COVID-19 Community Update #4                                         April 14, 2020

Friends and Neighbors, 

Today the Wisconsin State Assembly convened in an extraordinary session to vote upon Assembly Bill 1038 (more information can be found below), legislation to address the COVID-19 pandemic in our state. This legislation takes many important steps forward for our state, which is why I voted yes to passing AB 1038 today. I look forward to the Wisconsin State Senate taking action to pass the legislation tomorrow, so it may be signed into law and go into effect to help people across our state.

While AB 1038 removes the one-week wait period for unemployment benefits, allows Wisconsin to receive millions of dollars in federal funding, puts in place consumer protections for fair insurance practices, and other important steps to ease the negative implications of COVID-19 in our communities, there is much work to be done. 

Disappointingly, Republican leadership refused to include many of Governor Evers’ legislative proposals into AB 1038, or to take up the three amendments that Assembly Democrats offered on the Floor. These provisions, from funding for senior care facilities who are working to keep our loved ones safe to ensuring compensation and health care for essential front line workers, would further assist our state and provide necessary resources for the health and wellbeing of Wisconsinites. 

The bill passed today was a first step, but it failed to make critical state investments for much needed relief. Our families, businesses, farmers, and essential workers are all making countless sacrifices in the interest of public health to stop the spread of this virus, and ultimately to save lives. Yet, without a single state dollar being appropriated for the workers who are risking their lives on a daily basis, I know that there much more our state can do.

Helping the people of our state has to be our top priority as policy makers, yet Wisconsin Republicans have failed to make a single state investment to provide needed relief for Wisconsin residents. Our state government must do everything possible to keep our communities safe, provide economic assistance to those in desperate need, protect our democracy, and support our farms and businesses. This legislation does the bare minimum. This bill must be the beginning of our state’s COVID-19 response, not the end. The people of our state deserve nothing less.

In Service,

Melissa Sargent
State Representative
48th Assembly District


What’s in Assembly Bill 1038?

Unemployment Insurance

Our state has seen hundreds of thousands of individuals lose crucial sources of income and struggle to find stability during these pressing times. Between March 15th and April 6th, over 313,000 Wisconsinites have submitted applications for unemployment benefits. To address this unprecedented need across the state, the Legislature has waived the one week waiting period before claimants start to receive unemployment benefits. This important change-- which will be applied retroactively-- will help Wisconsinites put food on the table, pay the rent, and start to find some balance during this time of uncertainty.


Former Healthcare Worker Licensing

To address the sheer volume of COVID 19 cases in Wisconsin hospitals, it is absolutely crucial that we have a strong workforce with experience in working with vulnerable individuals. To increase the number of medical professionals assisting our health care system, AB 1038 included provisions that would allow former health care providers to obtain a temporary credential granted by DSPS and provide health care services for which they have been previously licensed or certified.  Under the bill, DSPS may grant a temporary credential to a person who was at any time during the previous five years licensed to carry out a specific function within our healthcare system This includes physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses, pharmacists, and many more. The temporary credential is valid for 90 days after the conclusion of the public health emergency declared on March 12. This temporary provision will decrease barriers to entering the workforce and will make sure that vulnerable communities have strong support systems to navigate the negative health effects of this global pandemic.


Funding under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act

The legislation that the Assembly passed today will allow for Wisconsin to receive its fair share of funding from the Federal relief legislation that was passed by Congress. The two most important provisions in AB 1038 make legislative changes that are required under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, in order to receive millions of dollars of increased federal aid. These changes temporarily repeal misguided Republican policies passed since 2011 that have made it harder for people to access BadgerCare and unemployment insurance, two programs that are critically important for Wisconsinites struggling with the COVID-19 crisis.


Technical Changes

In addition to the aforementioned areas, AB 1038 makes a variety of technical changes that will help to mitigate the negative implications of COVID-19 in our state. From making various temporary licensure changes to ease the burdens on our healthcare system to putting in place consumer protections for fair insurance practices in light of COVID-19, below are some of the various technical changes found in AB 1038:

  • Prohibiting retailers from accepting certain returns: AB 1038 prohibits a retailer from accepting a return of food products, personal care products, cleaning products, and paper products during the public health emergency.
  • Communications relating to public health emergency: Currently, under Wisconsin's campaign finance law, a person elected to a state or local government elective office who becomes a candidate for a national, state, or local government office may not use public funds to pay the cost of materials or distribution for 50 or more pieces of substantially identical material after April 15th of an election year. This bill exempts from this prohibition communications relating to the public health emergency.
  • Prescription order extensions: Current law allows a pharmacist to extend a prescription order under certain circumstances in the event that the prescription cannot otherwise be refilled, subject to certain criteria and limitations. This bill creates an alternative authorization for a pharmacist to extend a prescription during the period covered by a public health emergency.
  • Emergency management: Allows the transfer of employees between executive branch agencies to assist during the public health emergency. 

What’s missing in Assembly Bill 1083?

While this legislation will provide much-needed relief to struggling Wisconsin families, AB 1083 proves to only be a skeleton version of the bill that we truly need to address the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is crucial that the State Legislature convene again to take further actions. Additional legislation should be passed to address the following issue areas that Republicans refused to take up today, including:

  • Funding and resources for essential front line workers who need compensation and health care as they take care of Wisconsinites throughout our state. This includes expanding the Critical Workforce Child Care Grant Program so that essential workers have the ability to receive necessary child care, and creating a Child Care Hazard Pay Grant Program that would ensure just compensation for child care providers during this public health emergency.
  • Additional financial support for farmers and small businesses, many of whom have been forced to close their doors to protect public safety. This includes additional funding to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) for grant and loan assistance programs to Wisconsin businesses.
  • Economic security for long-term care facilities and nursing homes who are working around the clock to keep our loved ones safe from a virus that disproportionately impacts the elderly.
  • Relief for our UW System, which is facing nearly $170 million in lost revenue this spring.
  • Funding to support elections administration and stability within our election system and for our city and county clerks who will administer it.
  • Providing needed funding for our Wisconsin tourism industry.

Thank You Essential Workers!

In these difficult times there are so many hardworking individuals on the frontlines working to provide for our community and to keep us safe. From healthcare professionals and first responders, to grocery workers, service industry employees, and child care providers, thank you for your contributions to our state. We could not get through this public health emergency without you, and we value your work. My heartfelt gratitude and appreciation goes out to each of the essential workers bravely working during this time.

“50 Piece Rule”

Pursuant to Wisconsin State Statutes, legislators are prohibited from distributing more than 49 pieces of substantially identical materials during election cycles. Starting April 15th (tomorrow), this so-called “50 Piece Rule” will go into effect.

While AB 1038 waives this rule for communications pertaining to the current public health emergency, I will be unable to distribute any non-COVID-19 related news from now on. I will continue to post regular updates on social media (follow along on Facebook and Twitter!), keeping you in the loop on all things taking place over the next few months.


Contacting My Office

Team Sargent is here to help you! Please reach out to us with general inquiries, as well as any thoughts, questions, or concerns regarding legislative matters, at 608-266-0960 or via email at rep.sargent@legis.wi.gov

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