MON AM News: Wisconsin U.S. Reps respond to coronavirus relief package; WBA looking for state to “fill in any gaps” in federal relief for banks

— Wisconsin U.S. Representatives’ responses to the $2 trillion in coronavirus relief include concern over the package’s unemployment expansion. 

The chamber approved the package by voice vote, meaning members of the Wisconsin delegation weren’t on the record. 

Speaking ahead of the vote to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher said the package “may be well spent if we can prevent the death of hundreds of thousands and keep the economy tied together with a little bit of duct tape.”

But the Green Bay Republican said lawmakers couldn’t continue to infuse dollars back into the country at the rate they are currently and mirrored U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman’s concerns about a “dramatic expansion” of unemployment benefits.

“I think that’s a dangerous disincentive and an unintended consequence of moving so quickly and trying to strike that balance with getting relief right now versus not setting off unintended consequences,” he said.  

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— Rose Oswald Poels, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Bankers Association, is asking for patience from businesses looking for help from the coronavirus relief package.

Poels told the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce webinar audience that there’s a two-day time frame for the Small Business Administration to issue rules and guidance, so “the money isn’t immediately available.” 

Poels said businesses interested in applying for the new SBA loans should be prepared to produce required documentation quickly. She suggested 12 months of payroll data.

In addition to the regulatory relief at the federal level, Poels said the WBA is looking to the state “either to mirror some relief that’s provided to the banking industry at the federal level or fill in any gaps that may exist.”

— Aurora Health Care announced it’s postponing the opening of its health center in Pleasant Prairie that was scheduled for June 8 due to COVID-19. 

Aurora has not rescheduled the opening yet and “will continue to assess the situation and determine the appropriate time to open” the facility. 

“Despite the momentary pause, our commitment to building a healthier community remains as strong as ever,” said Aurora’s release. 

“Aurora Health Center in Pleasant Prairie is a cornerstone to extending care to patients in Kenosha County and Southeast Wisconsin and we look forward to showcasing this new facility to our community in the future.”

— The Wisconsin Farmers Union is praising the coronavirus relief package but says the bill doesn’t address reliance on foreign exports.

The WFU specifically noted the $14 billion to reimburse the Commodity Credit Corporation and the $9.5 billion to support livestock, dairy and specialty crop producers and local food systems as provisions the group favors.

“Though public health is the most immediate concern in our rural communities, many family farmers are also worried about their long-term financial stability,” said WFU President Darin Von Ruden in a statement. “We’re grateful for the speed and seriousness taken by our legislators to secure this critical funding.”

Many farms and rural businesses have already been strained by a multi-year farm economy crisis and global trade war, said Von Ruden. 

“Now markets are evaporating as restaurants and schools shutter and exports stall, farm labor is in short supply with borders closing, and falling commodity prices are decimating farm income,” he said. “Without this important support, many farms won’t be able to last the summer.”

However, WFU argues that the $2 trillion package doesn’t address issues in distribution channels, growing consolidation and a dependence on exports that “are making our food system less resilient in the face of a national emergency,” said Bobbi Watson, a WFU government relations associate. 

“We want to make sure these funds are fairly distributed and find their way to the farmers who are legitimately losing income, not just large corporations,” said Wilson.

—  WFU is also calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate price fixing by meatpackers. 

“Live cattle prices have been falling while in-store beef prices are climbing,” said Von Ruden. “This market manipulation cannot go unchecked.”

He said he hopes that the signed legislation places an emphasis on “providing fair and equitable relief” enough to keep producers afloat.

— The Wisconsin Paper Council announced that it and others have “joined forces” to promote the importance of Wisconsin’s pulp, paper and converting production necessary to meet COVID-19 challenges.

“Paper products play an important role in ongoing health and safety efforts and in supporting essential commerce,” said the council. “Any disruptions in the availability of these goods, including any portion of the supply chain, would cause tremendous difficulties.”

Wisconsin is the number one producer of paper in the United States, according to DNR. Wisconsin’s paper industry employs over 31,000 people and creates 5.3 million tons of paper annually.

“Papermakers manufacture hundreds of specialty paper products that are used for personal hygiene (and) medical protective equipment and supplies… just to name a few,” said WPC in a statement. “Many of these crucial products are in high demand and medical necessities.” 

WPC argues the production of essential products can’t be done remotely and must continue to operate, adding that facilities have taken careful steps to protect their workforce and customers from the spread of COVID-19.

“I think the store shelves speak for themselves,” Terry Balluck, brand manager at Kimberly-Clark, told “We want to assure consumers that we are doing our best to ensure a steady supply of product to stores, and Kimberly-Clark is working closely with our retail partners and customers to understand their current needs.”

Balluck said Kimberly-Clark plans to accelerate production and reallocating inventory to help meet those needs. 

“We will continue to make adjustments to our plans as necessary,” he said.

Kimberly-Clark has taken extra steps to keep our people and their families safe and healthy including enhanced safety measures for the office, mill and distribution center operations, which were developed in line with guidance from global health authorities, according to Balluk. 

“These plans also help ensure the continued supply of our essential products.”

— Gov. Tony Evers directed DHS to temporarily suspend evictions and foreclosures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the order, landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants for any reason “unless failure to proceed with the eviction will result in an imminent threat of serious physical harm to another person.” It also prevents foreclosures for 60 days.

The guv’s office noted the order doesn’t relieve anyone’s obligation to pay their rent or mortgages.

See the release: 


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