FRI AM News: Stimulus package expected to help struggling businesses survive; WisBusiness: The Podcast with Katie Hill, founder of Rebel Wellness

— The federal stimulus package recently passed by the Senate is expected to help keep businesses in Wisconsin afloat if it becomes law.

But uncertainty clouds the future for many companies in the state, particularly those hit hardest by the response to the coronavirus outbreak. Hotels across the state are drastically cutting staff as guests cancel reservations, while bars, restaurants and small businesses are facing an unprecedented drop in customer traffic.

Wisconsin Restaurant Association President and CEO Kristine Hillmer notes smaller members of the foodservice industry face an “extinction-level threat.” She said many of the provisions in the bill were supported by WRA, including an expansion of unemployment insurance, grants and loans for small businesses and other elements.

“While not perfect, this will go a long way in helping our industry,” she said in a statement.

Scott Stenger, a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Tavern League, says the federal bill “provides a critical bridge for a return to business for our members and our employees.” But he says that hinges on Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order expiring April 24th as planned.

“We will now focus on what state and local government can do to provide the needed support for thousands of small business owners in Wisconsin,” Stenger said.

Bill Smith, state director for NFIB Wisconsin, said the bill is “very, very helpful.”

“It will help ease the economic strain caused by COVID-19, and it will provide assistance with cash flow and liquidity,” he told

Smith commended the Senate for “putting aside politics” for the moment to pass the stimulus package, and says he hopes the House will do the same when it takes up the legislation.

“We’ve said all along that the one thing that really holds small businesses back is uncertainty,” Smith said. “They need to have confidence in the future, to continue to hire, invest and grow those businesses. We believe this legislation will help reduce that uncertainty — at least in the short term.”

See more: 

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Katie Hill, founder of Rebel Wellness, a Madison company that provides programming to help businesses de-stress their employees.

After experiencing the stresses and anxiety of a heavy workload herself, Hill realized she could help other companies manage employee stress to boost productivity. 

“We do not do our best work when we are feeling stress and anxiety,” said Hill. “It is the number one killer of creativity and inspiration and innovation, I think in our whole culture.”

Rebel Wellness custom tailors a curriculum of yoga, breathing and meditation to increase mindfulness and relaxation. And the challenge of working remotely during the current pandemic doesn’t phase Hill. 

“I have always sort of worked virtually,” she said referring to her clients on the east and west coasts. While Hill said she’d rather be in-person, that’s not always possible. “The virtual aspect of it actually plays to my benefit and the benefit of my clients right now.”

Listen to the podcast below, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

See a full list of podcasts: 

— Wisconsin’s hotel industry could lose more than 18,000 direct jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Oxford Economics projections released by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. 

And the state could lose another 30,000 indirect jobs due to the outbreak’s impact on the industry, the study shows. Wisconsin currently has over 40,000 workers directly employed by hotels, and around 80,000 others whose jobs are indirectly supported. 

Across the country, about 44 percent of all hotel employees are projected to be unemployed in the coming weeks. 

One hotelier in Muskego has laid off “countless” employees as occupancies have fallen to record lows, the release shows. And pay is being cut 20 percent for the hotel’s salaried workers. 

Another hotelier is laying off 90 percent of his workforce at properties in Verona. 

See numbers for other U.S. states: 

— The Department of Health Services has announced eight people have died in Wisconsin so far from COVID-19, while 707 people have tested positive for the disease. 

Milwaukee county has experienced five deaths while Dane, Fond du Lac and Ozaukee counties have each experienced one.  

Over half of Wisconsin counties have positive test results. Milwaukee (347), Dane (114), Waukesha (56) and Washington (25) counties have the most confirmed cases.

“We want folks to adhere to this order and limit their time out of their home,” said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm of Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order during a Facebook Live broadcast

She said to limit trips out of the house and travel only to the grocery store or pharmacy, “but there is not a document or ID that people are required to have to do those essential errands.”

Wisconsin reports 11,583 negative test results.

Palm also said to follow the guv’s orders to “vote absentee.” 

“I certainly know that the governor is working very actively to ensure that this election can be carried out in the safest and most fair and equitable way,” she said. 

— The state’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.5 percent in February, according to preliminary numbers released by the state Department of Workforce Development.

But that is sure to go up with soaring jobless fillings. Well over 70,000 unemployment insurance claims have been made this week alone in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate had been steadily climbing after reaching a low of 2.8 percent in early 2019. It hit 3.5 percent in January for the first time in nearly three years.

The U.S. unemployment rate was also 3.5 percent in February, the DWD release shows.

See more:

— Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is calling for state action to help get business moving again after the coronavirus crisis.

Its new agenda calls for providing economic assistance and removing regulations on businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“WMC’s Relief & Recovery Agenda will keep more businesses operational, ensure folks are still able to provide for their families and help our economy bounce back following this crisis,” said Scott Manley, vice president of government relations at WMC.

WMC’s agenda includes providing tax credits for businesses and families, prioritizing coronavirus testing for employees in essential businesses, waiving continuing education requirements for employees and enacting liability protections for “essential visitors” at facilities.

Another item is to temporarily pause Department of Revenue audits that WMC says are “incredibly disruptive” to business operations.

“Wisconsin’s business community is stepping up during this public health emergency, and it is the duty of lawmakers to provide support to employers, employees and all Wisconsinites who are struggling,” said Manley.

See the release:

— The state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance is directing insurers to allow small business employers to keep workers with reduced hours on health insurance. 

“We want every Wisconsinite to be able to access the care they need during this public health emergency,” Gov. Tony Evers said. “Insurers can help make that possible by giving small employers the flexibility they need to keep employees on their health insurance.” 

OCI has also issued new guidance for essential businesses, including information on business interruption insurance and loans and grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. 

See more in recent press releases from the agency: 

See’s list of coronavirus resources: 


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– Heiman: Study on milk’s effect on health spells opportunity

– State’s sheep, dairy goat herds grew last year


– Shot in the arm: Industry looks forward to stimulus, calls for more action


– Wisconsin set a record for unemployment claims last week, and may have already broken it

– Major Wisconsin companies switch to virtual shareholder meetings due to COVID-19


– UW-Madison offers students option to receive pass-fail grades this semester


– The Tandem serving up hundreds of free meals to laid off workers


– DHS: 707 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin

– WCTC donates thousands of health supply items to state, local agencies to help combat COVID-19

– The Latest: Wisconsin COVID-19 cases jump to more than 700


– Northwestern Mutual donating $1.5 million for COVID-19 relief efforts


– Wisconsin businesses pivot to help health care providers during pandemic


– Wisconsin Center officials to weigh next steps of expansion plans following city rebuff

– See first day in Milwaukee under Gov. Ever’s ‘Safer at Home’ order


– DATCP issues RVP variance waiver


– Wisconsin retailers hold off on earnings guidance during COVID-19 pandemic


– DCHA annual conference to be held virtually


– John Nichols: Madison machinists are working 24/7 to build life-saving ventilators


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Northwestern Mutual: Donates more than $1.5 million toward coronavirus relief efforts

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