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Over the last few weeks, the Joint Finance Committee traveled across the state (including one virtual option) to hear public testimony on Governor Evers' budget proposal. 

What we heard was overwhelming support for the governor's budget that makes critical investments in schools and special education services, expanding BadgerCare, extending the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program, modernizing outdated marijuana laws, and improving access to quality and reliable broadband. We heard that Wisconsinites have a wish list for communities and that Governor Evers' budget checks those boxes.

Unfortunately, as we make our way through the budget process, the next step is deliberations where Republicans are expected to removed and cut larges portions of the budget. I encourage you to reach out to Republican members on the Joint Finance Committee and express your support for Governor Evers' budget. Especially BadgerCare expansion - we have $1 billion on the line! 

This update includes ways to stay engaged during the next step of the budget process, guidance once you're fully vaccinated, information on PFAS in Wisconsin, opening weekend of fishing information, a column from the JFC Democrats, COVID-19 resources for families and individuals, an update on Wisconsin State Parks and ideas for a Mother's Day gift! 

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

 

 Follow the Budget Process

This week the Joint Committee on Finance held the last public hearing on Governor Evers' 2021-23 biennial budget. The next step in the process means that over the next few weeks the committee will deliberate, makes changes and vote on the budget. 
 
This is a critical phase in the process because Republicans are expected to remove critical policies of the budget - policies that were proven to have overwhelming public support during the public hearings. 
 
Once the budget deliberations start things move fairly quickly, so it's important to see what happens and what cuts Republicans will make to the Governor's budget proposal. You can stay informed by following the Joint Finance Democrats on Twitter and Facebook. Don't forget, you can always watch live and recorded committee hearings on WisconsinEye.

Get Vaccinated Today!!

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).


PFAS in Wisconsin Webinar

The Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Health Services (DHS) recently presented a webinar on PFAS in Wisconsin.

The presentation provides an overview of PFAS the work being done to mitigate PFAS in Wisconsin and at several sites around the state.

Per the DNR and DHS, PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of human-made chemicals used for decades in various products, including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain resistant sprays and some types of firefighting foams. These contaminants stay in the environment and human body for extended periods of time. Recent findings indicate that exposure to certain PFAS may have harmful health effects in people.

To address this issue, the state of Wisconsin is establishing PFAS standards for drinking water, groundwater and surface water to protect health; conducting soil and water testing; researching PFAS levels in fish and wildlife; hosting listening and feedback sessions; and collaborating with neighboring states.

Addressing PFAS contamination in the environment is part of Governor Tony Evers’ statewide initiative to ensure Wisconsinites have access to clean, safe, drinking water. In 2019, the governor signed Executive Order #40 to address the issue of PFAS across the state.

The governor’s 2021-23 biennial budget proposes significant resources for the monitoring and testing of PFAS including over $20 million over the next two years for assistance and resources to local communities that are impacted by PFAS contamination, aiding local fire departments in disposing of PFAS foam, and adding additional DNR staff to implement the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council's action plan.

To learn more about PFAS and the environment including fish consumption advisories, visit the DNR’s PFAS webpage. For more information on PFAS and associated human health effects, visit the DHS’s PFAS webpage.

Click here to watch the PFAS in Wisconsin Webinar


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.

 


Opening of Fishing Weekend is HERE!

Are you as excited as I am for the opening weekend of fishing? As many new and experienced anglers hit the waters May 1st, remember that boat launches could be crowded and you should continue to social distance from other folks.
 
As you head out to your favorite fishing spot, please remember to:
  • Always wear life jackets
  • Practice safe and sober boat operations
  • Release fish responsibly
  • Minimize the spread of aquatic invasive species by removing plants and animals from your boat before and after launching, draining all water from compartments, and never move live fish away from any waterbody.

You can read more about the DNR's forecast for fish here. Good luck, have fun and catch a trophy fish!


COVID-19 Resources for Families & Individuals
  • DVA: if constituent has a veterans status – DVA has a network of nonprofits that can provide assistance for various issues.
  • DCF: W2 Program & Emergency Assistance grants for constituents with minors in their household, plus another list with resources for families and individuals.
  • DATCP: COVID-19 resources list, including federal financial resources that might be available for an individual or a family, COVID-19 consumer protection resources, a Landlord and Tenant COVID FAQ
  • DHS: FoodShare and other benefits such as healthcare coverage and supplemental nutrition programs.
  • DOA: Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance (WERA), Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program and Low-Income Assistance (WHEAP and LIHEAP). (another good link for WHEAP: http://www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov/)
  • DWD: Unemployment Insurance, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), FAQ
  • WHEDA: A COVID-19 FAQ for homeowners, renters, and housing providers
  • PSC: Internet Resources for Wisconsin Residents and help with utility disconnections now that the moratorium on utility shutoffs has been lifted. A comprehensive list of financial assistance through the PSC for Wisconsin citizens can also be found here.
  • DOR: Updates on the recently announced Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants can be found here but won’t be available until the federal government finalized rules for the American Rescue Plan Act monies.

JFC Democrats Column - A Budget Wisconsinites Want

After a year of uncertainty and hardship, our state needs bold policies to help families, communities and small businesses bounce back better than before the COVID-19 pandemic.


Over the last month, we have listened to people from all across Wisconsin on Governor Tony Evers’ Bounceback Budget. After four hearings and thousands of emails, one thing is abundantly clear – Wisconsinites want and deserve the investments this budget makes in our economy, public schools, health care, environment and communities.

When asked, a majority of Wisconsinites say they support increased funding for K-12 public schools, fairly funding special education services, accepting federal funds to expand BadgerCare, and modernizing our outdated laws on marijuana.

Further, on the top of the minds of families, small business owners, and farmers, is the damage the pandemic wrought on Wisconsin’s economy and their ability to be financially secure. In addition to tax relief for working families, we know Wisconsinites support Governor Evers’ proposed investments supporting local businesses, kick starting startups, and strengthening our agricultural economy and rural communities.

For years, we’ve heard story after story from parents and students about the devastating impact inadequate funding has on our 860,000 public school children – with a special emphasis on the need to increase special education funding, which has not kept pace with the rising costs. Throughout the four Joint Finance Committee public hearings, Wisconsinites once again showed their support for increased public education funding. The investment we make in students today creates a path to success and results in better economic opportunities for future generations, and Governor Evers budget  connects the dots' by ensuring all of our children, regardless of their zip code, have the opportunity to thrive.


Another issue that can make or break a family’s finances is health care. We heard from many individuals about the importance of investing in caregivers, local health clinics, and access to affordable health care. That’s exactly what the Governor’s budget proposal aims to do by expanding BadgerCare and ensuring greater access to affordable, quality coverage, lowering premiums and prescription drug costs, and generating millions to be re-invested in the health and wellbeing all Wisconsinites.


Expanding BadgerCare is the best fiscal decision for our state, and would allow an estimated 90,000 hardworking people to access affordable healthcare across Wisconsin. Moreover, under the federal American Rescue Plan Act, if we expand BadgerCare, our state could receive an additional one billion dollar incentive payment. That’s right, one billion dollars on top
of the millions of dollars Wisconsin would already save. Rejecting this deal would be fiscally and socially irresponsible when we stand to help so many and save so much for the entire state.

The Badger Bounceback Budgetis chock-full of provisions that the people of Wisconsin voted for and expect lawmakers in to deliver on. Unfortunately, Republicans are once again planning to ignore your voices. Instead of focusing on ways to help our communities bounce back, they would rather play politics and scrap the governor’s budget completely, even if that means
ignoring the needs of Wisconsinites.

By rejecting this budget, Republicans will jeopardize necessary investments in health care, schools, and communities, even as Wisconsinites struggle to recover from this past year. Their opposition is remarkable and disproportionate after hearing from hundreds of Wisconsinites – a huge majority – who testified in support of the Badger Bounceback Budget to the Joint Finance.

To make this budget real, we need people in every corner of our state to continue to mobilize, contact members of the state Legislature, and voice your support for this budget and the investments it makes for all Wisconsinites. Wisconsin workers and families have had to endure a lot this past year.

The last thing we need is politicians jeopardizing a prosperous economic bounce back for our state and everyone living here. Republicans have an opportunity to come to the table, work with legislative

 


Wisconsin State Parks Spring Operation Changes Begin

The Department of Natural Resources is reminding the public that there are several operations updates at State Parks and other DNR-managed lands beginning this week.

Per the DNR, starting Friday, April 30th, the following changes will be implemented:

  • Observation towers and playgrounds will be open (Note: Eagle Tower at Peninsula State Park will not open Friday due to construction delays.)
  • Volunteer group sizes will be increased to 50 people
  • Capacity for open-air shelters, amphitheaters and outdoor group campgrounds will be increased to 100 people
  • Non-department led special events permit capacity will increase from 50 to 100. Special event permit applicants may work with property staff to phase larger events with capacities over 100.
  • Stand-alone concession facilities will open to the public at 50% capacity including staff.

In addition to the operations updates, the following amenities continue to be available to state park visitors:

  • Family camping (100% reservable with auto check-in)
  • Outdoor group camping, maximum capacity of 100 people (100% reservable with auto check-in)
  • Bathroom and dump station facilities
  • Accessible cabins
  • Drive-up window service
  • Concessions, including firewood sales

Rock Island will remain closed to all visitors through Thursday, May 27 to allow for repairs to the dock including dredging of the dock area. Camping reservation holders will be contacted directly and those scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, May 26 or Thursday, May 27, will be given the opportunity to shorten their stay to arrive on Friday, May 28.

Indoor group campgrounds and indoor shelters, including hunting cabins and the Flambeau River State Forest yurt, will also remain closed through June 1. Wisconsin state park and property visitor capacity closures will remain in place to manage overcrowding and promote social distancing. 

Remember, visitors are encouraged to practice social distancing of 6 ft or greater. 

State park visitors can purchase annual admission passes online, over the phone by calling local properties directly or in-person at self-registration stations at individual properties.


 Make Mother's Day Special from Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) recently announced a new "Boxes of Fun" series through the Something Special from Wisconsin (SSfW) program. These curated boxes make it easy for Wisconsin consumers to give fun, unique Mother's Day gifts while supporting local Wisconsin businesses. Boxes can be purchase online at here.

 

May boxes are available in four varieties: Snack Box, Pamper Her, Mother’s Day Love, and Morning Madness. Box prices range from $59 to $89 and include products from a variety of SSfW member businesses such as Slide Gourmet Potato Chips, Ugly Apple Café, Addicting Pretzels, Palo Popcorn, Honestly Cranberry, and many more.

 

To see a list of the May Boxes of Fun and order your box, go to https://somethingspecialwi.square.site/. To receive your packages by Mother’s Day (May 9), orders must be placed by midnight on Monday, May 3, 2021. The price of the boxes does not include shipping costs. Boxes can be shipped to Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois for $10. Anywhere else in the continental United States is $25.

To learn more about the Something Special from Wisconsin™ program, visit https://somethingspecialwi.com.



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.