TUE AM News: Former Badger running back starts scholarship foundation for underprivileged youth; Labor attorney says vaccine incentive rhetoric is positive

— Former Wisconsin running back, current UW-Madison student and NFL star James White and his wife, Badger alumna Diana White, have announced the start of The Sweet Feet Foundation. 

The foundation will provide full-ride college scholarships to underprivileged youth for both athletic and academic students who can maintain good standing throughout their schooling. The Whites plan on awarding one of the first scholarships to a UW-Madison student this fall after finalizing the criteria and monetary details. 

“I know the benefits of scholarships since I was able to attend the University of Wisconsin with financial help due to my family not having the income to put me through college,” Diana said. “I am grateful I was able to attend college and graduate with a degree and we hope to bridge the gap and allow more kids to do the same.”

Wisconsin is a special place for both James and Diana, who met at UW-Madison. In an interview with WisBusiness.com, she teasingly took partial credit for James’ return to campus. He’s finishing the degree he postponed for the NFL in life sciences communication and plans to graduate this spring — something that was important to him and his family.

“Education is powerful,” James said. He added that he and Diana want to give back to education by helping students that can’t cover the expense of college. 

“For us to try and be able to alleviate those bills that they might have is something that we can change somebody’s life forever and let them attempt and try to chase all the dreams that they want to aspire to do,” he said. “We just want to do our part and try to change the world, change lives and just this little bit that we’re doing can help somebody forever.”

Read the full story at WisBusiness.com: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/former-badger-running-back-starts-scholarship-foundation-for-underprivileged-youth/ 

— The co-chair of Foley & Lardner’s labor and employment practice, Dan Kaplan, says rhetoric has been positive from employees over COVID-19 vaccine incentives.

In recent headlines, Wisconsin has seen Milwaukee Repertory Theater announce it’s offering cash incentives for employees who get a COVID-19 shot. Metcalfe’s is offering paid time off for workers who get the vaccine and those who have adverse reactions to the vaccine. Pick n’ Save and its parent company Kroger are offering employees $100 to get the shot. 

Employers can encourage workers to get a vaccination, Kaplan explained. And these incentives run the gamut, from PTO to get the vaccine to a floating holiday to use sometime after receiving the vaccine, and from gift cards to cash. Kaplan noted some cautions with giving employees cash or bonuses — the monetary amounts have to be calculated into an employee’s regular rate of pay in the week.  

Kaplan compares a vaccine incentive program to a perfect attendance incentive program. Employees must accomplish the requirement to receive the incentive. If an employee has to miss work because of a family emergency and qualifies for the Family Medical Leave Act, that employee would not get a perfect attendance bonus. Similarly, if an employee does not get the vaccine due to the Americans with Disabilities Act or Title VII, that employee would not get a COVID-19 vaccine incentive. 

The incentive programs are perfectly legit and legal, and do not run afoul of nondiscrimination laws, said Kaplan, adding he has not seen any adversity between employers and employees over incentive programs. 

— Kaplan also said none of his clients — representing a wide range of industries — have implemented a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination program. 

Currently, no law prohibits a requirement for employees to get a vaccination to maintain employment. 

However, the state Senate is reviewing a bill that would prohibit a COVID-19 shot as a condition of employment. The Committee on Human Services, Children and Families recommended its passage in late January. Since then, the bill has been collecting cosponsors. 

“The approach that most all of the clients with whom I work, and a lot of the employers out there, they have gone to an education kind of program, with the desire being or the implication being the more we can educate the workforce about benefits associated with the vaccine, the more likely our workforce will voluntarily participate,” Kaplan said. “I’ve been seeing pretty good participation rates among employers and among employees.”  

Even in the health care industry, he said most employers have gone the voluntary participation route. But the participation rates, he said have been upward of 80 to 90 percent. 

“The idea and the goal is let’s see how we can do under voluntary approaches, hoping that we’ll reach herd immunity sooner as opposed to later,” he said.

— Women in Technology Wisconsin is looking for college students and professionals to sign up for the Spring 2021 WITonCampus. 

Every spring and fall, WIT Wisconsin sponsors a WITonCampus Professional Connection Program, which supports college students as they explore technology education and career opportunities. 

A professional is paired with a student — most often for a semester — where they work together to accomplish a goal set by the student.

Sign up here: https://www.witwisconsin.com/AboutWIT 

— Mineral Point, a city in southwestern Wisconsin, is getting a $250,000 state grant to support the development of a winery.

A 6,000-square-foot former garden center building and outdoor space in the city’s central business district would house the winery and accompanying event space. The Community Development Investment Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation will help redevelop the neglected property, covering the cost of building renovations, refrigeration installation, landscaping, site preparation and outdoor event space construction.

The project development is made possible by a partnership between the City of Mineral Point and the American Wine Project, founded in 2018 by Erin Rasmussen.

“Growing up in Madison, we have always loved the Driftless Region, and we’re thrilled to be a part of the Mineral Point community,” Rasmussen said. “We hope to become a hub of family activity for our neighbors as well as a strong tourist destination. This grant has been a tremendous boost to our development plan, and we are very appreciative.”  

WEDC’s CDI Grant Program has awarded nearly $26.7 million in CDI Grants to 87 communities for community development and redevelopment efforts since 2013. Funded projects are expected to generate more than $446 million in investments statewide. 

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is calling on President Biden to close loopholes that could allow money from the federal stimulus to end up with foreign companies.

Currently, 60 foreign countries qualify to make bids for government contracts as American companies, according to the Madison Dem’s release. Companies from these countries are not required to employ any American workers or pay American taxes, the release said.

Baldwin and her Dem colleagues wrote in a letter to the president that they want to suspend these commitments so that more American companies, and therefore more American workers, can benefit from the American Rescue Plan.

Under the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 the president can suspend Buy American and other domestic preference restrictions for U.S. trade partners. The Senate Dems argue this would restrict the number of foreign companies that are eligible to apply for government contracts that will be available as a result of the American Rescue Plan, benefiting American companies and workers.

— The Department of Safety and Professional Services is launching a new permit submission portal for elevator and commercial building customers. 

This marks the agency concluding the first phase of a multi-year, agency-wide platform conversion. DSPS was in the middle of the major technology infrastructure update when it also redesigned its plan review systems to improve processing times up to 70 percent.

The department has been migrating customer groups to the new interface called the Electronic Safety and Licensing Application, or eSLA, since 2018. On April 12, commercial building and elevator customers will join the groups that have already transitioned to using eSLA for transactions with the department. To prepare for the transition, DSPS will not accept elevator or commercial building plans the week before launch. 

“Modernizing our infrastructure is critical if we are going to serve our customers well and make the most of the resources we have,” said DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim. “We will be able to offer better customer service, and we will be working with greater efficiency and with more information. This is a big step forward.”

See more in the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/dept-of-safety-and-professional-services-to-launch-new-submission-portal-for-elevator-and-commercial-building-customers/ 

— Legislative Dems have rolled out a bill meant to raise the minimum wage for restaurant workers who depend upon tips.

Tipped workers in the state may be paid a minimum wage of as little as $2.13 or $2.33 per hour depending on the worker’s age and length of employment. The bill, introduced by Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, and Rep. Francesca Hong, D-Madison, would automatically raise tipped workers’ minimum wage to the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Larson noted Wisconsin has the lowest tipped minimum wage out of any of its neighboring states.

“And last time I checked, there’s still restaurants over the border,” he said. “It’s simply not enough. This is crucial for our workers and help is on the way.”

The bill so far has no Republican support, though Hong said she’d be open to discussing it with anybody who’s interested. Dems previously introduced a similar bill that would’ve offered tax breaks to businesses that eliminated their tipped minimum wage but it failed to pass.

Hong is the chef and co-owner of Morris Ramen in Madison. She told WisPolitics.com her restaurant has a base pay of $15 per hour for its employees, tipped and otherwise. 

She told reporters in the media briefing she supports eliminating the tipped minimum wage to ensure there aren’t inequities in the workplace.

“Every single person in a restaurant has value,” she said.

See the press release: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/210315_larson.pdf

See the bill: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/210315_2337.pdf

— Wisconsin is getting federal support for a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Gov. Tony Evers says.

FEMA will coordinate staffing support to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. Wisconsin has committed to providing at least 7,000 weekly vaccine doses from the state’s allocation for the site.

“We truly appreciate this much-needed support from our federal partners at FEMA that comes at a critical time when Wisconsin is receiving more vaccine and we need more vaccinators getting shots into arms,” Evers said. “This mass vaccination clinic can help with the larger population while allowing our partners at the city and county levels to focus on getting the vaccine to more vulnerable populations in harder to reach areas of their communities.”

The state also is running its own mass vaccination sites. The third state-run site is due to open in Racine next week. Other community-based vaccination clinics include Rock County, which opened in February, and La Crosse County, which opened last week.

Operations at the Wisconsin Center will transition to the federal government this week, continuing the work already being done at the state and local level to increase vaccine access in the Milwaukee area. FEMA Region 5 Administrator Kevin Sligh said the center is an important resource for expanding and expediting vaccine availability to communities that need it the most.

The mass vaccination clinic is a joint effort between the city of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the state and FEMA Region 5.

“FEMA’s work here in Milwaukee is a valuable addition to our efforts,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. “The new people and resources help expand our capacity, and, importantly, allows us to redeploy local vaccinators to underserved and under-vaccinated areas of the city.”

<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 WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com.

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– School, farmer-led watershed group collaborate on cover crop education https://brownfieldagnews.com/news/school-farmer-led-watershed-group-collaborate-on-cover-crop-education/ 

– Wisconsin farmer remains optimistic about December-planted soybeans https://brownfieldagnews.com/news/wisconsin-farmer-remains-optimistic-about-december-planted-soybeans/ 

– Ginseng Board Seeking Nominees for Director Seats http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com/story-state.php?Id=267&yr=2021 


– Green Bay, Eau Claire hope Foxconn fills properties it bought https://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/money/2021/03/15/waiting-foxconn-innovation-centers-hold-cities-hope-spaces-put-use/6902793002/ 


– 7-Day Average Of COVID-19 Cases Up Slightly Since Last Week https://www.wpr.org/7-day-average-covid-19-cases-slightly-last-week


– New Unemployment Benefits Coming To Wisconsinites After Latest COVID-19 Relief Approved https://www.wpr.org/new-unemployment-benefits-coming-wisconsinites-after-latest-covid-19-relief-approved


– Generac to join the S&P 500 https://biztimes.com/generac-to-join-the-sp-500/ 

– Professional services fees reach $45 million in Briggs & Stratton bankruptcy case https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/03/15/professional-services-fees-reach-45m-in-briggs.html 


– Wisconsin’s local governments to see $2.3B windfall from federal COVID relief package https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/wisconsins-local-governments-to-see-2-3b-windfall-from-federal-covid-relief-package/article_45accf7a-1931-5496-9a8d-3121cb366889.html

– GOP bill mandates prisoners’ stimulus go to restitution https://www.channel3000.com/gop-bill-mandates-prisoners-stimulus-go-to-restitution/

– Johnson says comments about Capitol breach were not racist https://apnews.com/article/capitol-siege-donald-trump-race-and-ethnicity-senate-elections-wisconsin-580b4d72238232eb3798e07ecf1d7e23

– Financial health of Eau Claire County appears strong https://www.leadertelegram.com/covid-19/financial-health-of-county-appears-strong/article_4796b2f4-cad5-5260-a0b4-ee27e7324d7f.html 


– Kwik Trip offers new way to show support with branded sweatshirts, T-shirts https://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/money/companies/buzz/2021/03/15/kwik-trip-adds-merchandise-line-branded-clothing-items/4705424001/ 

– Chicago-based ghost kitchen concept expands into Milwaukee area https://biztimes.com/chicago-based-ghost-kitchen-concept-expands-into-milwaukee-area/ 

– Lands’ End credits Kohl’s partnership for growing customer base https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/03/15/lands-end-credits-kohls-partnership-for-growing.html 


– Packers plan to play in front of a full house this year. What you need to know about tickets, more https://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/news/2021/03/15/green-bay-packers-hold-line-ticket-prices-and-other-things-you-need-know/4581049001/ 


– Madison health tech company raises $45 million https://biztimes.com/madison-health-tech-company-raises-45-million/ 


– Celebrate De Pere festival is canceled for a second year https://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/entertainment/music/2021/03/15/celebrate-de-pere-canceled-second-year-due-covid-19/4705410001/ 


<i>See these and other press releases: 

https://www.wisbusiness.com/press-releases/ </i>

– Public Service Commission of Wisconsin: Recognizes March 15-21 as fix-a-leak week

– UW Now Livestream: The future of money

– DATCP: Apply for the Wisconsin agriculture youth council by March 31

– Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce: Vendor applications now open for 2021 bazaar after dark event