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It was a busy week of meeting virtually with various constituent lobby groups and both the Assembly and Senate being in session.

Unfortunately, rather than focusing on issues to help our state bounce back from the pandemic, Republicans focused on proposals that are so they bad they likely will be vetoed. One batch of bills would give Republicans - who refused to do their job during the height of the COVID-19 crisis - control over federal funding. As noted by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the proposals aren't even allowed under federal law and would even need to be repaid. You can read more about the Senate session here

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 April 21st at 6pm the Governor will be hosting the last session, on Climate Change and the Environment that will cover topics such as topics such as investing in stewardship and making public lands more accessible, addressing lead poisoning prevention, keeping our water clean, addressing climate change and the climate crisis, and protecting our state’s natural resources. 

You can register to attend the event here.

 

This update includes budget information related to the environment, guidance once you're fully vaccinated, various road project updates in the 27th Senate District, the Governor's radio address, Black Maternal Health Week and the utility moratorium deadline. 

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 - Environment

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.
In Wisconsin, it's safe to say that we our proud of our diverse wildlife and unique natural features. It's a major driving force behind the success of local communities and opportunities for Wisconsin families and it's critical that we safeguard access to clean water, land and air for future generations to enjoy.
Governor Evers' budget matters for future generations because it invests in stewardship and makes public lands more accessible, addresses lead poisoning prevention, keeps our water clean, addresses climate change and the climate crisis, and protects our state’s natural resources. Here are some key takeaways: 
Ensuring Access to Clean Water
  • Invests $2 million for statewide monitoring and testing for PFAS, invests $20 million in municipal gran program for the testing and remediation of PFAS by local units of government, and provides $1 million for the collection and disposal of firefighting foam that contains PFAS.
  • Provides $40 million for the replacement of lead service lines.

Conserving Natural Resources

  • Reauthorizes the Stewardship program for 10 years with $70 million in annual bonding authority, along with other critical investments in conservation and forestry.
  • Calls for investments in supporting the forestry efforts, addresses chronic wasting disease, and expands opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Investing in Green Jobs

  • Invests in clean energy and workforce development that will move Wisconsin toward being a cleaner, healthier, and more economically robust state.
  • Included in the budget is $500,000 annually under the Wisconsin Fast Forward framework, which will enable training for green jobs across the state, and $4 million in funding for the creation of a renewable and clean energy research grant administered by the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy.

Promoting Energy Efficiency

  • Doubles the required utility contribution for the Focus on Energy program generating an additional $100 million in annual funding for the program, and reserves a portion of the additional Focus on Energy funds for the Public Service Commission to develop a low-income customer track to offer enhanced incentives for eligible customers
  • Provides $10 million for grants to school districts to conduct energy efficiency school building projects and creates a sales and use tax exemption for property used primarily to store or facilitate the storage of energy produced by a solar, wind or biogas renewable energy system.

Preventing & Preparing for Flooding

  • Invests $30 million in programs that help build resilient roads and infrastructure, restore wetlands to prevent catastrophic flooding, support farmers when their crops are damaged, as well as an innovative first of-its-kind program to help Wisconsinites purchase flood insurance.
  • Provides $5 million for the creation of a Great Lakes Erosion Control loan program to assist municipalities and owners of homes located on the shore of Lake Michigan or Lake Superior where the structural integrity of municipal buildings or homes threatened by shoreline erosion.

Make An Appointment to Get Vaccinated!

In case you missed it, Gov. Tony Evers, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), announced that everyone age 16 and over is now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Per DHS, you can find a local vaccine provider on the COVID-19 vaccine provider map or visit https://vaccinefinder.org. Individuals can also call the toll-free vaccine hotline at 1-844-684-1064 with questions or help registering for a vaccination appointment. The hotline is also available in Hindi, Hmong, Somali, and Spanish.

Certain vaccine providers are using the COVID-19 Vaccine Registry. Anyone can register for an appointment using the COVID-19 vaccine registry. After you register, you will be notified when you are able to schedule an appointment. Appointments are based on whether a vaccine provider in your area uses the registry for scheduling and has available vaccine, and your place on the waitlist. Other vaccine providers may use their own scheduling system.

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.

Be proactive in reaching out to your local pharmacy or health clinic to set up a vaccine appointment. Reminder if you have any COVID-19 questions call 844-684-1064 (toll-free).


Construction Starts April 19th on US14/Commercial Street in Mazomanie

With warming temps means a changing of the seasons, and that means construction season! Per the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, construction is expected to being Monday, April 19th on US 14/Commercial Street, between Walter Road and County KP, in Mazomanie. The project will address deteriorating pavement conditions and substandard pedestrian accommodations. Additional improvements include storm sewer, grading, aggregate, curb and gutter, asphalt pavement, street lighting, sidewalk, and traffic signals at the US 14 and Brodhead Street intersection. 

US 14 will remain open to traffic with access maintained to businesses and residential driveways. In June, US 14 will be closed for three weeks as crews install storm sewer pipes under the highway near County KP. During that closure, all traffic will be detoured via WIS 60, US 12 and WIS 78. Pedestrian access will be maintained at the US 14 and Brodhead Street intersection during construction. 

Motorists are urged to slow down, eliminate distractions and watch for crews and equipment working near the travel lanes. The $3.2 million project is scheduled to be completed in late September 2021.

Information on the US 14 reconstruction project in Mazomanie can be found at projects.511wi.gov/us14. You can also follow Southwest Region construction projects on Twitter at @WisDOTsouthwest.

 


Are You Fully Vaccinated?

Did you recently get your second vaccination shot? Dane County Public Health recently published a blog on what it means to be fully vaccinated, guidance on gatherings, and why it's important to continue some safety precautions. 

 

You can read more about that and what you can do once you're fully vaccinated here.

 


WIS 78 Construction, Prarie du Sac - Merrimac, set to begin April 19th

Pavement replacement work on WIS 78 between Eagle View Court in Prairie du Sac and Weynand Drive in Merrimac is scheduled to begin Monday, April 19th. WIS 78 will remain open to local traffic only.
The posted state highway detour for through traffic utilizes US 12, WIS 33, and I-39/90/94.
The WIS 78/113 intersection located west of Merrimac is within the work zone and will be open to local traffic only. WIS 78 at the Merrimac Ferry landing is not in the work zone. 
Project improvements include removing the pavement and pavement structure, curb and gutter replacement, beam guard replacement, pavement marking, signing, centerline, and shoulder rumble strips. 
Information on the project can be found at projects.511wi.gov/wis78-sauk/. Construction is currently scheduled for completion in late September 2021. Again, you can stay up to date by following @WisDOTsouthwest for all of the latest road news.

Black Maternal Health Week

Did you know that Wisconsin has the worst racial disparities for infant mortality in the nation? Black Maternal Health Week is an opportunity to recognize the inequities in healthcare and the steps that can be taken to ensure both women and their babies are born healthy and stay healthy.

An important piece of Governor Evers' budget is the Healthy Women, Healthy Babies initiative to improve birth outcomes and reduce racial disparities, and most importantly expand Medicaid - which has been shown to reduce these disparities in states that have expanded.

Additionally, the Foundation for Black Women's Wellness and the Black Maternal and Child Health Alliance of Dane County are hosting the 1st Annual Wisconsin Black Maternal and Child Health Summit on April 22 from 9am-3pm. This one-day conference is hosted by and for black Women and is intended for Black Women, mothers, birthing parents, birth workers, community leaders and Black Women Reproductive Justice advocates in Wisconsin who are ready to learn and drive solutions and action. You can register for this event here.  

If you would like to learn more about Black Maternal Health you can find a list of helpful resources here


Weekly Democratic Radio Address

This week, Governor Evers delivered the Democratic Radio Address on his Badger Bounceback agenda racial disparities in our justice system, legalize marijuana, and invest in treatment, rehabilitation, and other alternatives to incarceration, and programs to support safe community reentry. 

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

 

"Hello, Wisconsin. Governor Tony Evers here.

Our justice system has put a strain on our state, on our communities, and on our families for far too long. It has disproportionately impacted people of color, specifically Black and Native men, it has held back communities from achieving success—whether it’s in education, workforce, housing, healthcare, you name it.

The bottom line is—we have got to change.

If we’re going to bounce back from this pandemic and build the sort of future we want for our state, we have to get our priorities straight. We can’t keep throwing your taxpayer dollars into a system that isn’t working how it should.

That’s why our Badger Bounceback agenda takes bold steps forward by providing the largest increase to our Treatment Alternatives and Diversion program by providing an additional $15 million over the biennium, it also expands the earned release program so folks can start working towards release earlier and reduce recidivism, and it creates an earned compliance credit. 

We’re also proposing legalizing marijuana and regulating and taxing it—much like we do with alcohol—and modifying criminal penalties for marijuana-related crimes to align with legalization and create a process for individuals serving sentences or previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes to have the opportunity to repeal or reduce their sentences for nonviolent minor offenses.

And we're going to do better for our kids, by truly overhauling the system by focusing on evidence-based solutions and a community-based approach to facilities so that we can keep our kids closer to home. Folks, there's no true path forward for our state without justice reform. It's time to start investing in people—not prisons.

Thank you."


Week of the Young Child

The National Association for the Education of Young Children's (NAEYC) is celebrating its 50th annual Week of the Young Child this week.

While our young children and those who care for and educate them have always been celebrated, the pandemic has highlighted how critical having access to high quality affordable child care impacts all communities in our state. Simply put, without early care and education we have no economy. Governor Evers and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi recognized the week with separate proclamations.


 PSC Urges Consumers to Seek Assistance Before Moratorium on Utility Disconnections End

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is urging electric, natural gas, and water utility customers with outstanding bills to make payment arrangements or apply for financial assistance before the annual winter moratorium on disconnections for nonpayment expires on April 15. The action comes following a moratorium preventing utilities from disconnecting service for nonpayment during the ongoing pandemic.

 

Per the PSC, to avoid disconnection customers who have fallen behind on payments are encouraged first to contact their utility to set up a payment plan. If customers are having difficulty paying their energy bills, they may be eligible for assistance from the Department of Administration's Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP). Due to the pandemic, WHEAP income eligibility is based only on the previous month's income. Throughout the pandemic, the PSC has worked closely with state partners to ensure energy assistance and crisis funding availability, including:

  • An additional $8 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) crisis funds provided through the federal CARES Act.
  • More than $322 million in Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds provided through the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act and administered by the Dept. of Administration.
  • The 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, administered though the US Department of Treasury will provide Wisconsin with an additional infusion of LIHEAP funds to its WHEAP program, along with additional emergency rental, utility bill, water bill, and homeowner assistance. 

To learn more about these programs or apply for assistance, visit energybenefit.wi.gov or call 1-800-506-5596 or go to http://homeenergyplus.wi.gov to find out where to apply in person or call 1-866-HEATWIS.



Get Covered Through the ACA!

Thanks to new COVID relief, health insurance premiums have decreased on Healthcare.gov and you can sign up to get covered right now! Four out of five enrollees will now be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month.

If you’ve shopped on Healthcare.gov before, look again! New, lower prices are available for more people than ever before.

If you are are currently uninsured, already signed up for a plan through Healthcare.gov, or eligible for COBRA coverage from a former employer, you may benefit from these changes. People looking to get enrolled or change their current plan are encouraged to visit Wiscovered.com or call 2-1-1 to get free, expert help.

This new enrollment opportunity won’t last forever- sign up today!


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.