Updates from the State Senate - June 4, 2020

The photo above was taken of Veterans Memorial Bridge in Kaukauna. 


Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







2-1-1 Wisconsin


COVID-19 has disrupted Wisconsinites’ lives in many different ways, but almost everyone has had to adjust due to this outbreak. For some, this change has caused troubles with putting food on the table, accessing broadband, or a new need for mental health services.


If you find yourself looking for assistance to navigate these disruptions or others caused by COVID-19, 2-1-1 Wisconsin is here to help. Text COVID19 to 211-211, call 2-1-1, or visit 2-1-1 Wisconsin online to learn more.



Dear Friends and Neighbors,


As we enter the summer season with warmer temperatures and sunny days, we’re hopefully getting the COVID-19 outbreaks under control. While Wisconsin continues to see hundreds of new cases on a daily basis, increased testing efforts have meant that we’re consistently seeing below or around 5% of daily tests come back positive. This 5% threshold has been an important barrier noted by state and federal health officials, as it shows that the number of individuals that have COVID-19 as a share of those tested is remaining low. However, that doesn’t mean the Coronavirus is over, and as Wisconsin recovers from the outbreak and economic slowdown, I have some new information I wanted to share with residents of Northeast Wisconsin which I’ve included below.



Coronavirus Relief Fund Spending Plan Unveiled


The Coronavirus Relief Fund, part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provided direct payments to state governments and local governments with a population in excess of 500,000 to help respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and the surrounding economic conditions. In the May 11th Updates from the State Senate e-newsletter, I discussed some of the other pots of federal funding our state would receive and how it will be allocated, but at the time, we didn’t have any details on how this approximately $2 billion would be spent.


Over the past couple of weeks, seven different announcements by the Governor, who has control over the Coronavirus Relief Fund, have given us a better picture on how he intends on spending these funds under the federal guidelines, which includes that funding must be spent by the end of the year, among other restrictions. Below, I’ll provide a brief overview of all seven announcements and point out how you may be impacted by this funding.


Small Business Grant Program


$75 million was allocated to the ‘We’re All In’ Small Business Grant Program to provide grants of $2,500 each to 30,000 businesses. While the application period doesn’t open until June 15th, you can learn more about eligibility, what information you’ll need to be able to apply, and other frequently asked questions on the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s website. The application period will only be open for one week with applications due by June 21st. If you are planning on applying for this funding, I encourage you to be ready with your application materials since one-week is not a long time-frame to submit information.


Relief for Farmers


$50 million was allocated in financial relief for farmers through direct payments to aid with their losses due to low market prices from the Coronavirus. We are awaiting more details on eligibility, application processes, when payments will be distributed, and more, and I’ll be sure to distribute that information on social media as soon as it’s available.


Assistance for Renters


$25 million was allocated to assist renters who’ve experienced a loss of an income due to the Coronavirus. Individuals can apply through a local Community Action Program (CAP) Association member to receive up to $3,000 for owed rent or security deposits, paid directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant, if the renter otherwise meets the eligibility criteria. You can learn more about eligibility and find the CAP that serves your area on the Department of Administration’s (DOA) website.


Combatting Hunger


$15 million was allocated to help combat hunger as the demand for food assistance has risen in the past few months. One portion of the program will help food banks, pantries, and other related nonprofits with their extra expenses during the COVID-19 outbreak, and a second portion will fund applicants that bolster the food supply chain to strengthen connections with local farmers. No further details on which agency will run the program or how the funding will be distributed is available at this time.


Aid for Local Governments


$200 million was allocated to assist every local and tribal government in the state with their extra expenses due to Coronavirus. $10 million was set aside for tribal nations, and $190 million was allocated for local governments, with the four counties and sixty town, village or city governments at least partly in the 2nd Senate District having just over $14.6 million allocated. See the amounts for each community on DOA’s website. Starting July 1st and bimonthly through November 1st, local governments can submit their expenses and receive reimbursements from their predetermined allotment.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to work with the Governor to get funding from the Coronavirus Relief Fund allocated to Brown County given their extraordinary expenses due to a sizable COVID-19 outbreak. Under the ‘Routes to Recovery’ aid in this program, Brown County may receive up to about $4.3 million. While this certainly is a start, I do not believe it is enough due to the area being second only to the City of Milwaukee in number of positive cases.


Out of the $190 million, the Governor provided an additional $33.6 million to three local governments, Dane and Milwaukee Counties and the City of Milwaukee, even after those three already received over $250 million directly in Coronavirus Relief Funding. This meant that, when the funding was announced, Dane County received about $159,600 per case of COVID-19 or $206 per resident, while Brown County received $1,800 per case and $31 per resident.


In short, Dane and Milwaukee received plenty of aid to begin with, and the extra $33.6 million was unnecessary and could have been used better. Learn more and read comments from County Executive Troy Streckenbach and I in this Green Bay Press Gazette article.


Grants for Healthcare Providers


$100 million was allocated to assist emergency medical services, home and community-based health services, and long-term care providers, such as nursing homes, with their costs incurred to help fight the spread of COVID-19. There will be a first wave of funding made available soon to support more immediate needs, with a second wave coming later to target more individualized needs. The Department of Health Services will award the release of this funding.


Statewide Effort for Testing and Healthcare Preparedness


$1,170 million was allocated for a series of healthcare priorities, including:

  • $260 million for testing, some of which will be made available to local governments

  • $75 million for contact tracing, $50 million of which will be made available to local governments

  • $150 million for acquisition of personal protective equipment for healthcare facilities, first responders and local governments

  • $40 million for the procurement of ventilators

  • $445 million to prepare hospitals and communities for a potential second surge of COVID-19 cases

  • $200 million for expenses incurred in the State Emergency Operations Center, a joint effort lead by the Department of Military Affairs but involving many different state agencies


What’s Next?


Of the $1,997.6 million that was awarded to Wisconsin from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the amounts allocated above should leave about $360 million in available funding. While we await further announcements on how this funding may be utilized to offset COVID-19 expenses, I’m hoping to see additional consideration given to the impacts to local businesses from the ‘Safer at Home’ order.


In a UW-Oshkosh study released on April 22nd, weeks before the ‘Safer at Home’ order was lifted, the statewide economic impact was projected to be substantial. With $79 million in income lost, $29 million in inventory lost, and $119 million in other financial losses from the 1,126 respondents, the economic impact certainly extends beyond the $75 million allocated by the Governor in the Small Business Grant Program.


In the NEW North region, which includes all four counties in the 2nd Senate District, of the 411 respondents, about 23% of businesses said they had less than three months under the conditions of the ‘Safer at Home’ order where they could remain viable, and 22.7% that applied for federal assistance programs didn’t receive any aid. See the full study results on UW-Oshkosh’s website.


With this in mind, more aid for businesses impacted by COVID-19 seems prudent, but it’s not the only expense that I hope is kept in mind. While renters may be assisted, those with mortgages may have suffered the same loss of an income but cannot receive assistance. While local governments received aid, it was calculated based on population and didn’t account for the extraordinary expenses of local governments with sizable outbreaks, such as Brown County. And while healthcare facilities, including long-term care facilities, received some aid, it falls well short of the true impact those facilities felt from COVID-19.


With $360 million in remaining funding and a myriad of priorities with the Coronavirus Relief Fund allocations, I would like to see the Governor use more of this funding to help areas directly impacted with outbreaks, provide additional support to the business community and infuse more funding to long-term care facilities to more fully offset the impact that COVID-19 has had on our economy. We need to work to get the remainder of this $2 billion back to the people impacted most so we can get our economic engines started again and provide help to restore our communities back to normal.



Focus Forward Provides Tips for Business Leaders


The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) understands that these have been unprecedented times, and wants to help get our economy back on track. With their new Focus Forward website, they’ve provided a series of resources for businesses, communities, and consumers that can make us better prepared for an economic recovery and to reinstate the prosperity with which we entered the new year. Along with other information, on this page you can find a few videos, aired originally as livestreams over the past few weeks, covering a number of topics that provide useful tips for Wisconsin’s business leaders. Learn more about Focus Forward and find the videos on WEDC’s website.



New Marketplace Helps to Promote Main Street


From Shawano to Clintonville to Kaukauna and elsewhere throughout the 2nd Senate District, Main Street businesses are a large part of the foundation of communities of all sizes throughout our state, and now more than ever, they need our patronage. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has created Main Street Marketplace, an online directory that is making it a little easier to find some of these unique community staples. Learn more about the new Marketplace in a Spectrum News 1 story, or search the Marketplace on WEDC’s website.



Thanks to Local Banks for Playing Your Part


Some area businesses have needed a lifeline during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Thanks to the work of a number of great community banks and credit unions, many businesses did receive the helping hand they needed to stay afloat until they were able to reopen.


While some local lending intuitions created their own loan or even grant programs, and many others found innovative ways to help, I want to take a moment to thank the banks and credit unions with locations in the 2nd Senate District that participated in the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal forgivable loan program discussed in several previous e-newsletters, including:

  • AbbyBank

  • Associated Bank

  • Bank First

  • Bay Bank

  • Community First Credit Union

  • Denmark State Bank

  • East Wisconsin Savings Bank

  • First National Bank

  • First State Bank

  • Fox Cities Credit Union

  • GreenStone Farm Credit Services

  • Nicolet National Bank

  • North Shore Bank

  • Premier Community Bank

  • U.S. Bank

  • Wells Fargo Bank

  • Wolf River Community Bank


Thank you to these banks and credit unions for your part in helping our communities make it through the hardest part of COVID-19! Your role often plays out in the background, but you deserve recognition for your commitment and assistance.



Veterans Benefit Resource Center Ready to Help


Wisconsin veterans with questions during these uncertain times about the benefits they’ve earned are encouraged to reach out to the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs’ (DVA) Veterans Benefits Resource Center. Staff are available for questions Monday to Friday from 7:45am to 4:15pm by phone at 1-800-947-8387, by email at WisVets@dva.wisconsin.gov, or by live chat on DVA’s website. A listing of many local, state, and federal benefits available to veterans can also be found on DVA’s website. You can find that listing here.



Hospitals and Clinics Are Safe to Seek Care


There can be serious short and long-term consequences to your health and wellbeing if you put off routine or emergency medical care. Recently, the Wisconsin Hospital Association partnered with former Governor and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to create a commercial and radio ad to remind everyone that hospitals and clinics are clean and safe, and that they’re taking the necessary precautions to continue providing outstanding care even with COVID-19 still being a concern. Watch the ad by clicking on the image below.




Economic Impact Payment Information


The federal Economic Impact Payments, commonly referred to as stimulus checks, have already been delivered to most Americans, but some are still waiting for the $1,200 or other amount from the federal CARES Act. If you still haven’t received your Economic Impact Payment, the Internal Revenue Service has created a hotline, 1-800-919-9835, where you can speak with someone to get answers about the status of your payment. Alternatively, you can still visit their website to see frequently asked questions and check the status of your payment online.



Until Next Time


My staff and I continue to remain available 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 involving 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. To find the most up-to-date numbers on confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, visit the Department of Health Services’ website. You can also find the information I’ve shared in my last eleven e-newsletters on COVID-19 by visiting my website.


And as always, please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have, and be sure to 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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