Month: March 2020

DWD Unemployment Call Center Experiencing Unprecedented Call Volume and Urging People to Apply Online

The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) is continuing to urge people to file for unemployment benefits on DWD’s website at The online application process is faster and easier than applying over the phone. Over 98% of the people who have applied through the DWD website have been able to successfully start, complete, and file their claim for unemployment benefits.

DWD is encouraging people to apply online so that the phone lines are open for people who have been specifically instructed to call DWD or for those people who do not have access to a computer or internet.

During the week of March 22, 2020, DWD’s Unemployment Insurance Division (UI) received more than 1.5 million calls, an increase of 6,208% over the busiest weekly call volume. Last Thursday alone, UI received 400,000 calls between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., at times receiving 160 calls per second. The unprecedented number of calls overloaded the system as it was not built to handle this type of call volume.

DWD is diligently working to increase both staff and technology capacity. The department has increased the number of calls UI is able to send and receive, allowing for 690 simultaneous calls, which is up from the 450 simultaneous calls it was previously able to handle.

Additionally, DWD has increased its staff at the UI call center. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, UI call center consisted of 57 employees. Last week, DWD has temporarily added 35 staff members to help with the call volume, totaling 92 call center workers. DWD has now pulled, and is currently training, 40 staff members from other DWD divisions to assist the call center, and DWD would like to hire an additional 80 staff workers to triage calls for unemployment.

DWD wants to remind the public that the week a person becomes unemployed, that person should file an application for unemployment benefits online. For more information, instructional videos, and to apply, please visit

Wisconsin Could Receive $2.2 Billion from Coronavirus Stimulus Funds

Wisconsin state and local governments could receive more than $2.2 billion from the federal government as part of the $2 trillion stimulus package signed Friday to address the economic fallout caused by the new coronavirus.

The estimate was provided by the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office Friday, the same day the U.S. House passed and President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Part of the act sets aside $150 billion in direct aid payments to state and local governments.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Wisconsin could receive about $2.26 billion of that funding based on its population. About $1.9 billion would go directly to state government, according to the Fiscal Bureau.

The rest of Wisconsin’s direct aid payments would go to local governments with populations greater than a half-million people. They include the city of Milwaukee ($102.7 million), Milwaukee County ($164.5 million) and Dane County ($93.4 million).

The Fiscal Bureau memo suggested it was unclear whether states could use the funding to fill budget shortfalls that result from the coronavirus pandemic. Other outstanding questions include whether the state could use the funding to help cities and counties with populations smaller than a half-million people.

The memo was prepared at the request of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau. In a statement released Friday night, Vos said the funding should focus on emergency health care.

What the Federal CARES Act Will Bring to Small Businesses

The $2 trillion stimulus package passed late Wednesday promises to deliver some help to small businesses devastated by Covid-19.

For small business, one of the more important sections of H.R. 748 is the Paycheck Protection Program. This program gives the SBA the ability to guarantee $350 billion in loans to small businesses via a network of more than 800 banks. The Paycheck program provides eight weeks of cash-flow assistance to small businesses with 500 employees or fewer.

The low-interest loans are meant to cover payroll costs, paid sick leave, supply-chain disruptions, employee salaries, health-insurance premiums, and mortgage payments. The maximum loan amount is $10 million while the interest rate on the loans can’t surpass 4%.

If the employers maintain their payrolls until June, the portion of the loans usedfor payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, and utilities would be forgiven.

Self-employed individuals, or those part of the “gig economy,” can access Paycheck loans, as can certain nonprofits, including 501(c)(3) organizations and 501(c)(19) veteran organizations.

The SBA would administer the program once its passed and signed into law.

Senate OKs $2T Coronavirus Stimulus Package; House Sets Friday Vote

By a vote of 96-0, the United States Senate passed a massive $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus compromise package just before midnight Wednesday, ending days of deadlock and sending the bill to the House of Representatives — which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said will soon take up the historic measure to bring relief to individuals, small businesses, and larger corporations “with strong bipartisan support.”

The package would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to married couples making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. After a $75,000 threshold for individuals, the benefit would be reduced by $5 for each $100 the taxpayer makes. A similar $150,000 threshold applies to couples, and a $112,500 threshold for heads of households.

Further, the bill allocates $250 billion to extend unemployment insurance to more workers, and lengthen the duration to 39 weeks, up from the normal 26 weeks. $600 extra a week would be provided for four months.

The final package would additionally provide $349 billion in loans to small businesses — and money spent on rent, payroll and utilities becomes grants that don’t need to be paid back. Many hotels would qualify as small businesses under the plan.

Passenger airlines would receive $25 billion for workers’ “salaries and benefits,” plus up to $25 billion more in loan guarantees and loans. Contract workers would also receive $3 billion in assistance. Airlines would have to agree not to furlough workers until at least the end of September in return.

About $17 billion will go to other distressed companies like Boeing, which is seen as essential to national security. And, approximately $200 billion would be provided in tax assistance to small businesses, including through payroll tax deferrals.

Governor Evers Issues Safer at Home Order

Yesterday, Governor Tony Evers today directed Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue a Safer at Home order that prohibits all nonessential travel, with some exceptions as clarified and defined in the order. The order is available here.

The order is effective at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 and will remain in effect until 8:00 a.m. on Friday, April 24, 2020, or until a superseding order is issued.

Individuals do not need special permission to leave their homes, but they must comply with this order as to when it is permissible to leave home. Similarly, if a business is an Essential Business or Operation as defined in this order, it does not need documentation or certification to continue its work that is done in compliance with this order.

Businesses allowed to operate under the Safer at Home order include, but are not limited to:

• Health care operations, including home health workers;

• Critical infrastructure;

• Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise vulnerable individuals;

• Fresh and non-perishable food retailers, including convenience stores, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and food banks;

• Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food and goods directly to residences;

• Pharmacies, health care supply stores and health care facilities;

• Child care facilities, with some limitations;

• Gas stations and auto repair facilities;

• Banks;

• Laundry businesses, dry cleaners and services necessary for maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of a residence, including garbage collection;

• Hardware stores, plumbers, and electricians; and

• Roles required for any business to maintain minimum basic operations, which includes security, and payroll.

The order contains detailed information regarding the exemptions provided to certain businesses. If a business is unsure about whether or not they are exempted from this order, please contact the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation here.

Governor Evers Announce Updated Mass Gatherings Order

On Friday, Governor Evers issued updates to the previous order prohibiting mass gatherings of 10 or more people. The updated order maintains the ban on gatherings of 10 or more people and indefinite school closures, but includes some important changes and clarifications:

• Treats bars and restaurants are the same. Bars will be able to have carryout sales of alcohol and food, if allowed by local ordinances and state law. This will help ensure thousands of establishments can stay in business during this unprecedented health emergency.

• Media and news organizations can remain open to provide the public with vital information.

• Laundromats may remain open.

• Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions may remain open if they practice social distancing.

• All parts of the food delivery system – from farms to stores – may remain open.

• Clarifies that cafeterias in healthcare facilities may remain open to serve our healthcare workers.

• Allied health professions, such as acupuncturists, are unaffected by the mass gathering ban.

• All parts of our transportation system can continue to serve our economy.

• Any facility used for in-person absentee voting or as a polling location may remain open for voting, except for sites at long-term care and assisted care facilities.

• Hair salons, day spas, nail salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, body art establishments, and tanning facilities must close effective 5 pm on Fri., March 20, 2020.

All gatherings that bring together or are likely to bring together 10 or less people in a single room or confined space, whether inside or outside, at the same time must preserve social distancing and follow all other public health recommendations issued by DHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Voluntary cancellation, closure, or limitations on the size of gatherings beyond the requirements of this order are permitted and encouraged.

United States Treasury Department Delays Tax Filing Deadline to July 15

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday said that the deadline for filing tax returns is being moved from April 15 to July 15, after his department earlier this week similarly extended the due date for tax payments amid the coronavirus.

“At @realDonaldTrump’s direction, we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15,” Mnuchin tweeted. “All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.”

Mnuchin also encouraged people who might be in line for tax refunds “to file now to get your money.” Typically, about 70 percent of individual tax returns claim refunds.

WEDC Announces Targeted Grants to Small Businesses Suffering Losses due to COVID-19 Outbreak

The WEDC Board of Directors on Tuesday approved $5 million in funding for the program, which will be known as Small Business 20/20 (SB20/20). SB20/20 will provide grants of up to $20,000 to targeted businesses with no more than 20 employees to cover rent and to meet payroll expenses, including paid leave (including sick, family and other leave related to COVID-19).

“This is an important first step by WEDC in helping small businesses in our state and their employees who are facing lost revenues, missed paychecks and other uncertainty due to COVID-19,” said Governor Tony Evers. “As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to be felt, we will be relying on WEDC to develop additional innovative programs to meet the needs of our state.”

The grants will be deployed by partnering with state’s 23 community development financial institutions (CDFIs). Because the CDFIs have pre-existing relationships with many of these small businesses, CDFIs will be able to provide the grants quickly and directly to their clients.

CDFIs are specialized community-based financial institutions with a primary mission to promote economic development by providing financial products and services to people and communities underserved by traditional financial institutions, particularly in low income communities. CDFIs include community development banks, credit unions and non-regulated institutions such as nonprofit loan funds or venture capital funds.

WEDC is encouraging CDFIs with a minimum organizational loan portfolio of at least $4 million to participate in SB20/20. In addition, smaller CDFIs are encouraged to work together and apply as part of a collaborative with a combined organizational loan portfolio of at least $4 million, designating one CDFI as the lead applicant/recipient of funds. CDFIs that don’t meet the minimum portfolio size are also encouraged to collaborate with the larger CDFIs to serve their clients.

More information about the program is available at

Treasury and IRS to Delay Tax Payment Deadline by 90 Days

Taxpayers will get a three-month reprieve to pay the income taxes they owe for 2019, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday at a news conference.

As part of its coronavirus response, the federal government will give filers 90 days to pay income taxes due on up to $1 million in tax owed, Mnuchin said in Washington. The reprieve on that amount would cover many pass-through entities and small businesses, he said.

Corporate filers would get the same length of time to pay amounts due on up to $10 million in taxes owed, Mnuchin said.

During that three-month deferral period, taxpayers won’t be subject to interest and penalties, he said.

You should still get your 2019 income tax return to the federal government as soon as possible, especially if you’re due a refund and need cash.

“We encourage those Americans who can file their taxes to continue to file their taxes on April 15,” Mnuchin said. “Because for many Americans, you will get tax refunds.”

While the federal government is granting taxpayers a little more time, you should still check in on your state’s position.

Some states have rolled out delays due to coronavirus.

Governor Directs DHS to Limit Gatherings to Less Than 10 to Slow Spread of COVID-19

Gov. Tony Evers today directed Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue an agency order prohibiting mass gatherings of 10 people or more to slow the spread of COVID-19 effective 5:00 p..m. today – Tuesday, March 17.

The order makes exceptions for transportation, educational institutions, child care, hotels, military, law enforcement, food pantries, hospitals, long-term care facilities, restaurants and bars can only offer take-out or delivery, grocery stores and convenience stores, utility facilities, job centers, and courts.

See full order and list of exemptions here. Additionally, schools will be closed for the duration of the public health emergency.

“Our top priority at this time is to keep Wisconsinites safe and healthy by reducing the spread of COVID19, especially for those who are considered high-risk. With limited tests available nationwide and continued community spread, we have to take every precaution to protect ourselves, our families, and our neighbors,” said Gov. Evers.

“I know what this means for our small business owners and the struggles they and their workers will face in the coming weeks, but we are committed to working with our federal partners, state officials, and stakeholders to ensure we are doing everything we can to assist during these uncertain times.”