— U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says he’s opposed to the federal government making direct payments to individuals as part of a sweeping coronavirus relief plan.
Johnson, R-Oshkosh, told a call hosted by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce that he believes in a problem-solving approach and not to “pander to the crowd, not to just give away money.” He argued the coronavirus has created a supply-side economic problem, not a demand-side issue.
“Just giving people checks is going to do nothing when they’re hunkered down, bunkered down in their own home,” he said on the call Friday. “They don’t have places to spend money on.”
U.S. Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are proposing cash payments of up to $1,200 for individuals, which begin to phase out for those with more than $75,000 in annual income. The legislation would also provide billions for heavily impacted industries such as airlines as well as small business loans, and it would delay certain tax payments for corporations, among other measures.
Negotiations on a rescue package Sunday resulted in a failed procedural vote in the Senate as discussions continued into the evening.
Some Senate Dems, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, have proposed a package with larger direct-cash payments, while the president has signaled support for the approach.
State Dem spokeswoman Courtney Beyer ripped Johnson’s comments as insensitive.
“Ron Johnson couldn’t be more out-of-touch with the hardship Wisconsinites are facing right now if he tried,” she said. “People from all walks of life have seen their entire livelihood upended in the last week, and Ron Johnson has the audacity to say they don’t need help. We deserve better.”
Meanwhile, bar and restaurant operators in Wisconsin are “desperately seeking any help” from the state and federal government.
Kristine Hillmer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, notes the industry has a $10.7 billion economic impact in the state with over 13,000 establishments and 281,000 jobs.
“Our restaurants and their staff are among the hardest hit at this time with no end in sight,” she said in a statement. “We absolutely support the bill and have an active grassroots campaign asking everybody to call and encourage its passage.”
— Gov. Tony Evers has updated his ban on mass gatherings to shutter a wide-ranging array of personal care businesses.
The update released Friday afternoon ordered hair salons, day spas, nail salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, body art establishments and tanning facilities to close by 5 p.m. that day.
Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm said hair salons could remain open to sell shampoo at the counter with appropriate social distancing, but giving haircuts “should not be happening anymore.”
Speaking with reporters on a DHS media briefing, Palm said the update was designed to provide clarity.
Along with closing personal care businesses, the update clarified that the food delivery system, media organizations, in-person absentee voting and polling locations, cafeterias in healthcare facilities, financial institutions, laundromats and the transportation system can remain open.
The order also allows bars to offer carryout sales of alcohol and food if permitted under local ordinances.
Meanwhile, Evers said he is not considering placing an order to shelter in place, but “will follow the science on that.” Dem Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered Illinois residents to stay at home for nonessential activity. The order will take effect Saturday evening and last through April 7, Pritzker said.
Said Evers: “I believe that we’ll be able to avoid that. We believe our present situation is an adequate response — what we have going on right now works and will continue to work.”
— The state has extended the income tax filing deadline to mid-July after a three-month delay was announced for federal taxes. The move is part of the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Meanwhile, Gov. Tony Evers recently issued an executive order directing the state Public Service Commission to require utilities to cease disconnecting all utility customers, expanding a previous directive for residential customers only.
The PSC is also being directed to enact other consumer protections during the public health emergency, such as no longer requiring deposits for reconnection of service.
Plus Wisconsin’s emergency management program is requesting additional protective medical supplies for police officers and firefighers from FEMA. The request covers 50,000 non-surgical masks, 10,000 face shields, 11,000 coveralls, 3,000 N95 face masks and 35,000 pairs of protective gloves.
According to a release from the guv’s office, the state has already recieved about 52,000 high-quality N95 masks, 130,000 more basic surgical masks, 25,000 face shields, 20,000 surgical gowns, 100 coveralls and 36,000 pairs of gloves from the Strategic National Stockpile. These supplies are going to health care providers in areas with community spread, the release shows.
The U.S. Small Business Association has approved Evers’ recent disaster loan request for small businesses in Wisconsin. But a separate release shows processing times may be delayed due to “unprecented demand” for small business support.
See more on the disaster loans: http://wisconsinsbdc.org/services/covid-19/disasterloans/
See more related releases: http://evers.wi.gov/Pages/Newsroom/Press-Releases.aspx
— The Department of Health Services has announced 281 positive cases of COVID-19 and four deaths in Wisconsin.
In a DHS press call last week, DHS Secretary Andrea Palm pushed that young, healthy people should also practice social distancing, among other guidelines.
“Young people are not immune. Anyone can contract the virus,” she said.
Palm warned that the supply of personal protective equipment won’t be enough to meet healthcare facilities at surge capacity, but “the governor and I continue to look for ways to mitigate shortages.”
Palm stressed to Wisconsinites, “stay at home.”
See links to state and national coronavirus resources: http://www.wispolitics.com/2020/coronavirus-resources/
— More than 2.6 million adult Wisconsinites are projected to be infected by COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic, according to a recent report from the Harvard Global Health Institute.
Plus, around 560,000 adults in the state are expected to be hospitalized, the report shows.
The report explores U.S. hospitals’ capacity for caring for coronavirus patients, and is meant to be used by health industry leaders and lawmakers as they respond to the evolving crisis.
It shows that Wisconsin currently has around 12,000 hospital beds. On average, the state has around 4,900 unoccupied hospital beds, according to the report.
But in six months, the state is projected to need around 37,000 hospital beds — more than triple the current total amount. A year from now, around 18,000 hospital beds will be needed in the state, the report shows.
See the full report here: http://globalepidemics.org/2020/03/17/caring-for-covid-19-patients/
— American Family Insurance and gener8tor are launching a free online virtual accelerator program for companies impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.
According to a release from the organizations, the one-week program will help business leaders “identify, understand and secure resources to withstand the current crisis.” This Emergency Response Program will start March 30 and run through April 3.
Daily webinars will detail the process for applying to Small Business Administration programs, as well as outlining other resources available for businesses. Participating companies will also be able to connect virtually with program staff to get specific questions answered.
“We have seen firsthand the impact that entrepreneurs have on a community and we hope to call on our network of mentors, investors, and partners to support these new Emergency Response Programs,” said Joe Kirgues, co-founder of gener8tor.
See program details here: http://www.gener8tor.com/emergency-response-program/wisconsin
— The Wisconsin Restaurant Association is providing coronavirus updates for diners in the state, including which restaurants are providing delivery and to-go service.
# Madison’s Isthmus a COVID-19 casualty
# UW researchers study COVID-19 coronavirus to try to develop treatments, vaccines
# Wisco Pop in Viroqua expanding amid uncertainty of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic
# Disaster loans approved for Wisconsin small businesses affected by COVID-19 pandemic
– Leap day leads to rise in state milk output in February
– Wisconsin honey output fell in 2019
– Evers declares ban on gatherings of 10 or more doesn’t apply to construction
– COVID-19 pandemic closures are interfering with milestones of growing up around Madison
– BBB offers tips on what to do if an event is canceled by a pandemic
– Madison schools use social media to keep students connected during COVID-19 break
– Wisconsin residents turn to outdoors amid COVID-19 lockdown
# FOOD AND BEVERAGE
– Grocery industry leader: How to shop during the coronavirus outbreak
# HEALTH CARE
– Stretched thin already, Wisconsin nurses prepare for coronavirus ‘storm’
– DHS: 4 deaths, 281 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin
– Evers says more deaths to come in Wisconsin from coronavirus
– Gundersen develops COVID-19 test to be run locally with results in just hours
– Pick ’n Save, Metro Market seek up to 2,500 workers to staff grocery stores
– Food manufacturers, trade associations ask feds for clarity
– Unemployment relief test for Evers, Republican lawmakers
# SMALL BUSINESS
– Evers requesting Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance for businesses
# PRESS RELEASES
<i>See these and other press releases: