Month: April 2020

Evers Administration Orders Immediate 5% Reduction in State Spending Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

In a letter to all state employees, Evers’ administration secretary, Joel Brennan, said all of the state’s executive agencies will need to make the reduction in taxpayer-funded operating expenses by June 30.

In a media call with reporters Wednesday, Evers described the cut as a first step to begin addressing anticipated shortfalls in state revenue brought on by an economic recession and the administration’s efforts to reduce transmission of COVID-19 by closing nonessential businesses.

“These things are important,” Evers said. “We think it’s one of our ways to get to a better place financially. Cutting the operations budgets by 5% is approximately $70 million in savings, which is important for us as a government going forward.”

The reduction is in addition to restrictions on state-sponsored out-of-state travel, a hiring freeze with exceptions for COVID-19-related positions and those essential for business functions, and a suspension of discretionary merit compensation.


Companies Seek to Limit Legal Liability for Virus Infections

As companies start planning their reopenings, business groups are pushing Congress to limit liability from potential lawsuits filed by workers and customers infected by the coronavirus.

They appear to have the White House’s ear.

President Donald Trump has floated shielding businesses from lawsuits. His top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on CNBC last week that businesses shouldn’t be held liable to trial lawyers “putting on false lawsuits that will probably be thrown out of court.” He said the issue could require legislation, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that the issue would be a priority when lawmakers return.

At issue is how to balance protecting businesses from lawsuits that could distract them and even lead to financial ruin, while also enabling justice for customers and workers who in a time of rapidly rising unemployment may not have the option of leaving their jobs for something safer.

“If there is no liability on the part of employers without a set of rules by which employers have to abide by, then that means you can have a wild wild west,” said Kent Swig, president of Swig Equities, LLC, a privately owned real estate investment and development company.

“You have to have a balance,” he added, “and you have to have rules and regulations.”

Swig says he’s planning measures like one-way lanes in public corridors in the lobbies and plexiglass dividers in offices at his properties. But he’s seeking national guidelines as well.

Linda Kelly, general counsel at the National Association of Manufacturers, said her trade group is “not trying to protect bad actors, and we are also not saying that liability should be completely eliminated.”

Rather, she said, the group believes “there should be a higher standard in place in order to impose legal liability and that employers who are doing the best that they can with the knowledge they have should not be subject to legal liability.”

Governor Evers Announces Expanded Opportunities for Certain Nonessential Businesses

Yesterday, Governor Tony Evers today announced the another turn of the dial in expanding allowed operations for nonessential businesses, providing even more opportunities for businesses to get back to work in a safe and responsible way.

The Emergency Order, signed on Monday by Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, allows nonessential businesses to do curbside drop-off of goods and animals.

This will allow businesses like dog groomers, small engine repair shops, upholstery businesses, and others to safely open. This order also allows outdoor recreational rentals, such as boats, golf carts, kayaks, ATVs, and other similar recreational vehicles. Additionally, automatic or self-service car washes would be able to operate.

All of these businesses must operate free of contact with customers by providing payment options online or over the phone, enact proper disinfecting practices, and operations must be able to be performed by one staff member.



Paycheck Protection Resumes Today – April 27, 2020

The SBA will resume accepting Paycheck Protection Program applications from participating lenders on Monday, April 27, 2020 at 10:30am EDT.

The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.

You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.

Former Governor Tommy Thompson calls Wisconsin Lawmakers to Work Together to Solve Pandemic

On Thursday, Thompson called on leaders of both parties and Gov. Evers to come together amid the Covid-19 crisis.

“It’s time to come together – it’s time to get together – it’s time to come up with a plan. A plan to get Wisconsin moving. And it’s not a Republican plan, it’s not a Democrat plan, it’s a Wisconsin plan. And that’s what we have to do right now. We’re in an emergency, we’re in a pandemic,” Thompson said.

While he was on board with Gov. Tony Evers’ first ‘Safer at Home’ order, the former governor, who is a Republican, said he hasn’t seen enough of a plan in place for re-opening businesses in Democratic Gov. Evers’ second extension of ‘Safer at Home.’

Thompson said the governor and lawmakers need to work together to bring in tourism, hospitality and tavern industry, and Wisconsin manufacturers and commerce to share ideas about how to open up businesses, saying a “staggered way, that’s going to provide for healthy conditions, and safety for customers.”

He thinks they can find ways to safely re-open some bars, restaurants and attractions, again in a staggered fashion.


U.S. House Set to Act Today on Phase 3.5 Bill to Keep Small Business Loan Programs Funded

On April 21, the Senate passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. The bill—a $484 billion package dubbed “Phase 3.5″—will replenish the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) loan and grant programs; provide support to hospitals and medical facilities; and expand federal, state, and local coronavirus testing efforts. The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation today after which President Trump is expected to sign it into law.

Specifically, in an effort to provide some relief to the nation’s small businesses, the deal reached by Congressional leaders and President Trump includes:

  • An additional $310 billion for the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, with $60 billion specifically allocated for loans made by small lenders and community-based institutions;
  • An extra $50 billion for the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program;
  • An extra $10 billion for the SBA’s Emergency Economic Injury Grant program;
  • A clarification that agricultural enterprises with 500 or fewer employees are eligible to receive EIDLs and emergency grants; and
  • An additional $2.1 billion for the SBA’s administrative expenses.


Wisconsin State Legislature Seeks High Court Review of New Safer-at-Home Order

The Wisconsin Legislature filed a lawsuit directly with the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday challenging DHS Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm’s authority to keep Wisconsin’s economy closed and its residents locked down indefinitely – when even Gov. Tony Evers does not have that power.

The lawsuit accuses the Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-Designee of violating state law by extending the governor’s emergency rules, exceeded her authority by closing businesses and locking down individuals, acting “arbitrarily and capriciously” in her order, and usurping the legislature’s oversight powers. The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction.

“The governor has denied the people a voice through this unprecedented administrative overreach. Unfortunately, that leaves the legislature no choice but to ask the Supreme Court to rein in this obvious abuse of power,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a joint statement. “Wisconsinites deserve certainty, transparency, and a plan to end the constant stream of executive orders that are eroding both the economy and their liberty even as the state is clearly seeing a decline in COVID infections.”

Evers’ issued a shelter-in-place order that went into effect on March 25, he calls “Safer at Home.” It shutdown businesses and organizations he deemed “non-essential,” and banned all gatherings of any number outside of a single family unit. That order was originally scheduled to end on April 24, but Evers has the ability to extend it up to May 10. That’s the day his emergency powers expire and he needs legislative approval to continue his original state of emergency.

Governor Evers Announces Badger Bounce Back Plan

Yesterday, Governor Tony Evers announced Wisconsin’s “Badger Bounce Back” plan which outlines important criteria for Wisconsin to be able to reopen its economy in phases and includes steps to make sure workers and businesses are prepared to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

The Badger Bounce Back plan is informed in part by the President’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again that was issued by the White House on April 16, 2020. Currently, Wisconsin does not meet the criteria the White House established to start reopening our state. The Badger Bounce Back plan takes important steps to get the state of Wisconsin there.

The goal of the Badger Bounce Back plan is to decrease cases and deaths to a low level, and increase capacity in our healthcare system so the phased reopening of businesses is possible.

The Badger Bounce Back plan is available here. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s portion of the Badger Bounce Back plan aimed at helping to ensure workers and businesses are prepared and ready to bounce back is available here.

President Trump, Congress Near Deal on Small Business, Hospital Aid

The Senate is scheduled for a pro forma session Monday, but no vote has been set.

The House announced it could meet as soon as Wednesday for a vote on the pending package, according to a schedule update from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

With small-business owners reeling during a coronavirusoutbreak that has shuttered much economic activity, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was hopeful of a deal that could pass Congress quickly and get the Small Business Administration program back up by midweek.

“I’m hopeful that we can get that done,” Mnuchin said Sunday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also said he believed a deal could be reached. “We still have a few more details to deal with,” he said.

The emerging accord links the administration’s effort to replenish a small-business with Democrats’ demands for more money for hospitals and virus testing. It would provide $300 billion for small-business payroll program, and $50 billion would be available for small business disaster fund. Additionally, it would bring $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing, according to those involved in the talks.

On a conference call Sunday afternoon that included Trump, Mnuchin and Republican senators, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicated the only remaining item for discussion involved the money for testing, according to a Senate GOP leadership aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private call.

Governor Evers Extends Wisconsin’s Safer at Home Order

Yesterday, Governor Tony Evers directed Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to extend the Safer at Home order from April 24, 2020 to 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, 2020, or until a superseding order is issued.

The order implements some new measures to ensure safety and support the progress we’ve made in containing COVID-19, but also allows certain activities to start up again. The order is available here.

The extension of the Safer at Home order includes a few changes. Some changes allow more businesses and activities to open back up, while other changes help make businesses safer for employees and customers.

If you have questions, a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document is available here for your review.