FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Sheila Long, MalamaDoe; Feds approve $40M plan for expanding broadband

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with returning guest Sheila Long, founder of MalamaDoe, a coworking community for women based in Milwaukee. 

Long is holding a series of discussions throughout October in celebration of National Women’s Small Business Month, highlighting success stories and challenges for member companies and others in the state’s business community. 

MalamaDoe will be hosting “Fireside Chats with Women Entrepreneurs” each Tuesday this month. Long discusses some takeaways from the first of these discussions held earlier this week, and previews what attendees can expect to hear about at upcoming events. 

“It’s very important to hear other women’s stories, and to get inspired by what helped them grow and what helped them launch, and what helps them sustain their business,” she said. 

The next discussion will feature Santana Coleman, a co-producer on the documentary “When Claude Got Shot,” which recently won an Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking. One of the women featured in the documentary, Victoria Davison-Adams, will share her perspective on the issue of gun violence. 

Listen to the podcast: 

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— Federal officials have approved a plan from Wisconsin to invest $40 million from the ARPA-funded Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund into broadband infrastructure in the state. 

During a webinar yesterday hosted by the White House and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, officials said this funding is estimated to connect 8,000 additional households and businesses in Wisconsin with high-speed internet. 

“Access to affordable high-speed internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity,” Public Service Commission chair Rebecca Cameron Valcq said during yesterday’s webinar. “And Wisconsin will use this funding to invest in broadband infrastructure projects that are going to provide high-quality internet to locations with the highest need.” 

The state’s plan for broadband infrastructure represents 21 percent of the state’s total allocation under the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund. Wisconsin has also submitted plans for the rest of its CPF funding, which are currently under review by federal officials. 

“The dollars awarded to us today will come before the commission via a grant round … of course, adhering to the guidelines that apply to infrastructure projects,” Valcq said. 

According to an overview from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the CPF funds coming to Wisconsin will complement the $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds the state has already committed to its State Broadband Expansion Grant Program. 

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— State officials have announced $35 million in federal funding is going to community transportation projects around the state over the next five years. 

In a release yesterday, Gov. Tony Evers’ office said 72 projects will be getting funding through the state Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives Program. The funding will be used to expand options for non-motorized transportation, according to the release. 

“Transportation alternative projects, such as the bike and pedestrian paths funded through these investments, are not only great ways to reduce emissions and build a more sustainable transportation system but they enhance quality of life in communities in every corner of Wisconsin,” Evers said in the release. 

See the list of funded projects here: 

See the release:

— The average medical payment per workers’ compensation claim in Wisconsin declined between 2019 and 2020 after increasing for the previous five years, according to a new report. 

The report, from the Workers Compensation Research Institute, explores trends in workers’ compensation medical care. 

The group found that for claims at 12 months of maturity, the average medical payment per claim with more than seven days of lost time fell 2 percent in Wisconsin between 2019 and 2020. That’s after the average had been increasing about 3 percent per year between 2014 and 2019. 

Still, the state’s average total medical payment per claim was $22,080 in 2020/2021, which places it above the median value of $13,812 for states included in the analysis. While use of medical services in Wisconsin was lower than typical for these states, this higher payment amount reflects higher prices. 

Data in the report don’t include COVID-19 claims, but report authors note the pandemic affected both existing and new workers’ compensation claims, including non-COVID-19 claims. 

The report says changes in medical payments per claim in 2020 were largely affected by decreases in utilization, which includes the percentage of claims with each service and the number of services per claim. It also shows changes in availability of medical services and economic conditions affected figures for 2020. 

Report authors found the percentage of claims with “many nonhospital and hospital outpatient services” declined between 1 and 5 points in 2020 in Wisconsin. And the percentage of claims involving major surgery fell from 38 percent in 2019 to 33 percent in 2020. 

But at the same time, the report also shows changes in pricing for medical services contributes to the medical payments figures. Between 2018 and 2021, nonhospital prices paid increased at 2.7 percent per year in Wisconsin, which was more than the median among study states of 1.5 percent per year. 

Meanwhile, the average payment for hospital outpatient services in the state increased 9.1 percent per year between 2018 and 2020, after rising between 4 and 6 percent each year since 2002. And overall hospital rates in Wisconsin have been increasing between 4 and 5 percent annually since 2015, according to the report. 

“Recent consolidations among hospital systems in Wisconsin may have also led to an increase in charges for some health care systems,” report authors wrote. 

See the full report: 

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