THU AM News: Checks go out under federal Lost Wages Assistance program; Restaurant Association lead calls eateries a scapegoat for increasing COVID cases

— DWD is retroactively sending out an additional $300 per week to about 220,000 eligible claimants as part of the Lost Wages Assistance program.

DWD started sending payments on Thursday and will continue making payments over the next week. The LWA benefit payments are estimated to result in another $224 million in the hands of Wisconsinites.

President Trump launched the program Aug. 8 after Congress and the White House couldn’t reach an agreement on the next round of stimulus spending, including additional unemployment benefits. The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved Wisconsin for the LWA program on Sept. 1.

“Staff at DWD have worked diligently to program a complex program that will get additional unemployment insurance dollars into the hands of out-of-work Wisconsinites,” DWD Deputy Secretary Robert Cherry said.

But both he and interim DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek added the program falls far short of what’s needed for people who have had their employment affected by the pandemic.

“In Wisconsin, we will continue to look at ways to help individuals during this difficult time,” Cherry said.

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— Wisconsin Restaurant Association President Kristine Hilmer said restaurants have been a scapegoat for the rise in COVID-19 cases in the state, warning 37 percent could go out of business.

She told a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce briefing that data showing restaurants are to blame for the record-breaking spike of cases in recent weeks “does not seem to exist,” and that most business owners are taking serious precautions.

“We’re not seeing spread in the restaurants because of the safety protocols that they have done,” she said. “Restaurant owners right now are feeling a little bit like they’re part of a ping pong match between the public health experts, the state government, the federal government, the community and everybody in between.”

She warned most restaurants have already burned through their federal Paycheck Protection Program money and that 37 percent of restaurants will likely go out of business in the next six months without more help.

Hilmer said she surveyed her members and nearly 50 percent said they will not survive the Evers administration’s 25 percent capacity limit on indoor public gatherings, “especially without further federal dollars.”

“At 25 percent capacity there is no way for a restaurant to pay their bills, there is just no way,” she said. “This is going to lead to, and it probably already is, another round of layoffs. And many of their staff have just been hired back.”

But Hilmer said what she believes the industry’s biggest challenge will be the “lack of confidence” in the general public that it’s safe to eat out during a pandemic. One small solution, she said, could be for state lawmakers to allow take-out cocktails, a “lifeline” more than 30 other states so far have already passed.

The guv’s original stay-at-home order did allow carryout — but not delivery — sales for alcoholic beverages, so long as municipalities already allowed it.

Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback declined to comment, but referred to Evers’ statements yesterday at a DHS media briefing when he said the order limiting public gatherings to 25 percent capacity is “critically important” to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Folks, we know that gatherings are exactly what we need to be avoiding at this time. Large and small, we know that they can turn one positive test into 10 positive tests in the blink of an eye,” he said. “We want to see our small businesses succeed, our favorite restaurants and bars thriving again, but that won’t happen overnight and it certainly won’t happen until everybody starts taking this pandemic seriously.”

— Wisconsin’s Department of Justice is investigating Google’s business practices in accordance with state and federal antitrust laws. 

Attorney General Josh Kaul was unable to comment on the recent filing against Google due to the ongoing investigation that began Sept. 9, according to a DOJ spokeswoman.

The U.S. Department of Justice and 11 states filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Google on Tuesday, accusing the tech giant of unlawfully using anti-competitive tactics to preserve its monopolies in online search and advertising. 

The participating state Attorneys General offices represent Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Montana, South Carolina and Texas.

Read the suit: 

— Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. is investing $230,000 in Arcadia. 

Pilgrim’s is working with local leaders to identify where the funds can best help meet immediate and long-term community needs in food insecurity, community infrastructure and well-being, and COVID-19 emergency response and relief efforts. 

All projects will be determined by the end of the year.

“Businesses like Pilgrim’s help make our community strong and serve as an economic engine in this region,” said Arcadia Mayor Robert Reichwein. “The City of Arcadia recognizes the value Pilgrim’s brings each day as an employer, business supporter and charitable giver all while being one of the larger employers in the area, providing steady employment that allows our community members to grow and prosper.”

The Pilgrim’s Arcadia production facility employs more than 470 people with an annual payroll of more than $23 million. The facility also supports nearly 150 growers. Consistent with its long-term commitment to the local economy, Pilgrim’s Arcadia has invested nearly $5 million in capital improvements over the last three years.

— New COVID-19 outbreaks among UW-Madison student athletes are extremely unlikely, according to Deputy Athletic Director Chris McIntosh.

“We feel really good about our approach,” McIntosh said during an alumni association virtual event this week. “The chances of transmission of COVID are almost eliminated given our daily rapid turnaround testing capabilities.”

This wasn’t always the case, McIntosh admitted, pointing to the Big Ten’s decision to postpone its football season in August.

“We weren’t able to answer the questions that needed to be answered,” McIntosh said of the reasoning behind the postponement. “We weren’t able to feel confident that we could keep our players safe.”

The Wisconsin Badgers face off against the Fighting Illini on Friday night at Camp Randall Stadium for its first game this season. 

Though chances of new outbreaks among athletes are slim, McIntosh said, there’s no room for a further postponement if players contract COVID-19. If multiple players of the same position contract the virus at the same time, it would be “a roster management disaster,” McIntosh said.

The Big Ten requires players to sit out games for a minimum of 21 days if they test positive for COVID-19. If an athlete contracts the virus, they could miss three of the eight regular-season games. 

“All of them,” sportscaster Matt Lepay said when asked which games he thinks are most important. “When you’re playing nine games, I think that magnifies everything.”

The Badgers will play a ninth game during the Big Ten’s Champions Week. According to McIntosh, the shortened season incentivizes players to comply with COVID-19 precaution guidelines.

“It’s not like it’s 100 percent in their control, but like all of us, they can minimize their chances of contracting COVID,” McIntosh said. “The incentive is a pretty powerful one for them. They’ve been working, most of them, all their lives for this moment.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Tony Evers called for Badger fans to watch Badger football at home alone or with those living in the same residence. He said in a recent Department of Health Services briefing that if people “continue to make excuses” for not practicing mitigation efforts, the state will experience more COVID-19 deaths and cases and less economic activity. 

“This is a critical time folks, and I now fun is fun and I like to have as much fun as anybody else, but if we really want us to return to a place where we can be engaging the economy of this state, we have to be very careful with what we do in the next several weeks and that includes game day,” he said.

— Tensions between capitalism and social entrepreneurship are still present as companies face increasing pressure to adapt to conscious consumers, according to a Swipe Out Hunger exec.

Rachel Sumekh, founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit, was a keynote presenter during the national YP2020 conference. 

The virtual, young professionals event, presented by Concordia University, was focused on collective action against injustice and systemic oppression. National partners included NEWaukee and Y-Link – Young Leaders in Kenosha.

“I was one of those kids that survived off of the free breakfast and lunch every day at school,” Sumekh said of her time in K-12 schools. “By the time I got to college, I wasn’t worried about food, but I understood what it felt like to go in the poor kids’ line.”

Almost a decade ago, UCLA kept its food pantry for low-income students in a basement, Sumekh said. As a student, she worked with administrators to create Swipe Out Hunger, which allows college students to donate their extra meal plan swipes to their peers who face food insecurity. 

The organization has since developed 123 college campus partnerships across 39 states, provided 2 million meals and contributed $50 million in legislation to combat student hunger.

“It’s being an entrepreneur on the pursuit of creating some change in the world,” Sumekh said of social entrepreneurship. “Some want to create change from the outside, but you should know that you can create change from the inside — it’s just a different playbook.”

Capitalism is adapting to the rise of social entrepreneurship, Sumekh said, but stressors between social impact plans and revenue models still reign. Capitalist models are reluctant to see consumers as partners and are blind to goals other than turning a profit.

“We’ve all been conditioned to say, ‘If we can’t afford it, we shouldn’t do it,’” Sumekh said. “Our social impact and revenue generation should be equal.”

— Wisconsin reported a record 48 COVID-19 deaths in a single day, bringing the state’s coronavirus death toll to 1,681. 

The state also reported its second single-day confirmed case count over 4,000. 

New COVID-19 cases reported yesterday total 4,205, short of Tuesday’s record of 4,591 cases. That brings the seven-day average of daily confirmed cases to a record 3,444.

“With record high numbers of positive cases, hospitalizations, and staffing shortages, there has never been a more critical time for Wisconsinites to act and help stop the spread,” said Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm in a release.

She added that staying home, wearing a mask, staying six feet apart, avoiding gatherings and washing hands are the “most effective tools” to overcome the pandemic.

— Menominee County takes the lead for the state’s highest infection rate at 57.5 cases per 1,000 people. 

In seven days, Menominee County added 40 COVID-19 cases. The county has a cumulative total of 252 confirmed cases. 

The county started to see consecutive days of record single-day case counts in mid-September. Menominee County has had 53 percent of its cases in the month of October. 

The second-highest infection rate in the state is Brown County at 52.4 cases per 1,000 people. Its total case number — 13,645 — saw 150 more than last week. Shawano County’s infection rate is at 50.7 cases per 1,000 people. It added 129 cases in seven days for a cumulative 2,093 confirmed cases. 

Oconto County has an infection rate of 49.4 cases per 1,000 people. It added 50 cases in seven days for a cumulative 1,877 confirmed cases. The fifth-highest infection rate in the state is Kewaunee County at 46.9 cases per 1,000 people. Its cases number 968, an increase of 29 cases in one week.

The state’s average infection ratio is 31.6 cases per 1,000 people.

Milwaukee, Brown, Dane, Waukesha and Outagamie counties have the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the state.

— The Alternative Care Facility at State Fair Park has its first patient after being open for one week. 

The West Allis field hospital, designed to serve as an overflow facility for hospitals across the state, opened a week ago. As of yesterday afternoon, the first patient was the facility’s only patient.

“We are thankful to have this facility available to Wisconsinites and our hospitals, but also saddened that this is where Wisconsin is at today,” said Gov. Tony Evers in a release. “Folks, please stay home. Help us protect our communities from this highly-contagious virus and avoid further strain on our hospitals.”

Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations number 1,190. The Wisconsin Hospital Association’s coronavirus data dashboard reports 299 intensive care patients.

– DataChat, Inc, a UW-Madison data analytics platform closed a $4 million seed funding round led by leading Silicon Valley venture capital firms.

WRVI Capital and Nepenthe led the round. Other participants included individual investors from Google and Palo Alto Networks.

“We’re building technology that represents the future of how people get insights from their data. It’s a sophisticated technology that cuts across multiple disciplines in computer science, including data science and AI,” said Jignesh Patel, CEO and co-founder of DataChat. “We needed smart money to fuel our vision and this round does exactly that.”

Growing customer interest led the company’s leadership to pursue investment from major venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. DataChat plans to use this funding to further scale the team and customer base.

DataChat’s conversational intelligence platform helps business users obtain valuable insights from their data by simply chatting with the platform — no coding experience required. 

The company has previously been funded in part by America’s Seed Fund, a program of the National Science Foundation. DataChat is also supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.


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– Wisconsin Hemp Groups Applaud State’s Decision To Delay New Regulations 

– Wisconsin farmer finishes soybeans ahead of snowstorm 

– Has U.S. pork production become too efficient? 

– Foremost Farms Sells Minnesota Plant to Diversified Ingredients 

– State Milk Production Rises for Second Time in 2020 


– Wisconsin Schools ‘Whipsawing’ As COVID-19 Hits Rural Districts 


– Froedtert plans to expand Drexel Town Square Health Center in Oak Creek 

– Surge in sales of Covid-19 test products fuels Abbott Labs quarterly profits 


– Two charged with toppling, damaging Capitol statues in June

– Jacob Blake Faces Allegations In Brief Pre-Trial Hearing 


– Franklin denies Strauss Brands’ plans for new meat processing plant 


– Facebook Restricts La Crosse County Republican Party Page, Pulls Ads 


– White Democrat calls himself racist, says his pulse might have quickened if he met his Black opponent a few years ago

– Madison voters making use of 14 secure ballot drop boxes


– Amazon, Rexnord building openings boost local 3Q real estate performance 


– Harley-Davidson recalling around 1,000 LiveWire motorcycles 


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

– Alliant Energy: Customers urged to follow natural gas safety practices as heating season begins 

– Door County Economic Development Corporation: $550,000 in small business COVID-19 relief funds now available