FRI AM News: Unemployment fund expected to ‘take a hit’ as claims increase amid outbreak; Nicole Sdao, founder and CEO of Let’s Thrive 360

— The state’s unemployment insurance trust fund is expected to suffer losses as many Wisconsinites are laid off due to coronavirus impacts.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the unemployment insurance fund is going to take a hit,” said John Mielke, president of Associated Builders and Contractors and a member of the state’s unemployment insurance advisory council.

During the council’s webinar meeting Thursday, Unemployment Insurance Program Administrator Mark Reihl said the number of claims has increased significantly this week after Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency.

Between Sunday and Wednesday of this past week, about 29,000 unemployment insurance claims were filed in the state, according to preliminary federal figures. That’s compared to just under 3,700 for the same period of 2019.

“It’s pretty clear we’ll be seeing sharp increases in unemployment insurance claim filings,” said Scott Manley, another council member and senior vice president of government relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. “The question that remains is how long will that last, and what will be the impact on the trust fund?”

Dennis Delie, secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and UI advisory council member, echoed Manley’s concern about the fund and noted the impact will be greater the longer the outbreak persists.

After hitting a record low balance of negative $1.6 billion in 2011 following the Great Recession, Wisconsin’s UI trust fund has rebounded to around $1.9 billion at the end of last year. The state currently falls under the lowest tax rate schedule, meaning employers generally get more favorable rates across the board. The tax rate ranges from zero to 12 percent depending on the employer’s individual unemployment insurance account balance.

“The good news is, we have a very healthy unemployment insurance fund going into this crisis,” Mielke said.

Manley agreed the fund is in “a good position financially” and likely has enough reserve funds to “absorb this type of shock to the system.”

Still, if the fund is reduced to between $900 million and $1.2 billion by June 30 of this year, the state will shift from Schedule D to Schedule C — the next lowest tax rate schedule — for 2021. Under that schedule, tax rates will still range from zero to 12 percent, but more employers would likely have to pay higher rates.

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— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Nicole Sdao, founder and CEO of Let’s Thrive 360, a startup company that connects volunteers to nonprofits. She says coronavirus will help people focus on being altruistic.

In the episode, Sdao talks about the company’s app, Altruize, which is launching on March 22. She describes it as a “Fitbit” for volunteers to track, collect and keep their data such as volunteer hours.

After months of building out the new app technology and getting the marketing and branding ready, Sdao said people are isolating instead of actively volunteering. But she looks to the bright side.

Instead of focusing on statistics and numbers that startups need to secure funding or support, “COVID-19 has been able to bring it back to why we started to begin with,” said Sdao. “It’s a mission of trying to get people to be altruistic now more than ever.”

While Let’s Thrive 360 is waiting for when everyone is ready to “be part of humanity again,” Sdao encourages other startups to take this time to look within.

“We all have that unique situation going on,” she said. “This is a chance for us to look inward — who are you as a person as a company as an employee, what does that look like moving forward, how do we make this a situation that makes us all better?”

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

See a full list of podcasts:

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced the first two confirmed deaths in Wisconsin from COVID-19.

The first death was a Fond du Lac County man in his 50s, and the second was an Ozaukee County man in his 90s, according to the guv’s office.

“Our hearts go out to all the loved ones affected by these deaths, and to all those suffering from this virus,” Evers said. “We are committed to fighting the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, and I want to recognize the hard work and bravery of our nurses, doctors, state health officials, and all those on the front lines in the effort to save lives. Together we will get through this historic health challenge.”

See the release:

— Meanwhile, the state Department of Health Services now counts 155 positive cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin.

Twenty-one counties have positive cases. New counties to the list are Bayfield, Calumet, Columbia, Eau Claire, Ozaukee, Sauk and Walworth counties.

Milwaukee County has the most positive cases with 62, followed by Dane, (27) Fond du Lac (14) and Waukesha (12) counties.

Milwaukee, Dane, Kenosha and Brown counties have identified community spread, meaning officials cannot trace where the virus was contracted.

See links to state and national coronavirus resources here:

— The state’s construction industry will continue working on projects with additional safeguards to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

According to a joint release from construction industry groups based in Wisconsin, companies will be following a set of precautions based on CDC and OSHA recommendations. Workers will be asked to stay six feet apart and wear gloves. Employers may use thermal imaging equipment to test workers for fevers.

See the release:

— The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce has launched an online portal where businesses can submit questions about the local impact of the coronavirus.

See details here:

— The Doyenne Group is launching a pilot session of its new Strategy Accelerator at the end of March, the Madison-based group announced recently.

According to the organization’s website, the three-month-long accelerator will help entrepreneurs develop a strong strategic foundation for their ventures.

Through three phases of the program, participants will learn how to develop an “authentic CEO-self,” formulate a clear vision of the founder’s future and create an effective story or pitch.
The pilot accelerator is only open to Doyenne members, with costs ranging up to $1,000.

See more at Madison Startups:

— The state DNR has announced state parks and trails in Wisconsin will remain open during the coronavirus outbreak

“Getting outdoors can also help relieve stress, especially during this public health emergency. A quiet walk does wonders to reduce our anxieties,” said DNR Secretary Preston Cole in a release.

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See a recent story on the coronavirus’ impact on tourism:


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GE Healthcare boosts ventilator production in Madison; ramps up Milwaukee-area plants

Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market to offer seniors-only hours

Wisconsin workers, businesses reeling from coronavirus fallout



  • Pesticide applicator certification testing suspended
  • UW-Extension: Six possible impacts of COVID-19 on farming


  • Milwaukee to install ‘carryout zones’ in front of restaurants
  • Everything’s in limbo: Wisconsin tenants out of work due to COVID-19 concerned about evictions


  • Milwaukee-area caterer offering boxed-lunch service during coronavirus pandemic


  • Known COVID-19 cases up by about 50, according to DHS


  • Wisconsin manufacturers increase production to keep up with coronavirus demand


  • Wisconsin Republicans oppose, Democrats support federal government’s new coronavirus law


  • Kevin Armstrong named president of Founders 3
  • Former CBRE manager Kevin Armstrong becomes president of Founders 3


  • All Kohl’s stores to close until April
  • Kohl’s closing all U.S. stores through end of March
  • Kohl’s announces it will close all stores until April 1 due to coronavirus outbreak


  • Evers requests SBA loan assistance from federal government


See these and other press releases:

Gov. Evers: Confirms two COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin
FarWell: Restructures to emphasize experience