THU AM News: Cash flow automator Esker sees growth during pandemic; DWD expands pandemic program

— Middleton-headquartered Esker says a pandemic-induced acceleration of going digital is helping the company grow.

Esker is a global cloud platform, automating the procure-to-pay and order-to-cash processes for clients. Instead of having employees manually punch in invoices, for example, that work is automated. The Esker platform also allows organizations to be more mobile during a global pandemic.

“We were already ready for it, so it really had no impact on us. We were able to immediately adapt to it,” Esker’s U.S. Chief Operating Officer Steve Smith said.  

The company’s 2020 annual results show resilient growth in sales revenue, investments and workforce. Despite negative impacts during the second quarter — April and May — business activity recovered significantly in the third and fourth quarters, returning to double-digit growth.

Esker saw an 8 percent increase in sales revenue compared to 2019. Its workforce also increased 13 percent to reach 764 employees worldwide. In Middleton, Esker added 42 employees to the 180-person team. 

Read the full story at 

— The Department of Workforce Development has launched an expansion of the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. 

In February, the U.S. Department of Labor expanded eligibility for PUA to include three new COVID-19-related reasons for a person to qualify. This week, DWD is mailing notices to nearly 28,000 people who were initially denied benefits to reapply. Depending on when the person was first affected by the pandemic, they could receive up to 79 weeks of back pay.

The expansion includes: 

*someone who did not return to a job that was out of compliance with safety standards related to COVID-19, such as mask wearing or physical distancing;

*someone in education-related work that was unemployed or partially unemployed because of changes in schedules or partial closures caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency;

*and someone whose hours have been reduced as a direct result of the health emergency.

DWD officials expect to release millions of dollars of additional PUA payments under the new expansion. 

See more information on PUA and Unemployment Insurance: 

— The city of Green Lake is getting $250,000 to renovate and reopen the Heidel House Hotel and Resort.

The Community Development Investment grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will support substantial redevelopment of the interior buildings to reopen the hotel and resort, which has been closed since May 2019.

The city is working with Green Lake Hotel Group LLC, which purchased the 18-acre property in 2020. Interior renovations are planned for the hotel public and common spaces, restaurants and guest rooms. The hotel will have two bars and two restaurants, an indoor pool, fitness center, game room, gift shop, business center and conference facilities. The project is expected to be completed in the spring, with opening in June 2021.

The hotel will be franchised as the Heidel House Hotel and Conference Center under the Ascend Collection by Choice Hotels International. And the new resort will employ an estimated 48 people.

— Wisconsin is paying more than $21 million to cover utility bill debts for more than 36,000 qualifying customers statewide, Gov. Tony Evers announced.

The more than $21 million for Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program to fund this initiative comes from Wisconsin’s federal allocation for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The Department of Administration administers the program.

For households impacted by the pandemic, debts on accounts as of April 9 were paid off based on a previously submitted  application. The households did not need to apply to get this assistance. 

Public Service Commission Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq praised the guv’s action for making Wisconsin “one of the first to provide meaningful financial assistance to those who were hit hardest, allowing customers to keep their lights and water on and stay warm.”

— Wisconsin health systems lost $2.5 billion in revenue during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent report.

The finding comes in a new report from the Wisconsin Hospital Association Information Center released documenting the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Wisconsin’s health care systems.

During the three-month federal suspension of nonemergency care last year, from April 1 to June 30, inpatient activity fell 19 percent. Outpatient surgeries and procedures fell 45 percent. Emergency department visits fell 30 percent. 

Canceled or delayed regular care during the pandemic poses significant long-term financial and health effects for hospitals and patients, according to the report.

“While the paper was a retrospective look at what happened during the COVID’s spread in Wisconsin in 2020, there is no doubt that there is a health cost to delayed care,” said WHA Senior Vice President of Finance Brian Potter. “It is well documented, for example, that cancer screenings like colonoscopies and mammograms are very effective in discovering many cancers in the earliest stages of development. Early detection ultimately leads to more and better treatment options and better health outcomes.”

The reopening phase took place between July 1 and Sept. 30 when hospitals were able to continue nonemergency care. But during the COVID-19 case surge from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, the majority of statewide inpatient volume was virus-related and care not related to the coronavirus plummeted again. 

The care required by hospitalized COVID-19 patients crowded out other care and stressed the state’s health care workforce, according to WHA. Outpatient surgeries and procedures fell 13 percent and emergency department visits fell 20 percent. 

WHA says fear and stigma associated with the virus deterred patients from seeking out regular care.

See the report: 

<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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# ‘We’re Going To Do This Again’: New Search For UW System President Could Start In July

# Report: Guided by politics, wolf hunt harmed packs, did little to resolve conflicts

# Wisconsin State Fair will return in 2021, dates set for August 



– Wisconsin’s potato planting is nearly wrapped up after an early start 

– Wisconsin Still Leading the Nation in Dairy Product Output 

– Focused On Wisconsin Forestry 


– City incentives for Milwaukee Tool’s planned downtown office get ZND Committee nod


– Wisconsin schools required to teach Holocaust under new law 

– A prom without dancing? Many Wisconsin high schoolers will still get to have their big night — but with some unusual adjustments 


– Reversing Vaccine Hesitancy Will Be Rural Hospitals’ ‘Toughest Work,’ Hospital Executive Says 


– Marcus Center will welcome back audiences next week to newly renovated Uihlein Hall 


– Boys & Girls Club of Dane County raises over $300K for Vel Phillips statue


– Closing the homeownership gap in Milwaukee


– Which Badgers have the best chances of being selected in the NFL draft?


– Wisconsin State Fair will return in 2021, organizers say


– Another airline added to lineup at Mitchell International


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

– UScellular: Shares Tips to maximize Wisconsin fishing season

– ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions: Named a global leader in recruitment process outsourcing by Everest Group

– Haggerty Museum of Art: Re-opening to the public

– State Farm: Neighborhood Assist® returns for its tenth year

– Marshfield Clinic Health System: Resumes use of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

– UW Health: University Hospital named to the Fortune/IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals list