COVID-19 Wisconsin Legislative Update

April 30, 2020


By Michael Blumenfeld, Wisconsin Jewish Conferece
Wisconsin Jewish Conference is a beneficiary organization of the Jewish Federation of Madison


As of April 30 afternoon, there were 6,854 positive COVID-19 tests in Wisconsin and 316 deaths. See Wisconsin COVID-19 Summary from DHS for the latest information and data regarding the outbreak in Wisconsin.


Wisconsin Receives Delivery of 230,000 N95 Masks from FEMA
Governor Evers Announced Thursday that Wisconsin has received a shipment of 230,000 N95 masks from FEMA. The masks will be given to county emergency management staff to distribute to providers. FEMA also plans to provide Wisconsin with a Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System™ (CCDS) in early May to help decontaminate N95 respirator masks.


“These additional supplies will be distributed to our partners on the local level as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Darrell L. Williams, Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) administrator. “However, it is important to remember these resources are still extremely scarce, so we encourage all critical care providers who need N95 masks to take steps to extend their life when possible.”


DHS Releases Fact Sheet on How to Protect Yourself During a Home Visit
The Department of Health Services released a fact sheet on Thursday about how consumers can keep themselves safe during a home visit. It is meant for individuals who receive in-home care.


DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm Interview with Wisconsin Health News
DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm sat down for a 30-minute webinar with Wisconsin Health News on Thursday. She discussed the Badger Bounce Back plan to reopen Wisconsin as well as a lawsuit filed by the Legislature challenging her extension of the Safer at Home order. You can watch the full interview here.


Public Service Commission Awards Telemedicine Grants
The Public Service Commission announced on Thursday that they have awarded $1 million in Medical Telecommunications Equipment Program grants to 16 recipients. The program is designed to support nonprofit medical clinics and public health agencies. The full list of recipients can be seen here.


80 Businesses Come out in Support of WMC’s Back to Business Plan
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is calling on the Legislature and Governor to support their Back to Business Plan. Nearly 80 business associations and local chambers of commerce signed on to a letter in support of the plan. The Assembly Committee on State Affairs held an informational hearing on the plan today.


More than 43,000 Wisconsin Businesses Receive PPP Loans
According to the Wisconsin Bankers Association, more than 43,000 Wisconsin businesses received forgivable loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, totaling $8.3 billion.


President Trump Not Extending Social Distancing Guidelines
The White House’s social distancing guidelines are set to expire today, April 30. President Trump has indicated that he does not plan to extend the guidelines. Vice President Pence has said that the social distancing guidelines are being incorporated into plans for states to reopen.


Governor Evers Files Response to Legislature’s Lawsuit
Governor Evers has filed a response​ to the Legislature’s lawsuit seeking to block his extension of the Safer at Home Order. In his response, Governor Evers’ administration asks the Wisconsin Supreme Court to throw the lawsuit out. The response says that state statute gives the Department of Health Services broad authority to respond to and control communicable disease outbreaks.


“The petitioners’ arguments should be rejected,” states the response. “They posit a fundamental reworking of how Wisconsin responds to a pandemic—in the midst of one—that is incompatible with the statutes, constitutional principles, and on-the-ground reality.”


Gov. Tony Evers announced that dozens of organizations support the extension of Safer at Home in briefs filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court.


Governor Evers Plans to Cut State Spending by 5%
Governor Evers 2019 Administration announced plans on Wednesday to reduce state spending, which includes an immediate 5% cut to state agency budgets.


“While we entered this public health emergency in strong financial condition, the situation at both the state and federal level have changed dramatically since the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released it January 2020 revenue estimates and revised 2019‑21 general fund condition,” wrote Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan in a letter sent to all state employees.


Other items in the plan include a hiring freeze and suspension of state-sponsored out-of-state travel.


Legislative leaders applaud the Governor’s plan to reduce state spending but called for more to be done. Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren called for state spending to be frozen in the second year of the biennium.


DHS Releases New COVID-19 Data
The Department of Health Services has released new information about COVID-19 outbreaks in facility-based settings, including long-term care facilities and group housing. Wisconsin currently has 187 COVID-19 facility-wide public health investigations and outbreaks.


Legislative Leaders Ask to Meet with Governor Evers on Regional Reopening Plan
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos are asking Governor Evers to sit down with them to discuss a phased-in regional reopening plan.


The Assembly Committee on State Affairs will also hold an informational hearing on the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce’s Back to Business plan, which includes a regional approach to reopening, on Thursday, April 30 at 12 p.m.


Department of Workforce Development Releasing Federal Pandemic Unemployment Payments
Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development is now distributing the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Payments created by the CARES Act. The payments provide an additional $600 per week. These payments will automatically be added to unemployment benefits.


Wisconsin to Provide Temporary Food Assistance Benefits to Children Missing School
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) will provide $140 million in food assistance benefits to children who qualify for free or reduced price lunch to ensure that they continue to receive meals during the school closure.


DHS is reaching out to families eligible for the program through direct messaging and mailed letters to let them know how to access their funds. For families that are already part of benefit programs with the state, the funds will be placed on their QUEST cards or a dedicated EBT card. Families not currently participating in state benefit programs that are eligible will need to apply separately. DHS is partnering with the Department of Public Instruction to spread the word to those families.


Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Seeking Approval to Create Child Care Grant Program
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families sent a request to the Joint Finance Committee this week seeking permission to use $51 million in federal CARES Act funds to create several child care grant programs. The plan would create the following grant programs:


  1. Funding for child care providers that have remained open to serve the children of essential workers during the pandemic. The grant funds would be required to be used for payroll purposes and other allowable expenses, which include, but are not limited to, parent reimbursement for cost of care, mortgage/rent, utilities and materials/supplies for cleaning and sanitation. DCF estimates that two-thirds of the available funds will be used to support this grant program.
  2. Funding to provide hazard pay to child care employees. These grants would be made to child care providers who are open and providing care to children of essential workers in order to provide hazard pay to employees related to the public health emergency.
  3. Funding to support child care providers that have closed due to COVID-19. These grants would only cover lost revenue for services that would have been provided to families not eligible for Wisconsin Shares, and only if these families were not charged during the public health emergency.