TUE AM News: NFIB Wisconsin doesn’t expect Evers’ grants to have big impact; “Big-game” changer: ModuTree allows hunters to modify custom blinds

— The state director for the small business group NFIB Wisconsin doesn’t expect the $2,500 grants announced by the Evers administration to have a big impact. But Bill Smith says he expects high demand from struggling businesses.

The administration yesterday announced a $75 million grant program to help employers with fewer than 20 employees deal with costs from the COVID-19 pandemic and to implement best practices to keep employees and customers safe.

Funded largely with federal money through the CARES Act, the $2,500 grants are meant to help businesses pay for health and safety improvements, wages and salaries, rent, mortgages, and inventory.

Smith said a $2,500 cash grant “obviously isn’t going to go very far” considering the combined cost of those expenses for small business owners. According to a release from the guv’s office, grant recipients will need to commit to safety protocols at their shops and other places of work.

“My sense is that the health and safety improvements is where most of [the grants] will be directed to,” Smith told WisBusiness.com. “All the sanitizers, all the testing, the face masks and those supplies, small businesses never had to supply them in the past. When they closed in March it wasn’t an expense — now it is, and it could be a long-term expense.”

The program is targeting up to 30,000 businesses with 20 or fewer full-time equivalent employees that haven’t already received COVID-19 assistance from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Businesses will be able to apply for the grant assistance in early June.

“We’re still getting the details worked out on that,” WEDC chief Missy Hughes said in a webinar hosted by the agency. “We want to make sure that we work the bugs out of our system because we anticipate a lot of interest in this grant.”

Hughes conceded that $2,500 “might not seem like a lot,” but she said the funds could help small businesses start the process of reopening and “really get rolling again.”

Despite some misgivings about the size of the grants, Smith commended the governor for making more funding available and recognizing the financial impact of the pandemic on thousands of small business owners in Wisconsin.

He agreed with Hughes that interest will be high for these grants, noting “revenue-starved” small business owners will be “lining up at the door.”

See the release:

— WEDC also recently announced that applications are being accepted for Ethnic Minority Emergency Grants, providing $2 million in grants to diverse “micro-businesses” that lost money due to the pandemic. 

The grants are meant for sole proprietorships or businesses with five or fewer workers that haven’t previously benefited from the SB 20/20 program or the Paycheck Protection Program. A release from WEDC shows 1,000 grants for $2,000 each will be awarded through partnerships with 19 ethnic or minority chambers of commerce. 

Applications will be accepted until May 24th. 

“The idea behind this grant is really to find the small micro-businesses in Wisconsin that haven’t been able to access those other programs,” WEDC chief Missy Hughes said during a webinar yesterday. “They’re critical to the fabric of our Wisconsin communities.”  

See more on the program here: http://wedc.org/programs-and-resources/minority-business-development/

— Gov. Tony Evers says GOP lawmakers aren’t interested in any kind of administrative rule to deal with COVID-19, but a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the Juneau Republican is open to one that would deal with things such as reopening schools.

Evers announced yesterday his administration is dropping efforts to draft an emergency rule to deal with COVID-19 because he was unable to get cooperation from GOP lawmakers.

A spokesman for Fitzgerald pointed to the legislator’s Friday statement to WisPolitics.com that he wasn’t interested in any rules that were similar to the guv’s Badger Bounce Back plan. Instead, he wanted talks to address upcoming events such as college students returning to UW campuses and mass gatherings.

“Sen. Fitzgerald and the governor spoke at length on Sunday about some of the items covered in his statement like sporting events, public education, tourism, and large group gatherings,” said Fitzgerald spokesman Alec Zimmerman.

The Department of Health Services last week released the framework for an emergency rule that included goals similar to the stay-at-home order that was overturned by the state Supreme Court. Yesterday, the agency notified lawmakers it was withdrawing that scope statement.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to spend a lot of time doing something that we know isn’t going to be successful,” Evers said on a conference call.

Read the full story at WisPolitics.com: https://www.wispolitics.com/2020/mon-pm-update-elections-commission-still-searching-for-answers-on-tubs-of-absentee-ballots-from-april-7-election/

See the letter noticing the withdrawal:


— Home sales in April were down nearly 7 percent over the year as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to impact the state’s housing industry, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

A release from WRA shows home sales in April were 6.9 percent lower than the previous April, while the median price increased 9.7 percent over the year to reach $214,000.

WRA Chairman Steve Beers noted the closing process for a newly sold home can take up to eight weeks, so the impact of COVID-19 on monthly sales are just starting to be seen. The release shows the period between May and August typically accounts for 43 percent of the year’s total sales.

“It’s going to get a lot worse over the next few months, which unfortunately is our peak sales period,” Beers said in a news release.

The number of new home listings in April fell by more than 38 percent, which contributed to the increase in home prices, the release shows. Total listings were down more than 20 percent.

“With such limited homes for sale, it’s not surprising that home sales are rising so quickly,” said Michael Theo, president and CEO of WRA.

See the release: http://bit.ly/3bMO0KZ

— Public Health Madison and Dane County are launching a phased business reopening strategy, Forward Dane.

When all metrics are at least yellow, Dane County can move to phase one, which allows businesses to operate at 25 percent capacity.

The nine metrics include measuring the percent of positive tests, cases per day, tests conducted, testing for health care workers, patients treated without crisis care, health care workers with COVID-19, lab reporting timeliness and contact tracing, community spread, and COVID-like symptoms.

At least 14 days later, Dane County can move to phase two when more than half of the metrics are green and none of the epidemiological metrics, such as daily new cases and positive test rate, are red. This would allow businesses to run at 50 percent capacity. 

Then, at least 14 days after that, the county can move to phase three if more than half of the metrics are still green and none of the metrics in Dane County or the Southern Region are red. Businesses in phase three would be able to operate at 75 percent capacity.

Dane County will remain in phase three until widespread treatments or vaccines are available. It’s then that the county will move into phase four — the “new normal.”

Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce argued in a release that compared to Gov. Tony Evers’  plan, Forward Dane allows for more outdoor activity, less ambiguity and improved metrics. 

“Instead of treating businesses as essential and non-essential, industry guidelines are outlined,” said GMCC, noting restaurants will be able to utilize outdoor seating since “transmission risk is lower outdoors.”

“We must protect public health while enabling economic activity that will lead to an accelerated recovery,” said the chamber. “Continued public-private collaboration will be critical to accomplishing that while also bolstering public confidence in our community strategy.”

Read the order: https://publichealthmdc.com/documents/2020-05-18_Order_2.pdf

See a detailed breakdown of the plan: https://publichealthmdc.com/documents/Forward_Dane.pdf

Read more about the plan’s health metrics: https://publichealthmdc.com/coronavirus/forward-dane/metrics

— Public health officials say Wisconsin has not seen any cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome — a condition in children that may be related to COVID-19. 

The World Health Organization reports that Europe and North America have had children and adolescents with the syndrome requiring admission to intensive care units. 

“To date, we have not had any confirmed cases of this new entity,” said Dr. Ryan Westergard,  chief medical officer of the Bureau for Communicable Disease at DHS. “We are sharing the news widely that hospital providers should be on the lookout and report it to the state if and when they do see any.”

According to WHO and Westergaard, multisystem inflammatory syndrome has features similar to Kawasaki disease — leading to multi-organ failure and shock.   

“There has internationally been a call for clinicals to keep their eyes and ears open for similar patterns, so we can learn more about this,” said Westergaard, adding the CDC has provided a definition and criteria of people who might be suspected to have it.  

This includes people under the age of 21 with a fever for more than 24 hours, inflammation of organs, and illness requiring hospitalization; no alternative plausible diagnoses; and had or is positive for SARS or COVID-19 exposure prior to onset of symptoms.

“Here in Wisconsin, we are sharing that information with all our clinicians, and asking them to report; we’ve sent out a health alert network with a standardized case information reporting form,” he said.

— DHS reports the state’s COVID-19 death toll at 459 — up four from the last count.

The state’s number of confirmed cases also rose since Sunday — by 144. That brings the cumulative confirmed case count to 12,687. 

An estimated 54 percent have recovered from COVID-19, while 4 percent of patients have died. Forty-two percent are still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis.

DHS’s hospital dashboard also reports 380 COVID patients in hospitals statewide, up 17 patients from yesterday, and above the average of 341 patients for the month of May. The Wisconsin Hospitals Association’s statewide patient data shows an upward trend in hospitalized patients since May 6. 

And Wisconsin appears to have an adequate supply of beds and ventilators according to DHS and WHA. 

ICU beds immediately available in the state number 444 out of 1,441 total in Wisconsin; intermediate care beds — 241 out of 845; surgical beds — 1,789 out of 7,219; and isolation beds — beds in negative pressure rooms meant for isolating patients — 1,156 out of 1,978.

Statewide, hospitals have a total of 1,251 ventilators and are using 295 of those for patients.

But PPE supplies are still lagging. Thirty-four hospitals in the state have a seven days or less supply of N95 masks, 36 have limited supply of gowns and 30 hospitals have limited paper medical masks.

For coronavirus resources and updates visit: http://www.wispolitics.com/wisconsin-coronavirus-resources/

— Of the state’s confirmed cases, 16 percent have been hospitalized and 4 percent received intensive care, according to DHS.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (256), Dane (25), Brown (23), Waukesha (23), Kenosha (18), Racine (18), Rock (14), Walworth (12), Ozaukee (11), Grant (10), Outagamie (5), Clark (4) and Washington (4). 

Door, Fond du Lac, Richland, Sauk and Sheboygan counties report three deaths each.

Jefferson and Marinette counties report two deaths each.

Adams, Bayfield, Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Columbia, Dodge, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marquette, Monroe, Waupaca and Winnebago counties report one death each.

Seventy of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have confirmed cases. Only Langlade and Taylor counties haven’t reported any cases yet. 

— Despite yesterday being the lowest percentage of positive cases this month for Wisconsin, the spike over the weekend led state health indicators to go red for two categories.

“The virus remains the same, our work remains the same, the things we need to do together to protect the health and safety of the people of this state remains the same,” said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm in a briefing. “We will absolutely continue to post those, to keep them updated and encourage folks to use them to make good decisions about the way that they interact with each other moving forward.”

Gov. Tony Evers echoed Palm that the metrics are critical in informing the state where it stands. 

“Those metrics are more important today than ever,” he said. “It is important for people to understand where we stand in those metrics, so we can find out where we are having problems and where we are having successes.”

The three hospital-related metrics are green: 95 percent of hospitals affirm that they can treat all patients without crisis care; 95 percent of hospitals say they have arranged for testing for all symptomatic staff, and there’s a downward trend of COVID-19 cases among health care workers. 

But the original three metric goals are red: a two-week downward trajectory of flu-like illnesses; a two-week downward trend of COVID-like cases; and a two-week downward trend of positive tests as a percentage of total tests. 

— Is there anything that says “Wisconsin” more than the combination of hunting and innovation? One entrepreneur aims to bring these two worlds together. 

ModuTree is a modular hunting blind  developed by UW-Whitewater graduate Trevor Santarius. He’s among the 28 finalists in the 2020 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will culminate in June at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference.

Santarius graduated in 2011 from UW-Whitewater’s School of Business with a degree in entrepreneurship. He later founded AriusTek, an e-commerce startup that operated profitably for six years selling specialized LED filament light bulbs. His success with AriusTek gave him confidence to expand and test other ideas. 

His latest endeavor, ModuTree, is a modular hunting blind system that gives hunters the ability to design, build and modify their own custom blind set-up. The system consists of sturdy interlocking composite plastic tiles engineered for inexpensive manufacture and simple assembly.

Santarius said the idea is a mix of two of his passions, entrepreneurship and hunting.

“I came up with the idea while sitting in my hunting blind this past year and realizing the lack of customization in current offerings of blinds out on the market,” Santarius said.

Read the full story at WisBusiness.com: https://www.wisbusiness.com/?p=1452157


# Evers administration withdraws coronavirus rule plan http://www.wpr.org/evers-administration-withdraws-coronavirus-rule-plan

# Evers administration announces $75 million small business grant program http://lacrossetribune.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/evers-administration-announces-75-million-small-business-grant-program/article_4f663ccd-2646-560e-972d-d2e270027be5.html

# Wisconsin hospitals more prepared for COVID-19 surge, WHA president says



– Packing plants operating at 70 percent capacity https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2020/05/18/packing-plants-operating-at-70-capacity/

– WCMA launches job board for dairy processors http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com/story-state.php?Id=545&yr=2020


– See updated plans for former BMO Harris building in downtown Milwaukee 



– WEDC launches $75 million program providing COVID-19 relief grants to small businesses

– Wisconsin has fewer companies on Fortune 500, 1000 lists this year


– Child care centers in line for $51 million bailout; amount far less than what’s needed, advocates say http://lacrossetribune.com/news/state-and-regional/wi/child-care-centers-in-line-for-51-million-bailout-amount-far-less-than-whats-needed/article_17fd2ee5-6b16-530d-b9d1-c7e3ce914834.html 

– UW-RF chancellor leaving for Missouri school http://www.leadertelegram.com/news/daily-updates/uw-rf-chancellor-leaving-for-missouri-school/article_85dc5e5c-1741-5804-90e9-b69547957b37.html


– Froedtert Health joins list of area health care systems receiving millions in federal relief 


– Wind, rain cause flooding, close COVID-19 testing sites in Eastern Wisconsin http://www.wpr.org/wind-rain-cause-flooding-close-covid-19-testing-sites-eastern-wisconsin

– Disability, aging advocates caution about reopening too quickly http://www.wpr.org/disability-aging-advocates-caution-about-reopening-too-quickly

– Evers gives up on virus restrictions amid GOP opposition http://lacrossetribune.com/news/state-and-regional/wi/evers-gives-up-on-virus-restrictions-amid-gop-opposition/article_8040b4b7-3499-59de-b7e3-427a01b3e416.html

– Health officials worried about holiday tourism amid pandemic http://lacrossetribune.com/news/state-and-regional/wi/health-officials-worried-about-holiday-tourism-amid-pandemic/article_02142a2e-e450-50cd-8e2f-9f86ac9c792b.html

– With 144 new COVID cases, Wisconsin reports lowest percent positive rate for new tests this month https://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/news/2020/05/18/coronavirus-wisconsin-new-low-percentage-positive-tests/5213022002/


– Northwestern Mutual launches venture studio


– Judge orders Sunbelt to hire back workers amid dispute with Local 139


– Danish company to move some overseas manufacturing operations to Menomonee Falls

– Internal expertise allows MGS to join the coronavirus fight


– The Watt brothers are returning to your TV — not on the football field — but as hosts of a competition game show https://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/communities/lake-country/sports/2020/05/18/ultimate-tag-nfl-brothers-wisconsin-pewaukee-football-players-jj-watt-derek-watt-tj-host-fox-show/5207091002/ 


– Lawmakers introduce guidelines for holding safe elections during emergency http://www.wpr.org/lawmakers-introduce-guidelines-holding-safe-elections-during-emergency

– Republican legislator talks about rule making process http://www.wpr.org/republican-legislator-talks-about-rule-making-process

– Gov. Evers drops Covid-19 rule-making proposal to state Legislature, won’t try again



– Wisconsin home sales see sharp drop in April http://www.wpr.org/wisconsin-home-sales-see-sharp-drop-april 


– Some small businesses are concerned with public health and are hesitant to open – even after government gives the OK https://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/money/2020/05/18/some-small-businesses-concerned-public-health-and-hesitant-open-even-after-government-okays-them-ope/3097611001/  


– Special conditions remain for Wisconsin state parks https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2020/05/18/special-conditions-remain-for-wisconsin-state-parks/

– Pop-up drive-in theaters planned in Menomonie, Chippewa Falls this weekend https://www.leadertelegram.com/news/front-page/pop-up-drive-in-theaters-planned-in-menomonie-chippewa-falls-this-weekend/article_cc1b0ed7-8a1c-59c2-ab1a-4d0ced8df3d9.html


– Wisconsin drivers can now renew drivers license online http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com/story-state.php?Id=547&yr=2020


<i>See these and other press releases: 

http://wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Content=82 </i>