COVID-19 Community Update #8                                         May 14, 2020

Friends and Neighbors, 

The Safer at Home Order is imperative to saving lives and for the long term well-being of our state. Sadly, due to partisan antics and a failure to prioritize public health, GOP legislators chose to challenge Governor Evers’ lifesaving Safer at Home Order in court, while also failing to offer any comprehensive alternative plan to combat COVID-19. The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision yesterday is detrimental for our state. Not only does this decision exacerbate the confusion, fear, and instability that many Wisconsinites are facing, but it truly puts lives at risk. I am deeply disappointed that a narrow majority of the Supreme Court has put partisanship above public health and safety.  

We all want our state to reopen, and to see our Wisconsin businesses and workers thrive again. However, it is vital that we use a science-based and data driven approach to reopen our state, so that Wisconsin can stay open for good. Governor Evers’ Safer at Home Order, in conjunction with a strategic and incremental plan to reopen our state— the Badger Bounce Back Plan— does just that. 

Yesterday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court decision negates the months of hard work Wisconsinites have put in, staying safer at home, social distancing, and going without seeing loved ones. Further, this action prioritizes partisanship over human life— an egregious and reckless decision for our state. Lives depended on this decision, and the Court failed to take appropriate action. As a result, too many of our Wisconsin friends and neighbor will continue to suffer. 

We cannot let this Supreme Court ruling undo all the work that we have done and the sacrifices we have made over these past few months. My top priority continues to be the health and safety of the people of Wisconsin, and I am committed to continuing to work within the Legislature to push for responsible and science-based action to address the COVID-19 public health threat that still remains.

Please read below for more information on how this Court decision impacts our state. 

In Service,

Melissa Sargent
State Representative
48th Assembly District

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Wisconsin Supreme Court Decision

Yesterday, in a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in the Legislature v. Andrea Palm lawsuit finding that Emergency Order #28 (EO#28) is subject to statutory rule-making procedures established by the Legislature. Because EO#28 did not follow the rule-making procedures the Supreme Court found EO#28 “unenforceable”.  The order says since statutes required EO#28 to be promulgated using the rule-making procedures to be enforceable, there can be no criminal penalties for violations of the order. The Supreme Court said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm is not without any power to act, however she must follow the law that is applicable.  The order states, “We further conclude that Palm’s order confining all people to their homes, forbidding travel and closing businesses exceeded the statutory authority of Wis. State. § 252.02 upon which Palm claims to rely.”

As such, the Safer at Home Order is no longer in effect, causing Wisconsin to be the only state in the nation without a single statewide protective measure in place to combat COVID-19. 

It has left to be seen if the GOP Legislative leaders— responsible for the challenge of the Governor’s plan— will introduce their own plan, or leave containment and prevention measures at the will of local action. So far, Wisconsin has had multiple counties extend the public health emergency order until May 26th— the date the original Safer at Home Order was set to expire. 

While this is a devastating blow to the safety, wellbeing, and health of our state, Governor Evers and his Administration will continue to do all they can to protect Wisconsinites and vulnerable people. The Department of Health Services will continue to work with nursing homes and long-term care facilities, veteran’s homes, healthcare providers, and more, to ensure the best practices possible are in place to continue to keep our state safe. Further, Governor Evers is working to do all that he can to encourage Republican leadership to take action

Now more than ever, it is imperative that we each individually continue to prioritize health & safety and do the following:

  • Stay Safer at Home 
  • Practice social distancing:
    • Limit your physical interactions to the same people during this time. Less than five people total will help us stop the virus from spreading.
    • Keep at least 6 feet apart from others and avoid direct physical contact.
  • Wear a facemask
  • Wash your hand often with soap and water
  • Limit all travel & public trips
    • Limit trips to essential needs like to the grocery store or pharmacy.
    • Make essential trips no more than once a week.

Dane County Public Health Update

While the Wisconsin Supreme Court made the egregious decision to invalidate the statewide Safer at Home order, here in Dane County these guidelines are still in place.

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, Public Health Madison & Dane County issued an order adopting the provisions of the Safer at Home Order, which shall remain in effect until 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 (the date the original Safer at Home Order was set to expire).

This local order incorporates all of the elements of the statewide Safer at Home order, and is effectively immediately. 

Read the news release and Current Order page for more information.


Free testing now available in Dane County

Comprehensive and accessible testing is the most important aspect of our state’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and save lives, and will allow us to safely reopen our economy and return to our daily lives faster.

To expand testing access here in Dane County, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently implemented a free community testing center at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison (1919 Alliant Energy Center Way, Madison, WI 53713). This testing site is open from 8am-4pm from Monday to Saturday for drive-thru, bike-up, or walk-up. No appointments or pre-registration are required.

If you or a loved one are experiencing even mild COVID-19 symptoms please do not hesitate to get tested. Getting tested will not only provide crucial peace of mind, but will also help our community contain this deadly virus.

For more information on testing procedures, click here!


Unemployment Insurance & The Supreme Court Ruling

During this time of uncertainty & confusion, it is vital to know how yesterday's State Supreme Court ruling on Safer At Home impact unemployment benefits. Please read below for information from the Department of Workforce Development (DWD):
  • It does not impact applications submitted or claims pending. Benefits will be paid to eligible claimants, even if the person returns to work before their claim is deemed eligible.
  • It does not impact federal programs like FPUC, PUA or PEUC.
  • It does not change work search. Governor Tony Evers waived work search March 12, 2020. Work search is still considered satisfied through the end of September 2020.
  • It does impact unemployment eligibility in this way: If an employer now has work for an employee who was laid off or furloughed and that employee refuses to return to work, that will cause an eligibility issue that must be adjudicated.

Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own. If the employee—not the employer—is choosing not to work, the employee is likely not eligible for UI benefits.

However, the facts of each circumstance are important. If you have any question about whether you are eligible for benefits, please apply (Individuals considered ineligible for unemployment may be eligible for PUA).


“50 Piece Rule”

REMINDER: 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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