TUE AM News: Summer was a three-month record for home sales; Lawmakers, trade groups offer solutions to UI backlog

— Wisconsin this summer set a three-month record for home sales, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

This record was due to a combination of the state reopening in June and record-low mortgage interest rates over the summer, the association said.

Summer home sales grew 2.8 percent compared to the June-through-August period of 2019. Although June home sales saw a modest decline relative to June 2019, robust sales growth in July and a slight improvement in the August market pushed summer home sales to 27,795 — the strongest summer sales volume on record for the state.

Sales for August alone rose 0.7 percent relative to August 2019. Year to date, existing home sales were just 1 percent below the first eight months of last year, and median prices rose 8.8 percent to $219,500.

“We’ve seen remarkable resilience in this market, given the strong headwinds we faced this year,” said WRA Chairman Steve Beers. 

One was low inventories, which kept the state in a strong seller’s market for the last three years and limited buying opportunities. The other was the economic shutdown due to COVID-19, which shut down the housing market in the latter part of the spring.

“The good news is that mortgage rates have never been lower,” Beers said.

Read the full story at WisBusiness.com: https://www.wisbusiness.com/?p=1455351 

— The strongest regional home sales in Wisconsin were seen in the rural, north region. 

According to WRA, this was not a surprise as rural regions generally have more available inventory compared to urban regions of the state. 

The north region had 5.9 months of supply in August, and sales were up 16.5 percent over August 2019. The central region had sales up 5 percent with 4.1 months of supply. The more densely populated counties in the northeast, southeast and south central regions had between 3.5 and 3.9 months of supply, and their home sales were relatively flat over the past 12 months. 

“These regional differences also show up in measures of time on the market,” said Beers. 

Homes in the north region were on the market an average of 130 days in August, and they averaged 103 days in the central region. By comparison, they averaged between 72 and 93 days on the market in the other regions of the state. 

“The clear takeaway is that if you are looking for a home in the northern and central part of the state, you have some options. But if you want to find a home in the bigger cities, you better be ready to move quickly,” Beers said.

— Lawmakers and trade groups are offering solutions to the Unemployment Insurance backlog after former Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman’s resignation.

Gov. Tony Evers asked for and received Frostman’s resignation Friday after seeing no significant progress on the backlog despite the state nearly tripling the number of people working to take and process claims. Yesterday’s update from the agency showed over 94,000 people were still awaiting checks.

Terry Hayden, president of the Wisconsin Pipe Trades Association and an employee representative of the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, said that while the department’s effort to bring in more bodies has “reduced the backlog significantly,” there is streamlining that can be done.

While still following the laws of program integrity, Hayden suggested further relaxing requirements, like the department did with the work search policy.

“It would potentially leave more people eligible for benefits but it would also streamline — there would be less claims that have to go through adjudication,” he said.

Hayden said in an interview that his association has had members with delayed benefits. An example of delay has been with Wisconsin workers who live in other states. Because of that out-of-state address, more adjudication work has to be done at the department.

“My hope is that the department will continue to work at streamlining the process,” Hayden said. “But I don’t know that there’s an easy solution. It’s certainly not acceptable that we have a backlog of claims.”

— Rep. John Nygren said that what ultimately hurt unemployed Wisconsinites was Evers’ comments and lack of action to address the UI backlog.

“My colleagues and I have made several suggestions over the last couple of months to reduce the UI backlog,” said the Marinette Republican. “Unfortunately, Gov. Evers referred to these suggestions as a ‘political stunt.'”

Nygren told WisBusiness.com that before the guv shut down the economy in March, he should have had a plan for how to help those who were going to lose their jobs due to the order, including activating the National Guard to help with UI claims and extending call center hours to seven days a week for at least 12 hours per day.

“In August, DWD told my office they stopped hiring additional adjudicators,” he said. “Knowing that the adjudication process is creating the backlog, DWD should have continued hiring adjudicators instead of stopping at an arbitrary number of adjudicators.”

Nygren noted that he had also said Evers should have used federal pandemic funds to provide forgivable loans to those waiting for their checks and had called for the administration to evaluate the UI process.

“Unfortunately, much like unemployed Wisconsinites, Gov. Evers has not listened to us,” he said.

Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, said in an interview that the first thing DWD needs to do right now is find the bottleneck and put resources towards it, which he said he assumes is in the adjudication process contacting employers.

“I’m going on assumptions here because I have not seen the inside of what they’re doing at DWD,” Kapenga said. “We’ve had around 100,000 claims for months now that’s in the backlog queue and nothing is getting reduced. I don’t understand what they’re doing or not doing. That’s the frustrating part about it is that there’s no progress being made.”

He said that he can’t see how stopping initial claims for two weeks, which California has done, would solve the backlog since Wisconsin has already had “months and months” of time to catch up.

“I don’t see that as a real fix at this point because I don’t know what they’re doing,” Kapenga said. “The problems at DWD go much deeper than Caleb Frostman.”

— Ideal conditions made for 6.3 suitable days for farmers to make progress in the field for the week ending Sept. 20, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

Much of the state saw no precipitation. However, temperatures were slightly below normal and frosts continued in the northern and central regions of Wisconsin with killing frosts reported in some areas. 

Early varieties of cranberries were being harvested as well as the fourth cutting of hay. The fourth cutting of alfalfa was reported as 78 percent complete, 29 days ahead of last year and six days ahead of the five-year average. 

Pasture conditions rated 62 percent good to excellent statewide, up three percentage points from last week.

Manure applications and fall plantings were ongoing as well. Winter wheat planted was 48 percent complete, 28 days ahead of last year and 17 days ahead of the average. Sixteen percent of winter wheat had emerged, 13 days ahead of last year and eight days ahead of the average. 

Corn silage chopping advanced quickly, making up the majority of fieldwork done this week. Corn for silage harvested was 62 percent complete, 28 days ahead of last year and 11 days ahead of the average.

Corn was maturing and drying down rapidly, and USDA reporters noted that high moisture corn harvests would begin soon. Corn dented was 91 percent, over four weeks ahead of last year and two weeks ahead of the average. Forty-nine percent of corn was reported mature, 23 days ahead of last year and nine days ahead of the average. Corn condition rated 77 percent good to excellent, down one percentage point from last week.

Soybeans were also maturing and drying down with a few reporters noting early soybeans being combined. Soybeans coloring was 90 percent, three weeks ahead of last year and eight days ahead of the average. Fifty-six percent of soybeans were dropping leaves, 15 days ahead of last year and five days ahead of the average. Soybean conditions rated 79 percent good to excellent, unchanged from last week.

Potato harvest was reported as 57 percent complete, nine days ahead of last year and four days ahead of the average.

— The Wisconsin Farm Support Program has distributed over $8 million in a second round of funding.

The joint program between DATCP and the Department of Revenue used $50 million of the state’s share of federal CARES Act dollars to provide direct support to help farmers cover economic losses during the pandemic. 

In the first round, $41.6 million was distributed to nearly 12,000 farmers in 71 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. The second round distributed $8.4 million to 3,300 farmers, Gov. Tony Evers announced. 

“In all, $50 million has been distributed to more than 15,000 farmers across our state,” Evers said. “These folks have never stopped doing their part to ensure that consumers around the world have access to high-quality, nutritious food during this public health crisis. I want to thank our farmers for their critically important work, and we’re proud to support them in any way we can.”

The second round of funding was open to farmers whose gross income from farming in 2019 was between $10,000 and $5 million. Almost 60 percent of grant recipients reported a gross income from farming of less than $40,000, said DATCP Secretary Randy Romanski. 

“Clearly, there was a need for additional support among Wisconsin’s smaller farm operations,” he said. “We are glad that this second round was able to provide that support. While this funding won’t make anyone whole, we hope it will provide some relief.”

Revenue Secretary Peter Barca noted that farmers who completed the online application said it was easy to complete and submit. He added that the customer service team was also able to help farmers who did not have access to the internet to complete the application over the phone.

“I am proud of the work our staff did to design a simple application process,” he said. “We recognize how vitally important farmers are to both ensuring our families have healthy food to eat as well as contributing to the Wisconsin economy.”

See where the money was distributed: https://public.tableau.com/profile/research.policy

— As the first presidential debate approaches on Sept. 29, UW-Madison experts will share insights on the big issues viewers should look for. 

The virtual panel discussion on Thursday at 5 p.m. will feature: Kathy Cramer, political science; Steven Deller, agricultural and applied economics; Linda Greene, law; Baron Kelly, theater and drama; Allison Prasch, communication arts; and Ajay Sethi, population health sciences. 

UW Communications’ Veronica Rueckert will be the moderator. 

“The first presidential debate usually represents a key moment in the election season,” Rueckert said. “This Crossroads of Ideas panel will preview the first debate and zero in on areas like presidential rhetoric past and present, the theatre of debate, and foundational issues like the Black Lives Matter Movement, COVID-19 and the economy.”

The webinar is part of the Wisconsin Alumni and Research Foundation’s “Crossroads of Ideas” public lecture series that addresses vital social science topics. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the discussions were held in-person at the Discovery Building on the UW-Madison campus.

Sign up to receive the webinar link: https://warf.wufoo.com/forms/zarny81idvpj1/ 

— Yesterday saw 1,271 new COVID-19 cases added to the cumulative count, which now numbers 102,491. The Department of Health Services reports that 86,822 of those people are recovered.

Only three days in the past two weeks have had a case total under 1,000. Recent record highs have resulted in a steady increase of the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases. Yesterday, the average rose to a new record of 1,792.

The daily rate of positive tests fell to 18.7 percent from 20 percent after the state recorded 6,796 tests. The seven-day positive test average rose to 16.4 percent from 16.3 percent. That average continues to rise further from state health officials’ preferred rate of 5 percent or less.

People between 20 and 29 years old make up 26 percent of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, accounting for 26,575 cases cumulatively after adding 3,537 confirmed cases in the past seven days. This is followed by people ages 30-39 at 15 percent with 15,653 cases, adding 1,518 since last Monday.

Two percent of the 20-29 age group and 4 percent of the 30-39 age group cases have been hospitalized. But each group accounts for under 1 percent of the state’s death toll at nine and 16 deaths, respectively. That’s an increase of one death in the 30-39 age group since last week.

Breaking the age groups down differently, DHS preliminary data show that those in the 18-24 age range had 23,571 confirmed cases by the week of Sept. 13. That’s an increase of 2,592 cases over the week before and a higher count than any other age group. It also has the highest infection rate at 43.2 cases per 1,000 people. 

That’s followed by the 25-34 age group with 17,950 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,730 over last week, and an infection rate of 24.5 cases per 1,000 people. 

Individuals under the age of 18 account for the least amount of confirmed cases and the lowest infection rate of all other age groups. 

— Florence County reported its first COVID-19 death yesterday, one of two that brought the state’s coronavirus death toll to 1,244.

Adams County accounted for the second death.

About 1.2 percent of patients have died from the virus, a declining percentage.

People ages 70-79 and 80-89 with confirmed cases together account for over half of the state’s deaths at 321 and 353 deaths, respectively. The age groups had an increase of 12 and nine deaths, respectively, over the past seven days.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (521), Racine (94), Waukesha (85), Kenosha (65), Brown (59), Dane (41), Walworth (34), Rock (32), Washington (32), Outagamie (27), Winnebago (23), Waupaca (20), Grant (19), Ozaukee (19), Marathon (14), Sheboygan (14), Fond du Lac (13), Dodge (9), Clark (8), St. Croix (8), Jefferson (7), Marinette (7), Eau Claire (6) and Pierce (6).

Adams, Barron, Forest, Oconto, Portage, Richland and Wood counties report four deaths each, while Burnett, Door, Sauk and Taylor counties report three deaths each.

Ashland, Buffalo, Calumet, Columbia, Green, Juneau, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Langlade, Manitowoc, Monroe, Oneida, Polk, Trempealeau and Waushara counties report two deaths each.

Bayfield, Florence, Iron, Jackson, Lincoln, Marquette, Rusk, Sawyer, Shawano, Vilas and Washburn counties report one death each.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: https://www.wispolitics.com/wisconsin-coronavirus-resources/ 


# New national imaging center has potential to transform medicine 

# Dane County Again Urges UW-Madison To Move Classes Online, Send Dorm Residents Home 


# It Could Be a “Banner Year” for Fall Festivities 



– It’s Farm Safety Week. Use Caution on Roadways During Harvest http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com/story-state.php?Id=1009&yr=2020 

– Gallup Poll: Consumers Have Favorable Opinion of Farmers http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com/story-state.php?Id=1010&yr=2020 

– Home gardeners are in a pickle with canning lid shortage https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2020/09/21/home-gardeners-are-in-a-pickle-with-canning-lid-shortage/ 

– Farmers and Government Agencies Collaborate on Fall Manure Hauling https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2020/09/21/farmers-and-government-agencies-collaborate-on-fall-manure-hauling/ 


– Madison School District land purchase, state waivers up for board votes Monday night https://madison.com/ct/news/local/education/local_schools/madison-school-district-land-purchase-state-waivers-up-for-board-votes-monday-night/article_4dc8e8e8-3286-5320-b0b7-0087d151f175.html

– 7 Kenosha Schools Go Virtual After More Than 276 Teachers Call In Sick https://www.wpr.org/7-kenosha-schools-go-virtual-after-more-276-teachers-call-sick 


– DNR seeks 10-year stewardship renewal https://apnews.com/3d1c7b06d60bc288e34603d5073172bf

– DNR Aims To Collect 24K Samples For Chronic Wasting Disease Testing https://www.wpr.org/dnr-aims-collect-24k-samples-chronic-wasting-disease-testing 


– Caregiving company founded in Milwaukee raises $3M, including investment from gener8tor https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/09/21/st-louis-startup-tcare-plans-to-double-local-staff.html 


– Harley-Davidson names Tyson Foods exec as its new CFO https://biztimes.com/harley-davidson-names-tyson-foods-exec-as-its-new-cfo/ 

– Park Falls Paper Mill Reopens With New Owner, Plan To Expand https://www.wpr.org/park-falls-paper-mill-reopens-new-owner-plan-expand 


– Monroe County Judge Denies Georgia Company’s Request To Reinstate Permit For Frac Sand Project https://www.wpr.org/monroe-county-judge-denies-georgia-companys-request-reinstate-permit-frac-sand-project 


– ‘Trump panicked. The virus was too big for him’: Joe Biden rips Donald Trump in visit to Manitowoc https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/09/21/joe-biden-wisconsin-former-vice-president-campaign-manitowoc/5851994002/

– Sen. Cowles Named ‘Friend of Grocers’ for 2020 http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com/story-state.php?Id=1011&yr=2020 


– Milwaukee warns more than 50 businesses over health order violations, including mask mandate https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/09/21/milwaukee-warns-over-50-businesses-for-health.html 


– Survey finds 33% of Wisconsin restaurants could close within six months



– Get Ready For Fall Colors https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2020/09/21/get-ready-for-fall-colors/ 


– Milwaukee airport seeing limited travel for fall, keeping international terminal project on hold https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/09/21/milwaukee-airport-sees-limited-travel-in-upcoming.html 

– Wisconsin Ponders Self-Driving Vehicles https://www.wpr.org/wisconsin-ponders-self-driving-vehicles 


<i>See these and other press releases: 

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

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