WED AM News: High levels of interest seen for WEDC grant program; Dane County public health officials reinstate mask mandate

— A little over a week into the application period for the Main Street Bounceback Grants program, regional economic development groups are seeing high levels of interest from local businesses. 

“We’ve gotten over 100 inquiries and this week we’ve already received seven or eight completed applications,” said Dennis Lawrence, executive director of the North Central Regional Planning Commission. “My guess is, we’re going to be in the neighborhood of 100 applications, if all those who’ve reached out follow through. I think it will have a pretty significant impact in our region.” 

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation began accepting applications for the program on Aug. 9 through nine regional partners. The program will provide $10,000 grants to eligible businesses or nonprofits to help them expand into a currently vacant commercial space. In total, $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds have been allocated to the program. 

WEDC has already allocated $25 million of the funding to the regional partners based on a “per establishment methodology,” according to an agency spokesperson. The other $25 million will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis after the first half of the funding is depleted. 

In the 10-county region for which North Central Regional Planning Commission will be dispersing grant funding, Lawrence says many of the small communities have vacant storefronts. 

“The program will be the impetus to get folks who are working out of their garage, their home, to move their business into more commercial, visible areas, and really help to revitalize our communities,” Lawrence told in a recent interview. 

Lynn Nelson, executive director of the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, says the organization hasn’t begun advertising for the program yet. But in response to WEDC outreach efforts alone, she said staff have received about 100 inquiries and at least 13 completed applications. 

“It really just got kicked off — we just signed our memorandum of understanding with the WEDC today,” Nelson said Monday. “It’s still just getting started, and there’s pretty significant interest.” 

She said that most of the downtown areas in the state’s west central region are struggling to keep their storefronts occupied, which tarnishes the “character of the community.” Getting those properties occupied by businesses will have a domino effect, she said, helping to boost the local economy. 

“If you have full stores downtown, that makes it a more vibrant place to visit,” she said. “People want to stay and visit restaurants. You have a more robust downtown.”

See more: 

— Public Health Madison and Dane County has issued an emergency order requiring everyone ages 2 and older to wear face coverings in most indoor settings in the county.

Dane County health officials say they’re the first in the state to reinstate a mask order after local mask mandates ended in late spring and early summer of this year. The move comes amid rising case numbers driven by the delta variant of COVID-19.

But the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce are critical of the order, with Chamber President Zach Brandon calling it “the appearance of leadership masquerading as actual leadership.”

The emergency order, signed by Public Health Madison and Dane County Health Officer Janel Heinrich, begins Thursday and will remain in effect until Sept. 16. That’s about two weeks into the fall semester for students at UW-Madison.

“We still believe vaccines are our best tool to protect our community,” Heinrich said in a release. “But as cases continue to increase, requiring face coverings is an easy added layer of protection to further help keep people safe, including our youngest children not yet eligible to be vaccinated.”

As of yesterday, 71.4 percent of Dane County’s population have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 68.3 percent have completed the vaccine series. By comparison, 53.4 percent of the state’s total population have gotten at least one dose, and 50.2 percent of the state’s population are fully vaccinated.

“We were asked to bend the curve, and we did. We were asked to get vaccinated, and we did,” Brandon said in a statement. “Many businesses — including the Chamber — have led by implementing vaccine and mask rules for their employees, customers and clients. As a result, new cases have stabilized.”

He describes the chamber as “pro-mask, pro-vaccination, pro-science and pro-data.” But he adds that local government shouldn’t take a “one-size-fits-all approach,” which he says stifles innovation.

“Businesses are already taking necessary steps voluntarily and Public Health data does not identify businesses as a source of significant spread,” Brandon said.

Wisconsin Restaurant Association President and CEO Kristine Hillmer also questions the need for a mask mandate in Dane County. 

“It puts a lot of pressure on restaurateurs to enforce the mandate and make sure that people are complying in their restaurant,” she told “It also puts them at a disadvantage when you compare businesses who don’t have to wear masks when it’s just on the other side of the border in another county.” 

Under the order, face coverings will be required in any enclosed public place in the county, including public transportation. Exceptions include when eating, drinking or swimming, when necessary to confirm identity such as at an airport, and when necessary to communicate with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

Dane County health officials had already issued a mask advisory on July 27 urging everyone in the county to wear masks indoors, in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The emergency order comes after the county’s seven-day average of new cases increased from 19 on July 19 to 91.6 on Aug. 12, a release shows.

See the release:

— The state will be piloting a new model for providing substance use disorder treatment to certain BadgerCare Plus and Medicaid enrollees. 

Under this “hub and spoke” model, qualifying individuals with substance use disorders and other health conditions holding them back from recovery will be connected to behavioral and primary health care services. DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake says this approach focuses on “ongoing integrated treatment and support” rather than short-term, episodic care. 

“Our three pilot sites will lead the way in implementing this new model of coordinating care for people with substance use disorders,” Timberlake said in a release. “What these sites learn will help us continue to improve and expand the benefits and services we support.”

With DHS acting as the “hub” and the three pilot locations acting as “spokes,” state health officials will coordinate care with the local partners while also gathering information about the effectiveness of this approach. The state aims to collect 2.5 years worth of data “in order to inform creation of a permanent benefit,” the release shows. 

The three pilot sites include one urban location, one rural location and a tribal site that were selected from 17 applicants around the state. 

The nonprofit Wisconsin Community Services will offer services in the Milwaukee area, while the Family Health Center of Marshfield will provide services through the FHC Minocqua Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center in Forest, Iron, Oneida, Price and Vilas counties. This rural health center will also serve the Forest County Potawatomi Community, the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and the Sokaogon Chippewa Community. 

Meanwhile, the Oneida Nation Behavioral Health Center will provide services to qualifying members of the Oneida Nation and to Brown and Outagamie counties, the release shows. 

See more program details: 

— Cranberry growers in the state are expected to harvest 4.7 million barrels of cranberries this fall — slightly higher than last year’s harvest of 4.64 million barrels. 

That’s according to the latest projections from the U.S. Cranberry Marketing Committee. 

Wisconsin has been the top producer of cranberries in the nation for nearly 30 years, making up more than half of the 7.9 million barrels expected to be harvested nationwide this year. 

The state supplies more than half of all cranberries worldwide, the release shows. Cranberries are grown on 21,000 acres across 20 counties in the state, spanning much of central and northern Wisconsin. About 5 percent of the 2021 crop will be sold as fresh fruit, while the rest will be frozen and made into juices and other products. 

See the release: 


# Wisconsin food and beverage sales rebound to near pre-pandemic levels

# Wisconsin DNR adds 92 waterways to impaired list but 80% of waters still clean

# ‘Overwhelming interest’: UW Health pediatric COVID-19 vaccine trial fills up in days



– Recent showers give Wisconsin crops a boost


– MPS opens 40 schools Monday, considers vaccine mandate as COVID shuts down schools elsewhere


– Fisker, the electric carmaker eyeing partnering with Foxconn, wants a Wisconsin law changed


– Dane Co. issues indoor mask mandate effective Thursday

– The alarming surge of COVID-19 cases in kids


– Stoughton bookstore launches GoFundMe in effort to go mobile


– Summerfest is raising wages as it tries to hire workers for its first festival since 2019

– ‘It’s all or nothing’: Why a small pay increase can be a disaster for some working families who stand to lose benefits


– Republican Legislature wants to intervene in redistricting lawsuit

– Parents of Anthony Huber, fatally shot by Kyle Rittenhouse, file lawsuit against Kenosha law enforcement


– How COVID-19 Is Impacting Supply Chains

– WMC seeking ‘coolest thing made in Wisconsin’


– Wisconsin GOP senator, critic of mask mandates has COVID-19

– Afghan refugees could be headed to Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy


– A large piece of the Journal Sentinel’s former downtown site is now MATC student apartments. More projects are coming to Journal Square.


– Brookfield supply chain software startup Part Analytics raises $3 million, plans to double team


– After more than a year away, fans are returning to UW-Madison athletic facilities


– Major event venues in Madison requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination


– Changes coming to MCTS buses at the end of this month


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

Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers: To again lead nation in production

PETA: Asks feds to investigate UW-Madison

City on a Hill: Names Art Serna new CEO