COVID-19 Community Update #9                                         May 22, 2020

Friends and Neighbors, 

While there continues to be uncertainty, apprehension, and excitement about the steps being taken to reopen our state, we must all continue to be diligent about the health and safety of ourselves and others. 

For our state to bounce back safely, we must watch out for our neighbors, take care of our health, and follow guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and local health authorities.

If you are feeling sick or experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, connect with your medical provider, or visit a free community testing site today. You can also take a free, confidential screening at www.wihealthconnect.com/

When Wisconsinites stick together we can do amazing things. Let’s do our part to box in this virus, keep our communities safe, and get back to our Wisconsin way of life.

Please read below for new updates on CARES Act funding initiatives, resources for small businesses, and other information pertinent to keeping our community and state safe.

In Service,

Melissa Sargent
State Representative
48th Assembly District

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CARES Act Funding Allocation

This week Governor Evers has continued to announce the allocation of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, providing much needed relief for our state’s residents. From supporting testing and contact tracing efforts, to rental assistance and financial resources for farmers and small businesses, these efforts are vital in supporting Wisconsinites and helping our state to bounce back safely.


Statewide Effort to support COVID-19 Testing, Contact Tracing, Operations, & Resources for Local Communities

This week Governor Tony Evers announced a robust statewide effort to support COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, the acquisition of needed supplies, emergency operations, and resources for local communities throughout Wisconsin.

The effort is funded by $1.17 billion in federal CARES Act dollars and will work to fight COVID-19 and provide relief for our state. Recognizing that testing and contact tracing are essential to Wisconsin’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus, the state has allocated approximately $260 million for testing efforts and $75 million for contact tracing.

The testing program includes:

-COVID-19 test kits: Everyone who needs a test should receive a test. The state’s testing program will spend $202 million to provide COVID-19 test collection kits to Wisconsin hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, local public health departments, and others at no cost to ensure that everyone who needs a test receives a test.

-Local preparedness grants: These grants will provide $30,000 in funding to 96 local and tribal public health departments (for a total of approximately $3 million) to update preparedness plans to ensure Wisconsin communities, schools and businesses are prepared to support testing efforts into the fall.

-Local community and occupational testing pilots: These pilot programs will infuse $45 million in funding to local public health departments, occupational health providers, home health agencies, and health systems to conduct COVID19 testing in congregate, community and occupational settings. This program will incentivize testing by providing eligible providers $35 per COVID-19 test administered to a Wisconsin resident and will run through August 31, 2020.

-Public health testing coordinators: The testing program will provide $10 million in funding to local and tribal public health departments to coordinate local testing efforts.

Hand in hand with Wisconsin’s state COVID-19 testing program is Wisconsin’s statewide contact tracing program. The purpose of this contact tracing program is to conduct interviews with people who test positive for COVID-19 and alert individuals who have been in recent contact with those who have tested positive that they may have been exposed and to counsel them to quarantine during the period they may develop symptoms and get tested if they are symptomatic. 

The state’s contact tracing program will pair newly obtained analytics software with the labor of individual state employees to reach out to a COVID-19 patient’s recent contacts. Currently, more than 200 current state employees have been reassigned from typical duties to make these crucial phone calls. In the coming weeks, the state will be hiring additional limited term employees to increase the scale of the contact tracing program.

We know there is still a lot of work to do to contain the spread of COVID-19 in our state and to keep people safe. That is why the Governor is committed to continuing robust testing & contact tracing efforts across all corners of Wisconsin, and to ensure that all communities have the resources they need.

This statewide effort will support testing efforts, contact tracing programs, local health initiatives and programming, local health departments and communities, and more.

You can read more about the plan here


We’re All In Initiative - Supporting Wisconsin Small Businesses

This week Governor Tony Evers along with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) also announced the We’re All In Initiative, which provides $75 million in assistance, to spur economic recovery for Wisconsin small businesses and promote safe business practices.

Funded largely by federal dollars received through the CARES Act, this initiative will provide direct assistance to small businesses most impacted by the duration and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The We’re All In initiative will include:

1. Grants in the amount of $2,500 to small businesses with 20 or fewer FTEs impacted by COVID-19. Up to 30,000 businesses may receive grants. More details about the program will be available later this month with businesses able to apply for grant assistance in June.

2. A series of guides for businesses looking to implement best practices to keep employees, customers, and communities safe throughout the COVID-19 crisis. These guides are an essential part of the We’re All In program and were developed in consultation with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Department of Tourism, Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Department of Safety and Professional Services, as well as industry leaders and public health experts throughout the state. They are found on WEDC’s website at https://wedc.org/reopen-guidelines.

3. Ethnic Minority Emergency Grants, which provide $2 million in grants for ethnically diverse Wisconsin micro-businesses who suffered losses due to the pandemic. The grants are aimed at sole proprietorships or businesses with five or fewer employees. One thousand grants of $2,000 each will be administered in partnership with Wisconsin’s 19 ethnic and minority chambers of commerce. More details are available at https://wedc.org/programs-an…/minority-business-development/ 

4. An integrated public information campaign promoting We’re All In businesses and social practices to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and celebrate Wisconsin’s diverse and strong economy.

This is a great step in providing relief for our Wisconsin small businesses, and I will be sure to keep you updated with more information!


Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program

Another way in which this federal funding has been allocated is an investment of $25 million into the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program (W.R.A.P.) to provide short-term relief to eligible Wisconsinites who have experienced income loss as a result of COVID-19.

W.R.A.P. will award up to $3,000 per individual for rental payments and/or security deposits, and is for those with a household income at or below 80% of the county median income.

Wisconsinites should not fear being evicted or being without a place to live because their budgets have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I commend Governor Evers for working to assist renters during these difficult times.

Further information about the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program, including application details and eligibility information will be available soon! The initial details regarding this program are available here.


Farm Support Program & Food Security Initiative

Governor Evers additionally announced the Wisconsin Farm Support Program, a $50 million investment to provide direct payments to Wisconsin farmers hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a $15 million Food Security Initiative to fight hunger in Wisconsin.

The Farm Support Program and Food Security Initiative will help put food on Wisconsinites’ tables and provide direct financial support to Wisconsin farmers who have been the backbone of our state’s food production. 

This plan is a win-win for Wisconsin as it fights food insecurity while also investing in the agriculture industry, supporting Wisconsin’s food supply chain from farm to family. You can learn more about the plan here.


Support for Long-Term Care, Home and Community Based Services, & Emergency Medical Services

Just yesterday, Governor Evers announced a $100 million grant program, again funded by the CARES Act, to support providers most at-risk for financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Without question, COVID-19 has created a significant burden on our long-term care facilities, home and community-based services, and emergency medical services and the integral role they play in ensuring the health and safety of some of our most vulnerable Wisconsinites.

The program will be administered in two parts: 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. You can read more here.


Legislative Democrats COVID-19 Response Plan

Every elected official must live up to their oath to do everything possible to help their constituents through this public health crisis. Further, it is the Wisconsin State Legislature’s duty and responsibility to take action to support our economy, health care systems, and democracy as we navigate these unprecedented times. Yet, due to actions (and inaction) by Republican leadership here in the State Legislature, Wisconsin continues to need to take vital actions to support Wisconsinites.

We need to ensure that our healthcare heroes are supported, and that we provide economic relief for hardworking Wisconsinites– from small businesses and family farms to child care workers and other essential workers. Further, we need to take steps to protect our democracy, including ensuring voting by mail for the remainder of 2020 elections here in our state.

That is why Legislative Democrats have released the COVID-19 Response Plan, a plan that continues the necessary work of helping families and businesses in every corner of Wisconsin.

The fact is, this is a national, multi-faceted effort. This plan takes common sense actions to support individuals across our state as we navigate these uncharted waters, and I am proud to support it.

You can read more about the plan here.


Administration Updates

WEDC Focus Forward Reopen Guidelines

Wisconsin businesses look forward to a future when they can return to providing the products and services their customers need and crave, unencumbered by threats to the health of their employees and those they serve. Working toward that future will require the gradual adoption of new business practices that reflect the evolving reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and our success in mitigating the effects of this unprecedented global health emergency.

There are countless great businesses here in Wisconsin and we are all eager to get back to our favorite spots, but consumers need to be confident in their safety when they return. That's why WEDC put together industry specific tools for businesses, which can be found here.


Department of Workforce Development

Unemployment Updates

The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced that they have secured contracts with outside vendors to expand efforts to directly assist more claimants faster, as more Wisconsinites have applied for unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To assist with calls and processing the extraordinary number of claims for unemployment benefits, DWD is working with two call center vendors and a processing and adjudication vendor. With additional staff on board, DWD will extend its call center hours to 7:00 a.m.to 5:00 p.m. (hours were previously 7:35 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.). 

For more information, read their full statement here.

Going Back to Work Safely

DWD also put out information last week addressing the concerns of Wisconsinites about how to safely return to the workplace after the Safer at Home order was struck down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. More information can be found here.


Department of Children & Families - Child Care Initiatives

As more parents are headed back to work, we need to make sure that child care is affordable and accessible for families and that our providers have the tools they need to care for kids safely.

The Department of Children & Families (DCF) recently announced that they were approved to begin a $51 million payment program to support Wisconsin’s early care and education community. The funding comes as part of the state’s federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding. 

The Child Care Counts COVID-19 Emergency Payment Program: This program is broken into three smaller programs targeted at the most common circumstances early care and education providers are facing in the wake of the public health emergency. The individual payment programs are detailed below:

-Funding to Care for Essential Workforce Families: This program is designed to support the costs of providing care for essential workforce families. Funds are to be used for paying staff, reimbursing families, or other allowable expenses.

-Incentive Pay: The Incentive Pay program provides additional wages for child care providers and individual educators. Funds are required to be used to increase base pay during the State of Emergency for current employees, providers, and individual educators.

-Support for Temporarily Closed Child Care Programs: To assist providers who were forced to close, this program helps defray costs associated with retaining staff and reopening child care programs as Wisconsin’s workforce returns to work. Funds are required to be used for reopening within 30 days of receiving funding. The money received is required to be used for paying staff, reimbursing families, or other allowable expenses.

Special Highlight

Sandburg Elementary Comes Together to Help our Community

A glimmer of hope during hard times— the strength of community.

Thanks to many generous individuals, a group from Sandburg Elementary School is running a community pantry that is providing for over 100 families amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you to Sandburg Elementary School parents & staff for working to ensure that all families in our community have food and other necessities during these difficult times.

We are in this together. There are three drop-off locations where donations can be accepted:

3201 Sunbrook Road

2513 Crest Line Drive

2314 Stuart Court

You can also contribute to their efforts here.


“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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