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It's officially fall! With cooler temps and changing leaves, now is a good reminder to make sure you get your flu shot. If you're looking for a fun activity this weekend, stop by New Glarus for their Oktoberfest celebrations.

In some other fun news, Gov. Tony Evers has proclaimed Saturday, September 25, 2021, as “Bob Uecker Day” in Wisconsin. You can read the governor's proclamation to celebrate the legacy of Bob Uecker in Major League Baseball and to recognize his 50th anniversary as the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers here

This update has lots of helpful information to keep you up-to-date including:

  • Democratic Proposals to Improve Public Safety
  • Application Deadline for Destination Marketing Grants
  • Senate Scholar Applications Now Open
  • Opportunities to Support Afghan Evacuees 
  • Find a Vaccination Site Near You
  • Find Your Fall Adventure
  • DWD Updates Policies for Self Employed Individuals with Disabilities
  • The Governor's Radio Address
  • Grant Applications for Movie Theaters and Venues Now Open
  • Applications for Workforce Innovation Grants Now Opens
  • Veterans Resources and additional information!

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

 

Democrats Urge Action to Tackle Gun Violence

As gun violence continues to plague communities and families, legislative Democrats have introduced proposals to enact Extreme Risk Protection Orders and close the gun show loophole that allows convicted felons to purchase firearms. 

While an overwhelming majority of gun owners are responsible, there is a dangerous loophole that allows domestic abusers, felons, and others who are prohibited from possessing firearms to buy guns without a background check through non-licensed sellers. It is past time for us to take action to reduce gun violence, and closing this loophole is a common-sense solution that will not take away anyone’s second amendment rights.

Gun violence is an issue that is affecting everyone across America, particularly right in rural Wisconsin. Suicide rates have been increasing, especially for farmers, and firearms are the most commonly used method of suicide in Wisconsin. Enacting extreme risk protection orders are a way to protect individuals from harming themselves and it is critical that we push for this life-saving measure.

Mass shootings have happened right here in Wisconsin communities including Middleton, Brookfield, Oak Creek, and Wausau. A Marquette Law Poll found 80 percent of Wisconsinites – including the vast majority of gun owners – support strengthening background checks. That same poll also found that 81 percent of Wisconsinites support Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation that would reduce an individual’s access to firearms if they pose a danger to themselves or others.


Application Closing Soon for Destination Marketing Organization Grants 

The Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) Grant Program will provide financial support for organizations that promote and develop tourism activities in Wisconsin. A total of $15 million is available, up to $1,000,000 per eligible organization, based on expenses incurred between March 3, 2021 and December 31, 2022. Grant funds are available as part of the American Rescue Plan Act and will be distributed by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA). Applications for the program are open now through September 29, 2021.

Additional information about the DMO Grant Program is available here: https://doa.wi.gov/Pages/DestinationMarketingOrganizationsGrantProgram.aspx


Students Encouraged To Apply for Wisconsin Senate Scholar Program

The Wisconsin State Senate Scholar Program is currently accepting applications from high school students aged 16 to 18. The Senate Scholar Program is a week-long educational program offered by the Wisconsin State Senate that provides high school students with a hands-on, up-close view of the Legislature’s role in our democracy. Senate Scholars will gain experience and insights of the legislative process through roundtable discussions with legislative support agency directors and staff, media, and senators. In recent years, several students from western Wisconsin have participated in this program and Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point) is encouraging local students, schools, and teachers to learn more about this valuable and educational program.

The students of today will become the leaders of tomorrow and I can think of no greater opportunity to learn about the legislative process. It’s important for young adults to not only be knowledgeable of the legislative process but how they can get involved in the process as well. This program is a valuable hands-on learning experience to see how our state government functions. I would encourage anyone who is interested in this program to call or go online to learn more.

Information about this program can be found online at www.senatescholar.com or by calling (608)261-0533. All applications for the 2021 Senate Scholar program are due by November 1, 2021. Students can apply at any time and have their application considered for future programs if they aren’t immediately accepted. While this is a highly competitive program, each Senate district is allotted a minimum number of participants.


Donation Opportunities to Support Afghan Evacuees at Fort McCoy

Gov. Tony Evers recently announced opportunities for people hoping to provide essential items to Afghan individuals and families currently staying at Fort McCoy. The effort, coordinated by the Evers Administration through Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, offers an easy way for interested individuals to help those seeking refuge here in the United States. 

 

“Wisconsinites have a proud tradition of rolling up our sleeves to help our neighbors when times are tough, and since learning folks leaving Afghanistan would be coming through Wisconsin, Wisconsinites have been asking what they can do to help,” said Gov. Evers. “I want to thank the organizations and partners who are stepping up to offer their support and for helping to ensure Wisconsinites know how they can best help and donate to these efforts as they’re able.”

 

Many of the individuals and families currently residing at Fort McCoy were unable to bring luggage or personal items, resulting in significant demand for necessities. The state is working closely with Team Rubicon and Catholic Charities agencies in Wisconsin, which are collecting and distributing supplies. 

 

To ensure health and safety of individuals and families at Fort McCoy, groups prefer new items, which can also help ensure expedited processing. Clean, new clothing and footwear are among items that are of the highest priority and need at this time. 

 

Catholic Charities of La Crosse has already been actively working to collect donations of new items and has set up multiple ways for people to provide supplies by simply shopping online. You can find a full list of the items needed, along with links to online shopping lists through major retailers, here. Catholic Charities is also committed to using monetary donations for items in need at Fort McCoy and refugee resettlement in the Wisconsin communities.

 

Businesses and other groups with large quantities of new clothing, footwear and other items to donate can contact Team Rubicon at Resettlementsupport@teamrubiconusa.org or using the online form available here. Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response organization, is working to establish a collection system for these larger donations to ensure they can be properly distributed to those staying at Fort McCoy. More information on Team Rubicon's current donation needs is available here.

 

While donation locations are currently limited, the state plans to open more locations across the state in the coming weeks. Individuals who are not near a location can still support local relief efforts by making a monetary donation directly to Catholic Charities of La Crosse at https://cclse.org/. Additionally, individuals can support efforts across the nation by donating to the American Red Cross at https://www.redcross.org/.

 

The Department of Children and Families website will be updated as new donation locations and organizations are identified. You can find the current list of organizations here. Citizens are encouraged to research any organization not provided on DCF's list prior to making a monetary or supply donation to ensure the organization is legitimate and donations are being used appropriately. 

 

To learn more about Wisconsin's role in the refugee resettlement program and process, please visit: https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/refugee/resettlement#overseas


Do Your Part and Get Vaccinated! 

First and foremost, the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from COVID-19 and the Delta variant is to get vaccinated. 

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 prevents severe illness, hospitalization, and death; it also helps reduce the spread of the virus in communities. Unvaccinated people should get vaccinated and continue wearing a mask until they are fully vaccinated. With the Delta variant, this is more urgent than ever. Data demonstrate that COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the Delta variant. Past infection with COVID-19 does not assure protection from the Delta variant, so people who have had past COVID-19 infection are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. High vaccination coverage will not only reduce the spread of the virus, but also help prevent new, and possibly more concerning, variants from emerging. Vaccination is the best way to protect you, your family, and your community. To find a vaccination location near you visit vaccines.gov(link is external) (https://vacunas.gov/(link is external)) or call 211.

Find a vaccination site near you:

While vaccination remains the top defense against the Delta variant, the CDC guidance also focuses on additional strategies that will provide additional protection against the spread of the virus. Because science has shown that wearing a mask over your nose and mouth can help prevent transmission of the respiratory droplets and aerosols that spread COVID-19, wearing a mask is now recommended in the following indoor settings:

  • All teachers, staff, students, and visitors of K-12 schools should wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
  • Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, who lives in areas with substantial and high transmission as noted on this CDC map(link is external) (orange counties represent substantial transmission and red counties represent high transmission) should wear masks in public indoor settings.



Find Your Adventure: Explore Wisconsin's Amazing Fall Foliage

Autumn in Wisconsin is all about the color. The beauty is breathtaking, and you’ve got to see it to believe it. With over 6 million acres of public lands, 49 state parks, 15 state forests, 44 state biking trails plus hundreds of lakes and rivers to explore, Wisconsin has a fall leaf-peeping spot for everyone.

The state’s combination of tree species and climate produce vivid fall foliage, leaving residents and visitors alike looking forward to the annual fall color show. From urban parks to colorful country roads, Wisconsin is packed with color-spotting opportunities throughout the fall season. Check out these 11 scenic drives to experience fall from Travel Wisconsin.

Color changes typically occur in far northern Wisconsin during the last week of September and first week of October, with color peaking during mid-October in central Wisconsin and the latter half of October in southern Wisconsin. Timing of the color change varies by species and weather conditions.

"To have the most brilliant and vibrant fall color display, a series of fall days filled with bright sunshine and cool, but frost-free, evenings are ideal," said Colleen Matula, DNR Forest Ecologist/Silviculturist. “Cooler nighttime temperatures tend to amplify the brightness of reds and purple in leaves, while warmer nights will mute this color change.”

Discover the fall colors in Wisconsin with the official Travel Wisconsin Fall Color Report.

Warmer temperatures, especially in the evening, tend to delay fall color because the trees are not getting the signal that fall has arrived. Fall color predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are based on mathematical algorithms that factor in historical leaf peak, temperatures, precipitation, leaf volume, health and day length.

While forests in central and Northeast Wisconsin are right on target, counties in Northwest Wisconsin and the far southern part of the state are encountering drought conditions that may impact fall color in those parts of the state.

The intensity and duration of fall color is affected by spring and summer growing conditions. Severe to abnormal drought in the growing season usually makes the tree leaves change color earlier and the color lasts for a shorter period. In some cases, trees may skip the color change altogether with leaves turning brown before falling.

For more information on the science of fall colors, visit this DNR website.


DWD Updates Policies Supporting Self-Employed People with Disabilities  

New changes to the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Existing Business policy will make it easier for self-employed individuals with disabilities to access funds for assistive technology.

With input from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and statewide agricultural groups, the revised policy may allow more farmers and other agribusiness owners to benefit from DVR services. The policy also covers self-employed individuals in other business sectors.

The policy changes expand opportunities for self-employed individuals with disabilities to become eligible to receive DVR services under the Existing Business Policy. This includes money for qualifying assistive technology and access to assistive technology experts.

Developed in 2016, DVR's Existing Business policy serves as the standard policy DVR staff follow when working with people with disabilities who want to maintain self-employment through their existing business. Revisions to the policy expand the criteria for determining whether a DVR eligible self-employed individual is eligible to receive services under this policy.

"The policy revisions take effect at a crucial time when business owners continue to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic," said Delora Newton, DVR administrator. "These revisions will systematically support more people with disabilities in achieving their job goals and allow DVR to provide enhanced services to Wisconsin business owners to successfully continue their business operations."

The main revision to the policy allows for broader consideration of business wages that may allow business owners earning less than minimum wage to qualify for services using a debt to asset ratio calculation. In determining DVR eligibility, the new policy also allows outside income, if related to the business, and expenses that may be viewed as assets in subsequent financial periods to be considered.

The revised policy was developed after several workgroup meetings, a statewide public input session, and stakeholder engagement. The policy can be found on DVR's Existing Business Policy page.

Individuals who wish to apply for DVR services can fill out DVR's online referral form or contact the DVR administrative office at 608-261-0050 or toll-free at 800-442-3477.

 


Gov. Evers' Weekly Radio Address

Gov. Tony Evers delivered the Democratic Radio Address congratulating Dr. Jill Underly's first State of Education Address as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In a video response, Gov. Evers reacted to Superintendent Underly's address, underscoring his continued commitment to working together to do what's best for our kids. 

The governor's video message is available here and the written transcript is below:

"Hello! Today, I want to congratulate Dr. Jill Underly on her first State of Education Address as State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  

Dr. Underly and I are both former teachers, so we know firsthand that what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state. And that’s also why we agree on that our kids come first, which means putting our kids before politics and divisiveness.   

Our schools are the hearts of our community—from our Pre-K and early childhood education providers to our higher education institutions.  

Every kid, every day—no matter what zip code they live in or their family’s economic status—deserves to have the support, the resources, and the service they need to thrive.   

As Superintendent Underly put it, there is an opportunity gap—that’s something I've been working on to address for a decade.    

If we’re going to make sure every kid has the chance to be successful in the state, then we have to invest in our kids and our schools.  

And it also means investing in our students of color, our kids experiencing homelessness or poverty, kids with IEPs, and English language learners.   

It means delivering on our constitutional obligation to provide our kids with disabilities and special needs the best education and resources possible.   

It means supporting and hiring passionate, dedicated, and skilled teachers—especially teachers who understand and share the experiences of students of color.  

It means investing in and supporting our kids’ needs, whether it’s their social, emotional, and mental health needs, or technology, programming, and curricula.   

And it means coming together to do what’s best for our kids because I know that when we put our kids first, we will not only get through the challenges of this pandemic but build a stronger, more equitable public education system for years to come.   

We made great strides in our last budget—finally reaching two-thirds funding for our public schools for the first time in two decades and making another critical increase for special education. But Superintendent Underly and I both know we still have much work to do.   

I look forward to working together with Superintendent Underly and the DPI to meet the needs of every kid from Pre-K through college, to trust and support our teachers, and to do what’s best for our kids by putting them first.   

Thank you."


 Grant Applications Now Open for Movie Theaters and Venues

Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) is currently accepting applications for over $33 million in grants designed to assist movie theaters, event venues, and the live event small businesses that support them, which were all impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Event Venue and Live Event Small Business grant programs will provide funding of up to $200,000 per eligible organization, for a total of $10 million and $12 million respectively, while the Movie Theater grant will provide funding up to $15,000 per screen, for a total of $11.25 million. Applications are open until October 15.

The funds are part of the governor's previously announced more than $150 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for Wisconsin's tourism and entertainment industries.

 


Applications Open for $100 Million in Workforce Innovation Grants

Applications are now open for grants of up to $10 million to local and regional projects that will help meet the state’s next-generation workforce needs, Governor Tony Evers announced today.

The Workforce Innovation Grant Program will enable communities to develop groundbreaking, long-term solutions so businesses can find workers, workers can connect to jobs, and Wisconsin can thrive, Governor Evers said.

“I’m proud of the investments we’ve made to ensure our economy can recover from the hardships of the last year, but we can’t just go back to the economy we had going into the pandemic—we need to make investments that will address our longstanding workforce challenges and prepare our communities for long-term success,” said Gov. Evers. “These funds will do just that by allowing local leaders to address the unique needs of their communities, whether it’s lack of access to affordable childcare and transportation or providing the necessary training to help folks switch careers.”

The Workforce Innovation Grant Program offers grants from $250,000 up to $10 million to regional economic development partners to design and implement innovative plans to tackle their communities’ most pressing workforce challenges.

The grants, which will be funded with federal American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) money, will be available to nonprofit or governmental entities to help implement collaborative, innovative plans to tackle a specific region’s most pressing workforce challenge.

Grant funds can be used to meet local workforce needs, such as childcare, transportation issues, upskilling and re-skilling workers, or career counseling and coaching services, and may be used to support initiatives like training, planning, marketing, or developing pilot programs that can be applied in other communities. Grant funds cannot be used to replace existing public resources.

The grants will be administered through an interagency effort between the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Department of Workforce Development (DWD).

“We’ve heard from businesses around the state that there’s no one-size-fits all solution to building Wisconsin’s workforce,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “The Workforce Innovation Grants will enable communities to develop groundbreaking, long-term solutions that are right for them so businesses can find workers, workers can connect to jobs, and Wisconsin can thrive.”

“Wisconsin’s economy differs by region, offering unique opportunities for regional solutions to workforce challenges including transportation, child care and gaps in the skills needed by local employers,” said DWD secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. “The Workforce Innovation Grant Program will reward creativity, promote sustainable regional collaboration and foster local participation to address these and other workforce challenges resulting from an extended period of labor disruption.”

Grant applications, frequently asked questions, and program guidelines will be available on the WEDC website at wedc.org/workforce-innovation-grant.

Funds are expected to be distributed in two rounds. Applications for Round 1 are due no later than 5:00 PM CST on Oct. 25, 2021, with awards announced in mid-November 2021. Program dates and application details for Round 2 will be announced in 2022.


Veteran Resources 

Veterans across our state and nation are reacting to the news of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Veterans may feel distressed from experiences during their service. Resources are available to veterans through the U.S. and Wisconsin Departments of Veterans Affairs.

Contacts from the Wisconsin DVA:

  • Veterans Crisis Line - The Veterans Crisis Line is a toll-free, confidential resource that connects veterans and their families to mental health resources. Connect with the Crisis Line.​​
  • County Veterans Service Officers - Your local Tribal and County Veterans Service Officers can help determine the benefits and services for which you are eligible. Find your TVSO/CVSO​. ​

Resources available right now (information provided from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs):

Common Reactions

In reaction to current events in Afghanistan, Veterans may:

  • Feel frustrated, sad, helpless, grief or distressed
  • Feel angry or betrayed
  • Experience an increase in mental health symptoms like symptoms of PTSD or depression
  • Sleep poorly, drink more or use more drugs
  • Try to avoid all reminders or media or shy away from social situations
  • Have more military and homecoming memories

Veterans may question the meaning of their service or whether it was worth the sacrifices they made. They may feel more moral distress about experiences they had during their service.
Veterans may feel like they need to expect and/or prepare for the worst. For example, they may:

  • Become overly protective, vigilant, and guarded
  • Become preoccupied by danger
  • Feel a need to avoid being shocked by, or unprepared for, what may happen in the future

Feeling distress is a normal reaction to negative events, especially ones that feel personal. It can be helpful to let yourself feel those feelings rather than try to avoid them. Often, these feelings will naturally run their course. If they continue without easing up or if you feel overwhelmed by them, the suggestions below can be helpful.


Strategies for Managing Ongoing Distress


At this moment, it may seem like all is lost, like your service or your sacrifices were for nothing. Consider the ways that your service made a difference, the impact it had on others’ lives or on your own life. Remember that now is just one moment in time and that things will continue to change.


It can be helpful to focus on the present and to engage in the activities that are most meaningful and valuable to you. Is there something you can do today that is important to you? This can be as an individual, a family member, a parent, or a community member. Something that is meaningful to you in regard to your work or your spirituality? Such activities won’t change the past or the things you can’t control, but they can help life feel meaningful and reduce distress, despite the things you cannot change.
It can also help to consider your thinking. Ask yourself if your thoughts are helpful to you right now. Are there ways you can change your thinking to be more accurate and less distressing? For example, are you using extreme thinking where you see the situation as all bad or all good? If so, try and think in less extreme terms. For example, rather than thinking “my service in Afghanistan was useless” consider instead “I helped keep Afghanistan safe.”
Finally, consider more general coping strategies that you may want to try including:

  • Engage in Positive Activities. Try to engage in positive, healthy, or meaningful activities, even if they are small, simple actions. Doing things that are rewarding, meaningful, or enjoyable, even if you don’t feel like it, can make you feel better.
  • Stay Connected. Spend time with people who give you a sense of security, calm, or happiness, or those who best understand what you are going through.
  • Practice Good Self Care. Look for positive coping strategies that help you manage your emotions. Listening to music, exercising, practicing breathing routines, spending time in nature or with animals, journaling, or reading inspirational text are some simple ways to help manage overwhelming or distressing emotions.
  • Stick to Your Routines. It can be helpful to stick to a schedule for when you sleep, eat, work, and do other day-to-day activities.
  • Limit Media Exposure. Limit how much news you take in if media coverage is increasing your distress.
  • Use a mobile app. Consider one of VA’s self-help apps (see https://www.ptsd.va.gov/appvid/mobile/) such as PTSD Coach which has tools that can help you deal with common reactions like, stress, sadness, and anxiety. You can also track your symptoms over time.
  • PTSD Coach Online. A series of online video coaches will guide you through 17 tools to help you manage stress. PTSD Coach Online is used on a computer, rather than a mobile device, and therefore can offer tools that involve writing.

If you develop your own ways of adapting to ongoing events and situations, you may gain a stronger sense of being able to deal with challenges, a greater sense of meaning or purpose, and an ability to mentor and support others in similar situations.


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.