WED AM News: State’s general fund ends fiscal year with $1.5M surplus; DWD backlog falls to 4.3 percent

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— The state’s general fund finished the 2019-20 fiscal year with a $1.5 million surplus according to generally accepted accounting principles, known as GAAP.

The guv’s office says that’s the first time the general fund has finished the fiscal year with a surplus under GAAP standards since the administration of former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson.

The Legislative Audit Bureau yesterday released its look at the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which the Department of Administration released last month.

The state doesn’t use GAAP standards in its budgeting process, instead relying on cash accounting practices. Under that standard, the state finished the 2019-20 fiscal year with a gross balance of nearly $1.2 billion.

GAAP principles are used by publicly traded companies as well as local governments. They account for spending commitments, such as property tax credits, that aren’t fully paid out until the following fiscal year.

“Our diligence of investing in the issues Wisconsinites care about without running up the state’s credit card has paid off and helps us ensure Wisconsin’s future economic stability, which is as important as ever,” Gov. Tony Evers said. “This is great news for our state and will put us in a stronger position to move our state forward and focus on the priorities of the people.”

Joint Finance Co-chair Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, credited Republicans with the decline in the GAAP deficit, saying Evers’ proposed budget for 2019-21 projected a GAAP deficit or more than $1 billion for 2020. The GAAP deficit was $3 billion in 2011.

“Thank goodness in these uncertain financial times, we had responsible leadership passing a good budget for the state,” Born wrote on Twitter. “These principles will continue to guide us in the new year.”

Also according to the audit:

*On a GAAP basis, the state’s long-term debt decreased to $13.1 billion as of June 30, a drop of about $300 million. The state repaid long-term debt at a quicker pace than new debt was issued during the fiscal year.

*The state paid $3.4 billion in unemployment benefits for the year ending June 30, compared to $387 million in the previous year. Federal money through the CARES Act helped cover $2.4 billion of those payments, and the unemployment reserve fund net position declined $345.4 million to $1.7 billion as of June 30.

See the audit: 

See Evers’ statement: 

— The Department of Workforce Development’s unemployment backlog fell another percentage point in mid-December from 4.32 percent to 3.11 percent. 

From March 15 to Dec. 5, the backlog was 5.55 percent. DWD records show the high was 16.4 percent between March 15 and May 23.

The current backlog is equal to about 26,861 unique claimants held up in adjudication by one or more weeks due to multiple issues. Compared to the previous report, that’s 14,873 fewer Wisconsinites waiting for a UI check.

Issue resolution is considered timely if completed within 21 days of the date the issue was detected. As of Saturday, the average number of days from application to payment for UI was 29 days. 

DWD has paid about 585,440 claimants over $4.62 billion since March 15, an increase of 8,790 claimants and $70 million over last week.

— The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is one of seven Midwestern ag departments encouraging adherence to public health guidelines.

Department leaders, including DATCP Secretary Randy Romanski, released a video this week as consumers celebrate the winter holiday season. It follows a message released by the states’ governors in November.

COVID-19 mitigation efforts, such as wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing and avoiding in-person gatherings, help protect the nation’s essential agricultural workforce and keep food supply chains flowing, the department leaders said.

Watch the video: 

Listen to the latest WisBusiness podcast with Romanski: 

— Wisconsin ended the health insurance open enrollment period with 192,183 net enrollments as of Dec. 15, according to the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

Last year’s net enrollment as of Dec. 17 was 196,594.

OCI spokeswoman Sarah Smith said OCI is still working to understand the factors that impacted 2021 enrollment including higher enrollment through other coverage, such as BadgerCare, and short-term, limited-duration plans. 

Smith added that a lack of federal financial support has contributed to an overall decline in enrollment over the past three years. 

The Health Care Coverage Partnership Advisory Council, which includes OCI, the Department of Health Services and health care stakeholders, are meeting in January to discuss the open enrollment data. 

— The state has entered a contract with Vault Medical Services that will provide free, at-home COVID-19 saliva collection kits to everyone who lives in Wisconsin.

Wisconsinites can now order a collection kit online and have it shipped to their home. The kit has instructions on how to collect the saliva, which includes a video call with a testing supervisor through Vault Medical Services. The recipient then seals the sample, packages it in a box provided and puts it into a UPS drop box to the Minnesota lab for processing. The box must be in the mail the same day the video call happens. Vault sends the test results via email.

Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm said the saliva PCR test has the same accuracy as a nasal PCR test, which has been deemed the gold standard by state health officials.

The announcement is part of the state’s effort to make sure everyone who needs a test has access to a test, said Gov. Tony Evers. This includes those who cannot easily get to a health care provider or community testing site.  

“In recent weeks, we’ve seen a decrease in the number of people seeking COVID-19 tests,” Palm said, adding that the saliva tests are another tool in the state’s toolbox to combat the virus.

The state will pay Vault based on the number of kits ordered. 

The at-home collection test kits are supported by insurance whenever possible, according to DHS. For people without insurance, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services covers the cost. In that situation, the per cost test to the state is $120.99.

Palm said the state is in close contact with Vault about capacity and turnaround time for results. 

“We do not have concerns at this point about them not being able to handle … the requests that might be coming from Wisconsin on a daily basis,” she said. “Obviously turnaround time is a critical part of our testing program … and we monitor those issues with all of our labs and all of our contracts, so it’s certainly something we will keep a close eye on.”

Request a kit here: 

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— Through a partnership with the UW System, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is investing more than $2.6 million in the state’s small businesses.

According to WEDC’s announcement, $1.75 million will provide matching grants to startups and nascent companies furthering technology and innovation solutions, and $865,000 for consulting and training programs.

The UW System’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship facilitates delivery of state agency dollars and services to the entrepreneurs who access these essential resources locally through the university’s statewide network.

“A strategic goal at WEDC is to accelerate economic recovery by providing lift during the pandemic,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. “These efforts help increase innovation and further support the vitality and growth of startup businesses.” 

The matching grants programs include SBIR Advance, which provides assistance to companies completing a project in the federal SBIR program, and the Ideadvance Seed Fund, which is a WEDC-UW System partnership that offers seed funding and mentoring. 

“The University of Wisconsin’s tradition and heritage is to help find creative solutions to challenges great and small,” said UW System President Tommy Thompson. “True to the Wisconsin Idea, programs like Ideadvance provide entrepreneurs with the resources and counsel they need to build their businesses, promote economic growth, and deliver innovative products and services that are accessible throughout Wisconsin and beyond.”

Mark Lange, executive director for the Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship, said WEDC’s funding is critical to the institute’s work with Wisconsin entrepreneurs. 

Through Dec. 15, the institute provided COVID-19-related training and informational webinars to 7,720 individuals and consulting assistance to 5,833 clients, leading to $33.7 million in capital investment. This work ultimately supports 13,500 jobs.

“The Entrepreneurship and Innovation team at WEDC provides superb guidance and smooth pathways for working together,” Lange said. “This was affirmed yet again in this year’s launch of the Start In Wisconsin searchable online directory, which will help our entrepreneurs reimagine and revitalize their businesses at a time our state needs it most.”


# Wisconsin health officials report highest single-day total of COVID-19 deaths 

# Wisconsin Colleges And Universities In Line For More Federal COVID-19 Assistance

# New COVID Package Helps Farmers Previously Left Out of Aid 



– Omnibus Bill Includes Funding for Dairy Innovation Projects 

– Landmark Co-op Donates Over 100,000 Meals to Food Banks 

– DATCP Looks Back at 2020 Crop Year 

– Extension Presents Comparison of Farm Succession Strategies for Farm Succession Professionals 


– Wells Fargo sells off $10 billion private student loan business 


– R1VER construction proceeds following explosion at project site 


– Audit: UW System paid out $68.5 million in student refunds

– UW System, UW-Madison losing competitive edge, report says 

– Former top attorney at Harley-Davidson named Marquette University’s general counsel 

– Officials Look For Path Forward As COVID-19 Has Brought Learning Loss, School Struggles 


– Congress just fixed a disaster loan grant problem. Now thousands of small businesses could get cash grants. 


– ‘I Just Kind Of Panicked’: Patients Confused As Wisconsin Hospitals File Liens To Recoup Costs Of Treating Injured Uninsured


– UW-Milwaukee battery spinout SafeLi rebrands as COnovate, lands $50K investment 

– Investors pour $1bn into buying up small merchants on Amazon 


– Ex-Milwaukee Bucks star Junior Bridgeman wins bid to buy bankrupt Ebony magazine 


– Biggest expenses in Dane County’s $700k presidential recount: workers, scanners

– Wisconsin Republicans unanimously vote against coronavirus stimulus/government funding package


– Kroger to provide coronavirus vaccine 


– ‘We’ve worked hard to pivot ourselves for the pandemic and the future’: How Monroe Street business owners are staying positive & productive 


– Bucks president talks fan engagement, Giannis, and sponsorship opportunities as NBA season begins 


– A race to become the Tesla of delivery trucks and vans 


– Milwaukee airport opens two new restaurants 


– Milwaukee Mitchell airport’s November traffic decline similar to September and October 


– EPA Requires Lead Testing For Schools, Day Care Centers, But Fails To Speed Up Lead Line Removal 


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