MON AM News: Milwaukee mayor says hosting RNC would attract more events, spending; Officials announce $22.5M in BIL funding for transportation projects

— Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson says hosting the 2024 Republican National Convention would help the state’s largest city attract more events and related spending. 

The GOP Site Selection Committee reportedly voted Friday to recommend Milwaukee host the 2024 convention. The full Republican National Committee is expected to make the final decision later this summer during a meeting in Chicago. 

“When we show how Milwaukee hosts a big, national political convention, we’re inviting other convention planners to take notice and to bring those activities — and importantly, those spending dollars — right here to the city of Milwaukee, right here to the state of Wisconsin,” Johnson said Friday during a news conference. 

He noted the 2024 convention would support Milwaukee’s workers and hospitality businesses that were hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There are additional steps ahead before Milwaukee is formally named the convention host, but today’s announcement certainly bodes well for our chances,” he said. 

Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO of Visit Milwaukee, says the convention will bring 45,000 attendees from around the country — “giving a much-needed boost to Milwaukee businesses who serve Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.” 

During Friday’s press conference, she said the long-term benefits of hosting the convention will give a major boost to the city’s travel and tourism industry. She added the city has plenty of hotel rooms available to support the influx of visitors, and efforts are underway to ensure Milwaukee is fully prepared to host the event. 

“Our job is to make tourism an economic development engine that makes our city better today and in the future,” she said. “And while tourism’s recovery has certainly begun … we still have a long way to go before that recovery is complete.” 

See more in Top Stories below. 

— State officials have announced the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide about $22.5 million for 25 transportation projects in larger communities in Wisconsin in its first year of funding. 

These funds will go toward projects in areas of the state with populations of 50,000 residents or more, according to a release from the state Department of Transportation. In early June, Gov. Tony Evers and the state DOT announced the first round of funding from the BIL will provide $35 million for 40 projects in areas with fewer than 50,000 residents. 

In Friday’s release, Evers said the infrastructure funding represents a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to fix Wisconsin roads and advance the state’s transportation system. 

“We have so far improved more than 4,600 miles of state and locally owned roads and nearly 1,500 bridges, and I’m excited to continue building on our work with these additional federal funds that will help accelerate our work and provide more options for safe and efficient travel for folks across our state,” he said. 

The funds will go to two counties, one town, four villages and 15 cities. 

Before being approved by the state DOT, projects were reviewed, ranked and selected by Wisconsin’s Metropolitan P​lanning Organizations and Transportation Management Areas, the release shows. 

See the list of funded projects: 

See the release: 

— The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority has received a $7.5 million federal Capital Magnet Fund grant. 

The grant comes from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, according to a release from WHEDA. The organization plans to use the funding to support preservation, rehabilitation, development and purchases of affordable housing for Wisconsin residents. 

WHEDA says the award could include down payment assistance, gap lending for rental housing or new initiatives in rural parts of the state. The release shows the grant is expected to leverage over $140 million in affordable housing investment in Wisconsin. 

WHEDA CEO and Executive Director Elmer Moore, Jr. notes many working families and individuals spend over half of their paychecks on rent. 

“Affordable housing has a domino effect on communities by lowering rent burdens and leaving more income for essentials such as food, medical care, childcare, and transportation,” he said in the release. 

See the release: 

— Dane County has announced a planned extension of its Pandemic Emergency Hotel Shelter Program with $3.1 million in additional funding. 

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi says the extension will help officials and partners continue “providing the space and services our most vulnerable residents need to recover from and limit the spread of COVID-19, while we also work toward permanent housing solutions.” 

The funding will go toward non-group shelter for people experiencing homelessness who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, as well as quarantine shelter programs for homeless people who are symptomatic and positive for COVID-19 or were in close contact with someone who had COVID-19. 

According to a release from the county, the resolution authorizing the extension is expected to be approved by the Dane County Board in the coming weeks. 

See more: 

— The Wisconsin Lifeline call center is projected to receive nearly twice as many calls in the coming year after Saturday’s launch of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

That’s according to Caroline Neumann, crisis services coordinator for the state Department of Health Services. She discussed the transition to the 988 calling code Friday during a DHS media briefing, highlighting projections provided to the state last year. 

“Those projection reports were showing about a 93 percent increase in calls over the course of the first year of 988, so between July 2022 and July 2023,” she said. 

A release from Gov. Tony Evers shows about 29,000 calls from Wisconsin were answered by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in 2021. While Neumann didn’t have specific numbers for text and chat projections, she said a “definite increase” in these messages is also expected. 

“We’ve been using those projection numbers to help base what type of funding and support needs to be given to Family Services to meet that demand,” she said. 

Anyone experiencing a mental health concern or other crisis can call 988 to be connected to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. This is the new name for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has been active since 2005. 

Callers from Wisconsin will be connected to Wisconsin Lifeline, which is funded by DHS and operated by Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin. This organization began fielding statewide calls in mid-2020. Shelly Missall, the group’s outreach coordinator, says Family Services was getting about 1,100 calls per month in January 2021. 

“We’ve seen that consistently grow over the course of the last year and a half, and in the last two months we’ve taken over 4,000 calls a month in both months,” she said. “So we have seen a pretty significant growth in usage already, and anticipate to continue seeing that growth.” 

Missall said Family Services is actively hiring to build capacity at its physical call center in Green Bay to meet rising demand. 

In the release, Evers says the nationwide transition to the 988 number will improve access to counseling services across Wisconsin and the country and “will undoubtedly save lives.” 

See the release: 

See more from DHS on on 988: 

— A Milwaukee-based health data and payments startup called Sift Healthcare has announced the close of a $9 million funding round. 

The company, founded in 2017, has created a patient payment and payer reimbursement platform for health care providers. The Payments Intelligence Platform aims to “enable more efficient and accurate reimbursement” from payers, according to a release. 

The Series A investment round was led by new investors Allos Ventures of Indiana and First Trust Capital Partners of Illinois. Two early Wisconsin-based investors in the company — Rock River Capital Partners and the Winnebago Seed Fund — also participated in the round, the release shows. 

The company says the financing supports “accelerating sales” of its denials management and patient payment products. 

“We are honored to add experienced investors who fully understand the opportunity for innovation within the healthcare payments space,” founder and CEO Justin Nicols said in the release. 

See the release: 

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# GOP panel recommends Milwaukee as host city for 2024 Republican National Convention

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# Milwaukee data science company Sift Healthcare raises $9 million



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