TUE AM News: Diverse business groups getting $15.7M in grant funding; EPA suspends fuel requirement following waiver request

— Organizations supporting diverse businesses across Wisconsin say they’ll use new grant funding to bolster mentorship, training, technical support, staffing and more. 

Officials yesterday announced $15.7 million in new grant funding for these groups. At a press conference at the Sherman Phoenix Marketplace in Milwaukee, Department of Administration Secretary-designee Kathy Blumenfeld noted $6 million of those funds are going to organizations based in the Milwaukee area. She was joined by several grant recipients. 

“The talent in this room is incredible,” she said. “So many of you have worked so hard over the years to create opportunities for thriving businesses and communities, not just here in Milwaukee, but all over the state.” 

The funding comes from the state’s Diverse Business Assistance program, which was announced in October 2021 with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. Yesterday’s announcement marked the second round of funding after the first was rolled out in March of this year. 

Recipients represented at yesterday’s press conference included: the Sherman Phoenix Foundation, which is getting about $3.2 million in funding; the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, with $1.4 million in funding; the state chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors, with $980,000 in grant funding; the Manufacturing Diversity Institute, with $300,000; and the Chayil Corporation, with about $200,000. 

Stacia Thompson, executive director of the Sherman Phoenix Foundation, said the funding will help the organization “amplify our programming, and support entrepreneurs and creators of color” as they grow their businesses and create jobs in the area. She said if each Black business hired just two people, that would half the Black community’s unemployment rate. 

Ugo Nwagbaraocha, president of Diamond Discs International and president of the Wisconsin chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors, discussed the group’s work to help minority businesses secure construction contracts. And Keenan Grenell, director of the Manufacturing Diversity Institute, said the group is “eager and ready to get down to business” as it works to help create jobs and build wealth. 

Meanwhile, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Executive Director Theo Lipscomb stressed the impact these dollars will have on communities in Milwaukee. 

“After decades of historical disinvestment in our community, these dollars are so important,” he said. 

See the DOA release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2022/dept-of-administration-announces-more-than-15-million-in-additional-grants-for-diverse-business-assistance-efforts/ 

— The U.S. EPA over the weekend approved a waiver suspending a requirement that Wisconsin use a summer blend of fuel with lower emissions after a fire at an Indiana refinery threatened the supply.

Gov. Tony Evers, along with his counterparts in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, sent waiver requests to Environmental Protection Agency Director Michael Regan last week seeking the waiver following the refinery fire.

According to Evers’ request, the refinery in Whiting, Ind., provides about 25 to 30 percent of the fuel used in Wisconsin.

The waiver will continue through Sept. 15, which Regan wrote was the “the shortest practicable time necessary to permit the correction of the extreme and unusual circumstances preventing distribution of an adequate supply of compliant gasoline.”

The areas can switch to the winter blend of fuel on Sept. 16 under existing federal rules. With the waiver, either blend can be used.

Evers also asked the EPA for a waiver to suspend the requirement that six counties in southeastern Wisconsin use reformulated gas. The six counties are part of an ozone nonattainment area: Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha. That request is still pending.

See the EPA ruling:


See Evers’ request:


— The state’s Edvest 529 College Savings Plan announced it has paid out $2 billion in qualified withdrawals, with the milestone marking the program’s 25th anniversary. 

According to a release from the Department of Financial Institutions, 77,000 Wisconsin families have used these funds to pay for education costs including tuition, books, fees and housing. 

Because the program is a “tax-advantaged investment,” contributions to Edvest College Savings Plan can qualify for a state income tax deduction of up to $3,650 per beneficiary with certain limitations, the DFI release shows. 

“Edvest has and continues to play an important role in helping students achieve the education needed to secure their dream job, whether through an apprenticeship program, technical school, or four-year college,” DFI Secretary-designee Cheryll Olson-Collins said in the release.

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/edvest-reaches-2-billion-in-qualified-withdrawals-milestone-helping-wisconsin-families-pay-for-higher-education/ 

— Gov. Tony Evers and the DWD have announced 14 new youth apprenticeship pathways, meant to provide more opportunities for high school juniors and seniors this fall. 

In a release, Evers says the new pathways will “foster our own home-grown talent in critical industries that support local economies across our state.” They were announced yesterday as part of the Department of Workforce Development’s Youth Apprenticeship Program Modernization Initiative. 

According to the release, the youth apprenticeship program includes school districts, technical colleges and chambers of commerce. DWD says 321 school districts, representing 76.2 percent of the state’s 421 districts, had students enrolled in the program for the 2021-22 school year. 

The new pathways include: arborist; dairy grazier; gas distribution technician; heavy equipment operator/operating engineer; utilities electrical technician; media broadcast technician; phlebotomist; resident aide; IT broadband technician; electro-mechanical/mechatronics; airport operations and management; aviation maintenance fundamentals; aviation airframe and powerplant technician; and aviation avionics technician.

See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2022/gov-evers-gov-evers-dwd-announce-youth-apprenticeship-offerings-14-new-occupational-pathways-for-students/ 

— More than 100,000 Medicare Part D enrollees in Wisconsin could benefit from a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act that eliminates cost sharing for adult vaccines. 

That’s according to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, conducted after President Biden signed the legislation into law on Aug. 16. It contains a “broad package” of provisions targeting health care, taxes and climate change, including several aimed at lowering prescription drug costs for those on Medicare, the analysis shows. 

Based on 2020 estimates, the KFF report found 106,420 Part D enrollees in the state will likely be helped by the provision eliminating cost sharing for adult vaccines, due to take effect in 2023. 

The following year, a total of 3,830 Part D enrollees in Wisconsin will be affected by a provision expanding eligibility for full low-income subsidies when it takes effect in 2024, the report projects. 

Meanwhile, 29,610 Part D enrollees in the state not receiving low-income subsidies will likely be helped by a $2,000 out-of-pocket spending cap taking effect in 2025, according to the report. 

And 23,580 Part D enrollees in Wisconsin not getting low-income subsidies with out-of-pocket spending above the “catastrophic threshold” are expected to be impacted by a provision eliminating the 5 percent coinsurance above that threshold in 2024.

According to the report, this threshold is set at $7,050 for 2022, and beneficiaries pay about $3,000 out of pocket for brand-name drugs before reaching the “catastrophic coverage” level, where they pay 5 percent coinsurance on drugs through the year’s end. 

See the full analysis: https://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/how-will-the-prescription-drug-provisions-in-the-inflation-reduction-act-affect-medicare-beneficiaries/ 

<i>For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com.</i>

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<i>See these and other press releases: 

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