WED AM News: LAB reviews state grants to small businesses, restaurants; Hunters claimed 14 percent more deer in this year’s gun deer season

— A limited Legislative Audit Bureau review of grants delivered by the Evers administration to small businesses and restaurants found nearly 12 percent of the awards didn’t meet eligibility requirements.

While the limited scope review was ongoing, the Department of Revenue began efforts to recover some of the grants that were improperly awarded.

The leaders of the Legislature’s GOP-controlled Joint Audit Committee praised DOR’s work to remedy the issues.

“As a result of the forced lockdowns, all of our small businesses across our state were affected and it became necessary for us to assist them,” said state Rep. John Macco, R-Ledgeview. “Overall, DOR did a fine job administering the $595.9 million to them and appreciate that they are taking steps to remedy the errors that occurred.”

Overall, the administration awarded $220.7 million through 38,116 grants in its “We’re All In” program for small businesses and restaurants and another $375.3 million through 61,637 grants in its “Wisconsin Tomorrow’’ program for small businesses and lodging establishments.

The LAB reviewed 172 grants totaling $4.1 million in both programs. It found 45 grants totaling $475,000 that didn’t meet eligibility requirements.

The audit noted DOR typically doesn’t administer grant programs. The Department of Administration specified eligibility requirements for businesses to qualify for the grants. LAB found Revenue at times awarded grants to additional businesses “that had experienced economic damages as a result of the public health emergency.” But the agency didn’t modify its agreements with DOA or the eligibility requirements to reflect the adjustments it made.

DOR noted in its response to the audit that its own internal review has found more than 92 percent of the “We’re All In” phase 2 grants and more than 94 percent of the “Wisconsin Tomorrow” small business grants went to eligible recipients.

The agency also wrote in its response that it had successfully prevented 28,605 fraudulent grants from being awarded, saving taxpayers over $143 million.

See the report:

See the GOP response:

— Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer season has ended with hunters claiming more than 14 percent more deer and buying fewer licenses than last year. 

DNR Deer Program Specialist Jeff Pritzl in a news conference yesterday said hunters registered 203,295 deer during the season, outpacing 2021 by 14.4 percent. Pritzl and DNR Wildlife Management Program Director Eric Lobner said license sales were down 1.4 percent, but the harvest could be up due to good weather conditions, rising meat prices and hunters having more freezer storage space.

“I suspect people went into the 2021 season perhaps with some venison in the freezer from the previous year, and maybe a little bit less incentive,” Pritzl said. “And now they’ve gone through that, and they’re entering the 2022 season with space in the freezer.” 

Of all deer harvested, 104,898 were antlerless and 98,397 were bucks. Combined, those numbers are up 8 percent from the 5-year average, Pritzl said.

Lobner added hunters from all 50 states and 21 foreign countries took part in Wisconsin’s gun deer season this year. 

“That’s quite incredible … we had people from as far away as New Zealand, Chad and South Africa,” he said. 

As usual, the majority of out-of-state U.S. hunters came from Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois, Lobner said.  

DNR also reported eight incidents where hunters were shot, up from the 10-year average of 6.4 incidents per year. One of those incidents was fatal.

A 41-year-old hunter shot an 11-year-old in the chest while unloading a firearm in the backseat of a vehicle. The boy later died in a hospital. 

There have been six years without any fatal hunting incidents in the last 10, DNR Recreational Safety Section Chief Major April Dombrowski said. 

Watch the new conference:

See DNR’s press release:

— U.S. Venture and gener8tor have announced entrepreneur Andrew Schmitz will be the first managing director for the U.S. Venture Sustainability Accelerator in Appleton. 

This 12-week startup accelerator program will be held once per year with five participating companies, according to a release. It will begin March 23 and end June 15 with a startup showcase event. 

Before joining the accelerator program, Schmitz was the founder of a company called that’s used by manufacturing companies to train workers. In a statement, he says Appleton and the Fox Valley area have “a rich history of world-changing entrepreneurs and innovators.” 

“As a tech founder myself, I’ve benefited from what our area has to offer entrepreneurs – from strong industrial ties to low cost of living,” he said. “I’m excited to connect entrepreneurs with the resources we have to offer in order to help grow the next Appleton-based, world changing businesses of tomorrow.” 

See the release: 

— This year’s harvest of corn for grain continues to lag last year’s rate, according to the latest USDA crop report. 

As of Sunday, 87 percent of corn for grain was harvested, which is 12 days behind last year’s rate. 

And the fall tillage is also proceeding more slowly. It was 83 percent complete on Sunday, which is six days behind last year. 

See the report: 

— The former director of UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology says reducing phosphorus spreading on farm lands is the only way to limit hazardous algae blooms. 

Steve Carpenter is the center’s director emeritus and lead author of a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences. He and other researchers analyzed data collected from Lake Mendota in Madison to explore the factors that lead to algae blooms. 

The university notes that phosphorus is the “main driver” behind these algae blooms, which can harm biodiversity and pose a threat to people as well. Heavy rainfall can wash this chemical from the agricultural land where it’s used into waterways, contributing to toxic algae growth in the following weeks and months, according to a release. 

The study points to other factors that play a role, including calm wind conditions, warm surface water and low levels of a small organism called zooplankton that eats algae. But because these variables are largely outside the control of humans, Carpenter argues for lowering phosphorus usage as an algae bloom control strategy. 

“The sun’s is going to shine, the wind is going to blow, the grazers are going to fluctuate with the food web and species invasions,” he said in the release. “The one thing you can really control is you can keep the phosphorus down.” 

See more on the study: 

<br><b><i>Top headlines from the Health Care Report … </b></i> 

— A professor in UW-Madison’s School of Pharmacy has developed a new cancer treatment delivery method that could improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy. 

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# Judge orders Enbridge, tribe to form emergency pipeline plan

# State cranberry growers expected to produce more fruit in 2022

# Deer hunters killed around 14 percent more deer during the 2022 gun deer season



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