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Is anyone else appreciating the excitement of March Madness more this year? That first Badger game was such a thrill and it was a bummer to see them go out against Baylor but that is part of the madness! 

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 30 at 6pm the Governor will be hosting a session on transportation and infrastructure and will cover topics such as investments in transportation and infrastructure, fixing our roads and bridges, investing in transit and transportation alternatives, expanding access to broadband, and supporting local communities and government.

You can register to attend the event here.

 

This update includes more about budget information related to BadgerCare expansion, news on the Merrimac Ferry, vaccination information, an application deadline reminder for Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grants, 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 - BadgerCare Expansion

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.
A key pillar in Governor Evers' budget is BadgerCare Expansion. This has been an important issue for me during my time in the legislature because it the best financial deal for our state. As I've mentioned previously, it's a deal that just got better under the American Rescue Plan Act that was just signed into law by President Biden. If Wisconsin were to expand BadgerCare - like it's proposed in the budget - Wisconsin would receive $1 billion in additional federal funding.
Expanding BadgerCare is critical to improving access to quality and affordable healthcare. 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 
  • Better reimbursements rates that helps attract and retain medical professionals - especially in rural areas
Make no mistake, BadgerCare is about healthcare. It would be a costly missed opportunity to reject it. I encourage you to reach out to Republican Senators and Representatives and encourage them to do the right thing and vote to expand BadgerCare in Wisconsin. 

Spring Has Officially Sprung!

Spring as sprung, the Merrimac Ferry is officially open for the season! Per the Department of Transportation, the ferry shuttles Highway 113 traffic, bicycles and pedestrians across the Wisconsin River 24 hours a day, seven days a week between Okee in Columbia County and Merrimac in Sauk County. The ferry will close daily for 30 minutes at 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. for operator shift change.

The following guidelines are in place as precautionary measures for the safety of ferry staff and passengers:

  • Ferry passengers are encouraged to remain in vehicles.
  • Motorcyclists should stay in their respective boarding lane and stay single file during the crossing.
  • Pedestrians and bicyclists are allowed on the ferry.
  • Passengers are asked to maintain distance of at least six feet from other ferry users throughout the trip. Use of face coverings is advised, and appreciated.
  • Any sanitization of the railings as passengers continue to load and unload will be up to individual riders, and we encourage passengers to bring hand sanitizer.​​​​​​
  • The restroom building at the Merrimac Ferry’s south landing in Columbia County is currently closed.

A single crossing takes about seven minutes. The ferry season lasts as long as the river is free of ice. 

In 2020 the ferry season occurred between April 20 and December 24 with 35,213 trips carrying 206,775 vehicles across the river.

More ferry information can be found at wisconsindot.gov/MerrimacFerry.

 


Statement on Pharmacy Benefit Manager Bill

Bipartisan legislation aimed at lowering drug costs and increasing transparency for consumers through Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) was signed into law by Governor Evers at a special ceremony at Bridge Community Clinic in Wausau, Wisconsin.

As a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 3, I am relieved to see action being taken to help lower the costs of prescription drugs and increase transparency and accountability for consumers. This bill will allow pharmacists to tell patients that they can get their medicine for a lower price if they buy it without insurance.

Our community was well represented through the development of this legislation and I want to thank Janet Fritsch from Hometown Pharmacy in Baraboo for her advocacy on this issue as well as former Rep. Deb Kolste for all of the work she put into this bill last session. I was proud to co-sponsor of this bill and thank Governor Evers for signing it into law. There is still plenty of work to do lower prescription drug costs but this is an important step in that direction.

You can read more about the bill here


As of March 22nd People with Medical Conditions are Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine

Per the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), individuals age 16 and older with certain medical conditions are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. 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 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.


Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin Director Nomination Period Closes March 30th

Milk producers that are eligible and interested in running for a Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW) director seat have until March 30, 2021 to submit a nomination form to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

Per DATCP, to qualify, a nominee must be an active dairy producer who lives in a district up for election and sells milk into commercial channels. The eight districts up for election are:

  • District 2 – Florence, Forest, Langlade, Marinette, Oconto, and Vilas counties
  • District 5 – St. Croix and Dunn counties
  • District 8 – Marathon County
  • District 11 – Outagamie and Winnebago counties
  • District 14 – Jackson, LaCrosse, and Trempealeau counties
  • District 17 – Calumet and Manitowoc counties
  • District 20 – Richland and Sauk counties
  • District 23 – Iowa and Lafayette counties

DFW directors guide the organization's finances, formulate and set its policies, develop long-range business plans, and maintain its mission. DFW exists to be a tireless advocate, marketer, and promoter for Wisconsin dairy farmers and drive demand for Wisconsin's dairy products. Through these initiatives, a DFW director has the opportunity to represent Wisconsin dairy producers and products as well as be involved in activities that inform and educate consumers about the dairy industry and its economic impact.

Potential candidates must submit a completed nomination form and have the “Affidavit of Eligibility" on the nomination form notarized. In addition, nominees must acquire at least five signatures from other active dairy producers who reside in the same election district. Due to COVID-19, nominees may acquire the five signatures on an individual nomination form or direct their nominators to sign electronically by emailing the Market Orders Program Manager.

After DATCP certifies the nominations, candidates will be announced and a mail-in ballot election will take place May 1-22, 2021. Results will be released at the end of May. Elected directors will serve a three-year term that begins July 1, 2021 and ends June 30, 2024.

Producers interested in serving as a director can contact Debbie Gegare, Market Orders Program Coordinator, at (608) 224-5116 or debbie.gegare@wisconsin.gov for a nomination form or obtain an electronic copy at www.WisconsinDairy.org/elections.       

DATCP administers elections for Wisconsin commodity marketing boards. To learn more about the market order boards, visit https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/About_Us/MarketingBoards.aspx. 

 


Democratic Radio Address

This week, Governor Evers delivered the Democratic Radio Address on how his Badger Bounceback agenda will expand accessible and affordable healthcare in Wisconsin by expanding BadgerCare and investing in mental and behavioral health resources, addressing health disparities, lowering prescription drug costs and addressing the cargiving crisis.

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

 

"Hi everyone, Governor Tony Evers here.

Our Badger Bounceback budget agenda is all about how we can make sure our state recovers from the pandemic better and stronger than we were before the pandemic hit. And if there’s anything COVID-19 underscored, it’s that the health and wellness of our state and our economy depends on the health and wellness of our people.

Whether it’s affordability or accessibility due to lack of broadband for telehealth services or transportation to get into town, too many Wisconsinites continue to face barriers to accessing the healthcare that they need.

That’s why my biennial budget proposal invests in expanding access to affordable healthcare in four critical ways. We’re proposing expanding BadgerCare to provide coverage to 90,000 Wisconsinites and save our state
$1.6 billion dollars, ensuring telehealth services are covered the same as in-person services, investing in mental and behavioral health resources for the folks who need it, and addressing health disparities by investing in health equity initiatives and curbing social determinants of health.

We’re also going to tackle the rising costs of prescription drug prices with over 20 policy solutions to help lower costs and increase transparency because picking up your medications shouldn’t break the bank.

And, folks, all across Wisconsin we are experiencing a caregiving crisis, so we’re investing $600 million in our long-term care, direct care workforce, and family caregivers. And finally, we are also going to continue to protect and ensure coverage for the more than 2.6 million Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions.

Join me in supporting our Badger Bounceback budget by contacting your local representatives to tell them you support these proposals, and let’s get this done. Thank you."


2021 Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin Grant Deadline

The application deadline for Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grants is just around the corner. 

The Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is now accepting applications for farmers or small business owners that are trying to expand their business into new markets.

For the last 13 years, the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin Grant program has helped farms and small businesses more efficiently process, market and distribute goods in local markets. This successful program is implemented and managed by DATCP to help keep food dollars right here in our local communities, support local economies, create jobs and improve outcomes for farms and small businesses. 

2021 grant applications are due March 26, 2021 by noon. Click here to download the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin Grant application form. 


Celebrate Agriculture Day! 

National Ag Day - celebrated on March 23rd - is a time to recognize and show appreciation for the Wisconsin farmers whose hard work and dedication make it possible to feed everyone in our state, the nation, and even globally! 
Celebrate agriculture this week and support farmers in your community by looking for locally produced products in stores. What Wisconsin-made product is your favorite?! 

 


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.