trying times.

  • Order takeout or delivery or purchase a gift card from a local restaurant (visit the Wisconsin Restaurant Association’s website or the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s website to find a takeout or delivery option near you) to help these community establishments get through the difficult times

  • Donate personal protective equipment in quantities of 50 items or more to doctors, nurses, and first responders to reduce their risk during the fight against COVID-19 by using this new state website (the state has been receiving gear from the national stockpile and is looking to purchase more, but any help at this time is needed and appreciated)

  • If you’re in the greater Green Bay area and have a knack for sewing, consider assisting The Salvation Army of Greater Green Bay in preparing personal masks (to learn more, please contact Renee Main at renee.main@usc.salvationarmy.org or (920) 609-6407)

  • Donate nonperishable goods to a local food bank

  • Purchase a gift card from a local business to help them generate a little extra revenue during these trying times

  • Check-in on your neighbors, particularly the elderly or those living alone

  • Offer to assist an elderly or immunocompromised neighbor with their grocery shopping

  • While shopping, make sure you have enough for you and your family, but also help to make sure the next shoppers have goods left on the shelves for their families


But of course, the best way you can help your fellow community members is to limit your exposure to others. The best way to do that is by staying indoors, and it’s hard to think of a better way to spend time indoors than watching the Packers beat the Steelers and the Patriots in the Super Bowl! Those games are going to be re-aired on Fox this month. To learn more, visit WLUK’s website.



Price Gouging and Consumer Protection


Price gouging, or raising the price of a product during a time of scarcity, is illegal during a statewide emergency. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has already taken action against stores accused of price gouging during this public health emergency based on consumer complaints, and they continue to encourage citizens to report suspected price gouging, false marketing claims, fraud, scams, and other consumer complaints related to COVID-19.


To report a complaint, please contact DATCP’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 422-7128 or DATCPHotline@wisconsin.gov, or file a complaint online.



Request a Mail-In Ballot


Under a recent ruling, tomorrow is the last day to request your absentee mail-in ballot for the spring election. If you’re looking to avoid your polling place on April 7th, make sure you head to MyVote Wisconsin and request your ballot by 5pm tomorrow. Under the same ruling, ballots must be received by April 13th to be counted in this election.



Until Next Time


While the State Capitol has closed access to the public during this outbreak, my staff and I are still here to assist with questions you may have involving state government. While we may not always have the answer right away, we’ll do our best to assist with your questions and concerns revolving around COVID-19 or other issues related to state government.


To find the most up-to-date information on the Governor’s actions, including the ‘safer at home’ order, along with each state agency’s role in this outbreak, I’d encourage you to visit this website. Additionally, ThedaCare has established a Community Hotline to allow their members to speak with resource representatives and nurses regarding symptoms they may be having and other questions related to COVID-19. Visit this link to learn about the new hotline.


And as always, please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have, and be sure to visit my website and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for regular updates on Coronavirus and more from around the 2nd Senate District and in the State Capitol.


Thanks for reading!



Senator Robert Cowles
Proudly Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District




Mailing Address: P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 | Office: 118 South, State Capitol

Office: (608) 266-0484 | District: (920) 448-5092 | Sen.Cowles@legis.wisconsin.gov




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