WED AM News: Dane Cty. to lift all orders June 2 thanks to ‘extremely high’ vaccination rate; ‘Talking Trade’ talks U.S.-China trade affecting Midwest

— Dane County lifting all restrictions on June 2 is a “major milestone” for businesses, says Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon.

All mask requirements and gathering and capacity limits will be lifted June 2, Public Health Madison & Dane County announced yesterday.

“This is especially encouraging news for Dane County businesses, who have been doing their part through improved health and safety protocols, workspace upgrades and encouraging their employees to get vaccinated,” Brandon said. “Their efforts are a significant reason why Dane County is seeing its lowest case counts in months and becoming a state and national leader in vaccination rate.”

Dane County leads the state with more than 63 percent of its residents having started a vaccination series. It ranks No. 2 for residents fully vaccinated at 53.6 percent.

“This extremely high number allows us to make the decision … to lift our orders on June 2, when we estimate that 75% of those eligible for vaccine will have received their first dose,” said PHMDC Director Janel Heinrich. 

Read the full story at 

— “Talking Trade” is back for a second season with a new episode featuring Joe Glauber, a former top USDA economist who now is a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

This year’s U.S. ag exports to China have started out strong with big surges led by corn, said “Talking Trade” co-host and UW-Madison Prof. Ian Coxhead. 

The trade wars with China brought exports down from $20 billion to about $9 billion in 2018; 2019 wasn’t much better, Glauber said. But in 2020, China needed feed grains to rebound its pork industry. The country also had a trade dispute with Australia, further improving U.S. ag exports to China.

“The main thing is China is back being our No. 1 export destination, and that’s an important thing for U.S. farmers,” Glauber said. 

“Talking Trade” is sponsored by Michael Best Strategies and the Wisconsin District Export Council.

Watch the full episode: 

— Gov. Tony Evers will use $100 million in coming federal COVID-19 stimulus funds to cover a first round of broadband expansion grants through the Public Service Commission.

Evers had previously announced he planned to use $200 million of the funds for infrastructure with an unspecified amount for broadband expansion. Since then, the state has found out it will receive $2.5 billion from the federal government in equal payments a year apart rather than $3.2 billion in a lump sum this year.

Along with announcing the federal money, Evers also called on the Legislature to approve his $200 million broadband expansion program in the state budget. That proposal includes $151.7 million for expansion grants.

“This isn’t a question of providing federal or state funding for broadband — we must do both to ensure folks can get connected,” Evers said.

To meet federal requirements for use of the funds under the new grants, the projects will target unserved or underserved areas. The project also must deliver service with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second. Upload speeds must be 100 Mbs for unless it is not practicable due to geography, topography or excessive costs. Then upload speeds can be 20 Mbs.

Projects must prioritize investments in fiber optic infrastructure where feasible and avoid projects that have existing agreements to build reliable service of at least 100 Mbs for download speeds and 20 Mbs for uploads by Dec. 31, 2024.

The window to apply for the grants will run June 1-July 27.

Read more in the Budget Blog: 

— All Wisconsin businesses that prepare and serve food or beverages can apply for funding equal to what was lost in the pandemic up to $10 million.

Restaurants, bars, bakeries, food trucks, breweries, wineries, distilleries and inns that get money do not have to repay it as long as it’s used for eligible purposes by March 11, 2023.

The exact amount businesses will be eligible for varies with awards starting at $1,000 and going all the way up to $10 million per business.

“As Wisconsin bounces back from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for us all to support our local, small businesses,” Evers said. “The Restaurant Revitalization Fund gives our restaurants, brewpubs, caterers and more a chance to keep their staff paid and keep the lights on as our economy recovers.”

Apply for the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund here: 

— Businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can also expect more help to come from the state. 

Last month, Evers announced plans to create the $420 million Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant program. Details have not been finalized, but the program will once again be run by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the Department of Revenue. 

It’s expected to offer grants of $5,000 to businesses with annual gross revenues between $10,000 and $7 million targeting industries hit hardest by the pandemic.

— More than a dozen business associations join the 50 chambers of commerce and the state’s congressional Republicans in a call to end the $300 unemployment bonus. 

The business community is asking Evers to immediately end federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs that the associations say are contributing to Wisconsin’s workforce shortage. 

“If you drive through any downtown or through just about any business park in our state, you will see ubiquitous ‘help wanted’ signs in storefronts,” the letter says. “The inability of employers to find workers is at a crisis level in Wisconsin, threatening the viability of thousands of businesses and the income they provide for workers and their families. If immediate action is not taken, there is a great likelihood that long-term and irreversible damage will be done to Wisconsin’s economy, harming employers and families alike.”

Read the letter: 

— Eau Claire and Richland counties are under quarantine for gypsy moths.

This adds movement restrictions and inspection requirements for plant nurseries, Christmas tree farms and lumber mills. Logs and nursery stock must be certified free of gypsy moth before they can be transported into non quarantined counties or states. 

This is the first time since 2015 new counties have been added to the quarantine; 52 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties are now quarantined for gypsy moths. 

DATCP’s trapping data indicates the gypsy moth, an invasive insect from Europe that feeds on the leaves of more than 300 tree species, is now established in the two counties. As a result, both counties have been placed under state and federal gypsy moth quarantine, joining most of eastern and central Wisconsin already considered to be infested with the pest.

— Fifteen Wisconsin dairy companies will get a dairy processor grant in 2021 from DATCP. 

The money will help businesses innovate, improve profitability and sustain the long-term viability of the state’s dairy processing facilities.

“Dairy processors are key to bolstering Wisconsin’s position as a national and global leader in the dairy industry,” said DATCP Secretary Randy Romanski. “Our processors need to constantly innovate and adapt to changing times. These grants are designed to help processors accomplish those goals and continue contributing to Wisconsin’s thriving dairy industry.”

A total of $200,000 was available for this year’s grants, with a maximum $50,000 allowed for each project. Grant recipients are required to provide a match of at least 20 percent of the grant amount. 

See the grant recipients: 

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is introducing a bill to reverse a rule from the Department of Labor to limit retirement plans from voting on corporate proxies.

The Biden administration said it won’t enforce the Trump-era rule, but Baldwin, D-Madison, says statutory changes remain necessary to protect workers.

“When workers hand over their hard-earned retirement savings to Wall Street money managers, most workers don’t have a voice in how they want their shares to be voted on at annual meetings. Despite the trillions of workers who have invested in stocks, their voices are not being heard in board rooms across America,” she said.

The bill would allow workers to elect representative trustees to manage their ERISA retirement plan jointly with the employer’s trustees and set voting guidelines that investment managers would be required to follow. 

“Pension plan assets are the deferred wages of working people, and appointing worker representatives to boards of trustees will give workers a voice in the companies that we invest in,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

See more on the bill: 

— Join us tomorrow for a ‘Summer Tourism Outlook — How will Wisconsin take advantage of a post-pandemic visitor surge?’

The virtual lunch hour event features three tourism leaders — Department of Tourism Acting Secretary Anne Sayers, Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association President and CEO Bill Elliott and Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions President Tom Diehl.

The trio will discuss the state of the tourism industry in Wisconsin and how the political, health and economic climates may influence what Wisconsin’s robust tourism industry will look like this summer.

The program is set to run via webinar from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 20.

Register here for this free event:

This event is sponsored by Madison Gas and Electric Company, University Research Park, Wisconsin Technology Council and The Phelps Hamus Group.


# Wisconsin Republicans want to end $300 unemployment bonus

# Evers announces $100 million to expand broadband

# UW program will teach for-credit college courses in Wisconsin prisons 



– Central Wisconsin nearly ready for some first crop alfalfa cutting 


– UW-Milwaukee expects 70% boost in season ticket sales, thanks to Patrick Baldwin Jr. 


– Large Milwaukee area employers leave UnitedHealthcare for new network pledging 15% lower costs 


– Wisconsin Employers Mulling Future Of Mask Mandates After CDC Drops Certain Mask Requirements 


– Dane County, Milwaukee To End Mask Mandates In June 


– 6 local startups each receive $10,000 grants from MKE Tech Hub Coalition, WEDC 

– Meet the 5 companies chosen for gener8tor’s gBeta Milwaukee summer 2021 cohort 


– Local investor group attracts professional baseball to Lake Country 


– How Southwest’s tech upgrade makes booking business travel on the airline easier 


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