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I hope everyone has been able to adjust to the time change this week. Hopefully we will be able to enjoy the extra daylight with some warmer temps soon!

In case you missed it, Gov. Evers announced he will be hosting a series of virtual Badger Bounceback Live Sessions that will provide opportunities for Wisconsinites to discuss, provide feedback, and share personal stories on the governor’s Badger Bounceback agenda and how it impacts them, their families, and communities across the state. 

On March 25 at 6pm the Governor will be hosting a session on accessible and affordable healthcare and will cover topics such as expanding access to quality, affordable healthcare, protecting people who have pre-existing conditions, investing in mental health services, Medicaid/BadgerCare expansion, caregiving, and long-term care for aging and older adults and folks with disabilities.

You can register to attend the event here.

 

This update includes more about the financial importance of expanding BadgerCare, budget information related to economic recovery, the latest vaccination update, Wisconsin unemployment system, and the Governor's radio address.

I hope you find this information helpful and please don't hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
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JON ERPENBACH
State Senator
27th District

 

 

Get to Know the Budget - Economic Recovery

The Governor's BounceBack Budget includes policies to help our state, communities and families bounce back and better than when the pandemic started. It includes a lot of policies that have overwhelming public support and are critical to help move our state forward. Each week, I'll highlight portions of the Governor's budget and why it matters to you.
Supporting our small businesses, raising the minimum wage, and making housing more affordable are all critical to ensuring families, communities bounce back from this pandemic. Critical investments include...
  • $43 million for our farmers including critical funding for mental health services, farmer-led conservation efforts, supporting agricultural innovation, and expanding market opportunities.
  • $238 million to help small businesses, $100 million in a venture capitol program, and over $29 million in workforce development initiatives.
  • $450 million in tax relief for low and moderate income Wisconsinites, especially those with kids and those who provide care to family members.
 

Expanding BadgerCare is the Best Bang for our Buck

Who doesn’t love a good deal? It’s common for folks in Wisconsin to want to make sure they are getting the best bang for their buck.

So why shouldn’t the Wisconsin legislature do the same? For years, Democrats have been pushing to expand BadgerCare because it ensures greater access to affordable, quality coverage, lower premiums and generates millions to be re-invested in programs that benefit all Wisconsinites. More coverage for less, that’s a great deal.

It’s a deal that just got better under the federal American Rescue Plan Act. Under this plan, if Wisconsin were to expand BadgerCare – as proposed in the Governor’s budget – Wisconsin would receive an additional billion dollar incentive payment.

Yes, you read that correctly. ONE BILLION DOLLARS. That’s in addition to the $634 million dollars of general purpose revenue Wisconsin would save and the 1.3 billion federal dollars we would leverage.

For those of you concerned about those big numbers and what that means for Wisconsin’s bottom line, it’s important to remember that Wisconsin would not save any money by choosing not to participate. Instead our tax dollars would go to other states that DO choose to participate. We are only one of twelve states that don’t. 

If we have learned anything from the last year it’s the importance of access to affordable and quality healthcare. And once again, Gov. Evers is prioritizing healthcare for Wisconsinites by introducing a budget that makes critical investments in health services while also expanding BadgerCare.

We’re now a full year into the COVID-19 pandemic and the stakes couldn’t be higher for our state’s ability to bounce back. The only thing standing between our state and over a billion dollars are legislative Republicans dead set on sticking it to the Governor.

During the last budget Republicans foolishly rejected BadgerCare expansion and there is absolutely no reason to make the same mistake again. Especially when there is even more money on the line.

There is no way to refute the fact that BadgerCare expansion is good for our state. States that have expanded their own programs saw positive impacts on their economies including: lower premiums, an increase in providers in rural areas, reductions in medical debt, reductions in infant mortality rates, and better reimbursements rates that helps attract and retain medical professionals.

More importantly it’s what you, the people of Wisconsin, want! The most recent Marquette Law Poll shows that 70% of Wisconsin residents approve of expanding BadgerCare.

It is the fiscally smart thing to do and the best deal for Wisconsin. To reject it would be a costly missed opportunity. Republicans have their second chance, and we should all be putting pressure on them to do what is right.


The Latest News on Vaccinations

Gov. Evers and DHS Move Up People with Medical Conditions for COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility to March 22

Per the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), individuals age 16 and older with certain medical conditions will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning March 22. This eligibility group includes individuals with medical conditions associated with an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Based on the recent and anticipated increases in vaccine availability, DHS anticipates the general public will be eligible for the vaccine sometime in May.

 

The next eligibility group includes individuals age 16 and over with the following medical conditions:

  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cancer
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant, blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Liver disease
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30-39 kg/m2)
  • Overweight (BMI of 25-29 kg/m2)
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Severe Obesity (BMI 40 kg/m2 or more)
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)

In the meantime, it is important to double-down on ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 due to emerging strains of the virus. Masking up, staying physically distant, washing hands, and getting tested continue to be crucial tools for protecting ourselves and our communities against COVID-19. Individuals who are fully vaccinated can review recently released post-vaccination guidance on the DHS website.

For information, resources, and data related to Wisconsin’s COVID-19 vaccination program, visit the COVID-19 vaccine webpage.


March for Meals on Wheels

This month the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Eagle Country - Sauk County Office is Marching for Meals on Wheels to celebrate the program, the older adults they serve and the amazing volunteers that make it all happen. 

Do you know an older adult who could benefit from Meals on Wheels? The ADRC offers hot, home-delivered meals within the city limits of Baraboo, Sauk City/Prairie du Sac, Reedsburg, and La Valle. They also cover rural Sauk County residents by delivering a week's worth of frozen meals!

If you are interested in learning more, call the Aging & Disability Resource Center office at (608) 355-3289 to inquire about service in your area.

  


Democratic Radio Address

This week, Governor Evers delivered the Democratic Radio Address on the capital budget and how his Badger Bounceback agenda will help Wisconsinites bounce back from this pandemic

You can listen to the audio file here and the written transcript is below:

 

"Hi Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers here.

Last month, I announced my Badger Bounceback agenda, which included our capital budget that will make significant investments in state infrastructure across Wisconsin.

I’m proud capital budget is one of the strongest investments to date in Wisconsin’s state facility infrastructure and economic recovery. It includes a $2.38 billion investment that would provide approximately 29,000 family-supporting jobs and an estimated overall $4.3 billion economic impact.

From investments in our UW system campuses, protecting our natural resources and state parks and forests, to taking care of our veterans at our Veterans Homes, we know that Wisconsinites across our state will feel the economic impact of this budget, which includes projects in 31 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.

As we work to recover from this pandemic, these investments will be critically important in helping our economy and our state bounce back from this pandemic stronger than we were before this pandemic hit. But at the end of the day, our Badger Bounceback agenda won’t be possible without you.

You can help make sure we bounce back from this pandemic by contacting your legislator. Go to legis.wisconsin.gov and find your legislator’s contact information and ask them to support our Badger Bounceback agenda so we
can get past this pandemic and bounce back, together.

Thank you."


Unemployment Modernization Update 

The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has announced their plans to move forward without legislative funding to begin the process to modernize Wisconsin's outdated Unemployment Insurance (UI) computer system.

Per DWD, new federal grant funding will allow them to contract with technology consulting experts who will advise the Department through a procurement process, beginning with an expedited competitive purchase of an integrated cloud-based communications center that will allow people to easily access claims information by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Typically, it can take over a year just to lay out the requirements for a full system overhaul of this scale," DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said. "The department is on an aggressive timeline to begin a full-scale modernization of the UI system, so we’ve worked to start this project as quickly as possible. Building on DWD's success over the past four months, we are taking a nimbler approach to modernization that can provide faster results with the federal funding that is available."

DWD has long been calling attention to its antiquated system, which limited its customer service options and slowed the processing of unemployment claims both during the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic. It also forced the Department to delay implementation of new federal unemployment programs and extensions created in response to the pandemic. The Department showcased the challenges in an informational briefing earlier this year.

Gov. Evers' Special Session Senate Bill 1 (SS SB 1), now 2021 Act 4, went into effect on Feb. 26. Although the bill did not provide any funding for the modernization project that Gov. Evers requested, the governor called the bill a “first step.” Act 4 required DWD to issue a request for proposals by March 29, 2021 and undertake the modernization project by June 30. Act 4 also provided the Governor additional authority to waive procurement requirements when necessary to help expedite the process. Because Gov. Evers waived the RFP requirements to allow DWD to contract with a vendor, DWD was able to select 18F out of a handful of qualified consultants and contract with 18F. DWD is now ahead of schedule with its modernization process. 

While the Legislature voted to eliminate the governor’s proposed funding to initiate and make the first installment of payments on modernization in SS SB 1, the Governor has proposed full funding for the project in his 2021-23 Executive Budget.


Rental Assistance

Reminder, if you or anyone you know that has experienced income loss as a result of the pandemic their is support available! 
 
The Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program, provides direct financial assistance for rent, utility, home energy costs, and wraparound services for individuals who qualify.
 
For information on the program, how to apply, frequently asked questions as well as local resources and contacts please click here.

 


- Resources - 

During this difficult time it is worth reminding Wisconsinites that 211 exists to help when you don’t know where to turn. 211 is a resource managed by the United Way of Wisconsin. Call 2-1-1 or visit their website.

Office of Crime Victim Services

End Abuse Wisconsin 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233, text LOVEIS to 22522, or go to thehotline.org for free and confidential support.

Disaster Distress Hotline 

Coping Resources for Kids and Parents Amidst COVID-19 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Veterans Crisis Line 

Vets for Warriors 

Military One Source 

Resilient Wisconsin

Department of Corrections Helpline: The call center can be reached by members of the public Monday through Friday from 7:45am–4:30pm at (608) 240-5700.

Wisconsin Farm Center 

24/7 Farmer Wellness Hotline

LGBTQ Crisis Line 

HopeLine Text Service 

Wisconsin Elder Abuse Hotline 

Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline 


 

Looking for additional resources? If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to my office at Sen.Erpenbach@Legis.WI.Gov, or call (608) 266-6670. 

 

 
 
Contacting My Office

Feel free to contact me with any inquiries.

Please visit my website for press releases and other Capitol updates.