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Happy April! This has been a busy week with lots of breaking news regarding vaccines, the latest Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, and more on American Rescue Act funding for our state.  

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 8th at 6pm the Governor will be hosting a session on What's Best For our Kids and will cover topics such as ensuring every kid has access to a high-quality, public education, providing mental health supports for students at schools, special education reimbursement rates, expanding access to early childhood education and childcare, and investing in our higher education institutions. 

You can register to attend the event here.

 

This update includes more about budget information related to broadband, the newest eligibility for vaccines, the Supreme Court decision, federal funding for our state, and a warning for phishing scams.

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 - Broadband

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.
Did you know that 430,000 people in our state's rural population lack access to high-speed internet? Wisconsin ranks 36th in the nation for accessibility in rural areas, and the pandemic not only underscored but exacerbated the lack of equitable and reliable access to high-speed internet. Investing in rural broadband projects can help close the digital divide, create new jobs and open up small communities to an abundance of new opportunities. That's why Gov. Evers' budget proposes the largest state investment in broadband access in state history by focusing on expanding access and improving affordability.
Expanding Access
Whether you're a farmer, running a small business, a student working on homework, or a retiree trying to access healthcare via telehealth, access to the internet is a necessity. Gov. Evers' knows that a strong economy is closely linked to high speed broadband in our schools, businesses, health clinics, and homes. This budget expands broadband by
  • Investing $150 million in broadband expansion grants that focuses on unserved and underserved communities primarily in rural Wisconsin.
  • Reducing roadblock for local municipalities with communities considered "unserved" and "underserved' to provide broadband service to residents.
  • Creating a Broadband Planning and Leadership Grant Program to support Wisconsin communities develop their own plans to expand broadband access to their residents.

Improving Affordability

Even if service is available, it may not be adequate due to affordability, speed, or reliability concerns. This budget makes internet more affordable by:

  • Creating an Internet Assistance Program that invests $40 million in reducing costs and making internet services affordable for tens of thousands of low-income families throughout Wisconsin.
  • Creating a Broadband Line Extension grant program, which will reduce the cost of expensive line extensions from residences to existing broadband infrastructure.
  • Maintain funding for the TEACH Subsidy Program and for the TEACH Infrastructure grant program, which help reduce the cost of internet access for libraries and educational institutions across the state.
The Governor's budget is just one of many critical components to help our state and our communities bounce back and better from the pandemic. 

Vaccine Eligibility Open to the Public April 5th!

In case you missed it, Gov. Tony Evers, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), announced that everyone age 16 and over will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 5, 2021. 

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).


Statement on Supreme Court Ruling

This week the Wisconsin Supreme Court announced their decision to block Governor Evers’ lifesaving pandemic measures.

There are two things this pandemic has taught us, masks work and Republicans don’t. While Governor Evers has worked diligently to protect the health and wellbeing of our communities, Republicans refused to do their job and undermined the Governor’s efforts every step of the way as thousands of Wisconsinites lost their lives to this virus. This Republican backed lawsuit has shown that Republicans will go to any length in their vendetta against the Governor even if it comes at the cost of human life.

We have been in this pandemic for over a year now, and while the vaccination efforts provide a light at the end of the tunnel, we cannot trip at the finish line. The Centers for Disease Control has even stated that it is critical to continue safety measures such as face coverings, social distancing and getting vaccinated as we work closer towards herd immunity. We are so close to beating this and we cannot jeopardize the progress we have worked so hard for. Mask up and get vaccinated, Wisconsin.

This decision will also jeopardize $50 million per month in federal funding for Wisconsin's FoodShare program. 


Wisconsin Economic Recovery Through the American Rescue Plan Act

This week, Governor Evers' announced his plan to use $3.2 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan to help our state bounce back better from the pandemic. 

 You can read more about the Governor's plan here.


DWD Sees Surge in Fraudulent Activity 

The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) is warning Wisconsinites about a significant increase in fraudulent activity over the last 24 hours related to unemployment insurance benefits.

Per DWD, they have received reports of an email phishing attack coming from a fake account called the "Wisconsin Department of Workforce." The email requests unemployment insurance information and includes a link to a document where the recipient is asked to fill in personal information. It's important to remember that while unemployment insurance claims specialists and adjudicators can send secure messages through the UI claims portal, they will never request information through email.

Scammers are also trying to access information through social media. This morning, the department worked with Facebook to take down a fake DWD page that popped up overnight. Scammers were using the fake account to interact with people commenting on DWD's legitimate Facebook page. The fraudulent account was shut down quickly and it does not appear that anyone gave out personal information. DWD's real Facebook page has a blue checkmark that indicates it is a verified account. The department has also reported several accounts to Twitter that were phishing for information from posters on that platform.

DWD has also been receiving an unusually high number calls to its IT Helpdesk for password resets or authorizations. The callers appear to be mostly impersonators attempting to gain access to unemployment insurance accounts. DWD's UI Fraud Investigations Unit is verifying whether calls are legitimate before any action is taken to change account information.

If you receive a request for information and are unsure if it came from Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance, contact a claims specialist at (414) 435-7069, or toll free at (844) 910-3661.

For more information about how to protect yourself from unemployment fraud and scams visit: dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/fraud/.

If you think you've been a victim of identity theft, contact the Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 422-7128 or DATCPHotline@Wisconsin.gov.


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. 

 

You can make the difference to make real change for seniors in your life and community. Click here if you're interested in being an advocate and taking action for seniors.


Nearly 40,000 Acres of Private Land Will Open to Turkey Hunters

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that nearly 38,000 acres of private land will be open for public access to hunters this turkey season thanks to a partnership between the department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS).

Per the DNR, through USDA-NRCS support, the DNR could partner with private landowners who lease their land for public access through the Turkey Hunter Access Program (THAP) and the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP).

In 2020, THAP added 5,200 acres that hunters can be used only during spring turkey hunting seasons. Another 2,300 acres were added to VPA-HIP for hunters to use throughout the year for hunting, fishing, trapping and wildlife observation.

Spring turkey hunters interested in scouting and hunting THAP and VPA-HIP private properties available for use can find additional details and interactive maps following the links above. The success and future of these programs depends on ensuring landowners' continued interest. Hunters using THAP and VPA-HIP lands should travel on foot only and respect the landowner’s property.

The programs provide financial incentives such as annual leases to private landowners who open their property to public hunting, fishing, trapping and wildlife observation. Eligible land types include grassland, wetland, forestland and in some cases, agricultural land. Landowners also enrolled in conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), Managed Forest Law (MFL) in closed status and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRP/WRE) are eligible for enrollment.

Landowners enrolled in VPA-HIP who complete recommended practices may be eligible for habitat-based financial incentive payments, in addition to the lease payments. Regional Public Access Liaisons stationed in Baldwin, Janesville, Hartford and Wisconsin Rapids along with Wisconsin’s Farm Bill Biologists will coordinate a habitat plan for interested landowners.

More Information is available on the DNR website here:

Turkey Hunting Access Program (THAP)
https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Lands/THAP

Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP)
https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Lands/VPA

 


Celebrate Trans Day of Visibility  

This week we celebrated Trans Day of Visibility where we celebrate the lives and contributions of trans people while recognizing the health barriers, poverty, discrimination, and violence the community faces. 
I stand with Governor Evers' and share his commitment to ensure everyone belongs and that every Wisconsinite is treated with dignity and respect.
It is on us to educate ourselves and learn about issues impacting the  LGTBQ+ community. I encourage you to check out helpful resources here.


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

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