FRI AM News: Gallagher aims to replace federal unemployment benefits with sign-on bonus; ‘WisBusiness: The Podcast’ features WEDC CEO Missy Hughes

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— U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Allouez, has introduced a bill to convert the federal unemployment benefit into a sign-on bonus for new hires. 

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation adds another $300 per week to state unemployment benefits. Congressional and state Republicans, as well as business chambers, associations and employers, have charged those benefits with contributing to a statewide labor shortage. 

Meanwhile, state Dems have expressed concern that ending benefits would harm parents struggling to find child care as the pandemic hasn’t ended. They also point out that the labor shortage has existed long before the federal benefits came along.

But Associated Builders and Contractors Director of Legal and Government Affairs John Schulze argues the shortage is worse now.

“There was a worker shortage before the pandemic, and especially in the skilled trades. But before the pandemic, restaurants were able to fully staff,” Schulze said. “There was a worker shortage in the past, that’s true. It’s worse now.”

Proponents of nixing the benefits say state and federal unemployment dollars could add up to more than $16 per hour. Schulze said that while people aren’t “living large” on unemployment, if someone can live frugally with added federal benefits, then it eliminates the need to work.

The bill would allow each state’s department of labor to use FPUC funds to provide a reemployment bonus equal to more than two months of the federal enhanced unemployment benefit.

Read the full story at 

— While it may not be a lot of money for some companies, WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes says the $5,000 in recovery grants are a sweet spot for most small businesses.

Applications for up to $420 million in new Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are open through 4:30 p.m. June 7. The grants will provide as many as 84,000 Wisconsin small businesses with annual gross revenue between $10,000 and $7 million with a flat award of $5,000. 

Small businesses statewide are getting an email from the Department of Revenue if they’re eligible. The $5,000 should be enough to cover payroll, a couple of months of rent or some inventory for small businesses. 

All eligible businesses that apply should get a grant, Hughes said in the latest “ The Podcast” episode. 

“The $5,000 is kind of a sweet spot where we get the restaurants or the cafes or the hair salons to deploy those dollars right into the local community right away, and then we see them leveraging themselves,” she said. “It’s not a ton of money to some businesses, but it’s money that every business is going to put to work right away.”

The Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants program is a collaboration between the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the DOR. The effort is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. 

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— The city of Weyauwega is getting $93,000 from WEDC to help remodel a vacant building into commercial space and apartments in its downtown. 

The city is working with the current owners of the property for the project. Significant remodeling is needed to eliminate the interior and repair the roof. After the renovation, the building will hold two commercial spaces on the first floor and two, two-bedroom apartment units on the second floor.

Completion of the project is expected in June of 2022. It’s part of the city’s plan to revitalize vacant buildings on Main Street. The city aims to continue to attract and retain businesses in the city’s industrial parks, commercial areas and downtown in a cost-effective manner that is consistent with community characteristics.

“The city will continue to work with developers and entrepreneurs to grow the downtown and business community to offer more opportunities for citizens and guests,” Weyauwega Administrator Jeremy Schroeder said.

— Startup company Washbnb does what many Airbnb hosts, vacation rental property owners and boutique hotel managers don’t necessarily have the equipment or time to do — laundry. 

Founder and CEO Daniel Cruz figured that out for himself when he began renting out several units through Airbnb, only to discover the laundry and linen turnover was far too much for a residential washer and dryer, or an individual person, to handle. 

“I started looking into laundry solutions and trying to find a better way to do it, and I realized that there really wasn’t one, so I decided to do it myself,” Cruz said.

As suggested by its namesake, Washbnb caters to Airbnb hosts, as well as vacation rentals and boutique hotels, and takes the burden of laundry services off of their hands. 

Founded amidst the beginnings of the pandemic, the business is among the semi-finalists in the 2021 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

Due to the pandemic, customers have been veering away from larger hotels, and are more inclined to book with Airbnb or smaller vacation rentals. Cruz explained that the demand side of Airbnb has really surged during the pandemic, while the supply side has faltered. This has created an ideal ecosystem for the startup.

Read the full story at 

See more stories written by students in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication:

— The pandemic prompted 32 percent of Americans to adopt better financial habits, according to a new Northwestern Mutual study.

Conducted in March, the 2021 Planning & Progress Study, an annual research project commissioned by Northwestern Mutual, found 83 percent of its 2,320 participants adjusted their financial plan due to the COVID-19 health crisis. Before the pandemic, one in five adults said they had no plan in place.

Reducing spending, increasing investments and paying down debt are new habits one-third of the study participants want to adopt. Interest in investing in retirement and using technology to manage finances also increased.

Study participants also plan to be more proactive as 95 percent said their new financial habits will continue after the pandemic ends.

See the study: 

— Wisconsin’s vaccination and case rate put the state “in the best place we’ve been in a long time,” according to the state’s chief medical officer.

The seven-day average for daily confirmed cases is 285 — a figure last seen nearly a year ago in June 2020. Wisconsin is also approaching 50 percent of its population having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re in the best place we’ve been in a long time,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard in a health briefing yesterday. “But our numbers are not where we want them to be.”

Even when including prior infection with herd immunity, Westergaard said Wisconsin residents’ protection against the virus is still only around 50 percent. This leaves a large number of people susceptible to infection during a long holiday weekend.

“The pandemic is not over … so we should not stop trying,” Westergaard stressed. “We’re not out of the woods to the point where we could have local outbreaks or regional surges.”

Health officials are asking residents who are not vaccinated to mask up, celebrate outside in small gatherings and practice social distancing. 

<i>For more of the most relevant news on the coronavirus outbreak, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin and links to top stories, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and

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

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