Month: August 2021

UW–Madison Ranked First among Public Universities by Washington Monthly

The University of Wisconsin–Madison is the highest ranking national public university and fourth overall in Washington Monthly’s 2021 College Guide and Rankings.

UW–Madison ranked seventh in research expenditures, seventh in the number of science and engineering PhDs awarded, and 25th in faculty accolades (number of faculty receiving prestigious awards and number who are members of the National Academies, relative to the number of full-time faculty). On the “best bang for the buck” list of national universities, it ranked fourth.

The university also performed well in the category of service, ranking 11th in the number of alumni, relative to college size, who go on to serve in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. UW–Madison is among the top 10 schools with the highest percentage of degrees awarded in service-oriented majors, including health, education and social work.

State of Wisconsin’s Bond Rating Upgraded by Multiple Agencies.

On Friday, Governor Tony Evers announced that the state of Wisconsin’s bond rating has been upgraded by multiple agencies. Kroll Bond Rating Agency upgraded its long-term rating to AAA from AA+ for General Obligation (GO) Bonds, and S&P Global Ratings raised its long-term rating to AA+ from AA.

The upgraded ratings will provide the state of Wisconsin an avenue to borrow money at lower interest rates, which will result in lower debt service costs to Wisconsin taxpayers. The AAA rating from Kroll Bond Rating Agency is the first time the state’s underlying bond rating has been at the AAA-level by any rating agency since 1982. Kroll had last upgraded the state’s rating to AA+ in 2017, and S&P had last upgraded the state’s rating to AA in 2008.

In upgrading Wisconsin’s rating, Kroll Bond Rating Agency cited, the state’s “substantial liquidity, evidenced by a near tripling of budget reserves over the past three years; continuing, healthy revenue growth, despite substantial tax cuts; and an ongoing, post-COVID-19 recovery, fueled by a mature and expanding economy and favorable business climate.” S&P Global Ratings noted it expects the state “will continue to take responsive budgetary actions” to ensure the state’s fiscal stability, specifically pointing to the governor’s authority to responsibly manage the state’s budget. The state also maintains its ratings from Moody’s Investors Service at Aa1 and Fitch Ratings at AA+.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Nationwide Residential Eviction Moratorium

The United States Supreme Court has struck down President Biden’s eviction moratorium, ruling that it can only be extended via action from Congress.

Landlords in Alabama and Georgia who challenged the earlier evictions ban quickly returned to court, where they received a sympathetic hearing. U.S. Judge Dabney Friedrich, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, said the new moratorium was beyond the CDC’s authority.

Most evictions for unpaid rent have been halted since the early days of the pandemic and there are now more than 15 million people living in households that owe as much as $20 billion in back rent, according to the Aspen Institute.

A majority of single-family rental homeowners have been impacted, according to a survey from the National Rental Home Council, and 50% say they have tenants who have missed rent during the pandemic.

Smaller landlords with fewer than four units, who often don’t have the financing of larger property owners, were hit especially hard, with as many as 58% having tenants behind on rent, according to the National Association of Realtors. More than half of back rent is owed to smaller landlords.

Landlords, big and small, are most angry about the moratoriums, which they consider illegal. Many believe some tenants could have paid rent, if not for the moratorium. The $47 billion in federal rental assistance that was supposed to make landlords whole has been slow to materialize. By July, only $3 billion of the first tranche of $25 billion had been distributed.

Application Period Opens for $15 Million Destination Marketing Grant Program

Yesterday, the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) announced it is accepting applications for a $15 million grant program designed to assist tourism, convention, and events organizations that were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) Grant Program will provide financial support for destination marketing organizations that promote and develop tourism activities in Wisconsin as part of Wisconsin’s continued bounce back from the pandemic.

The DMO grant program will provide funding of up to $1,000,000 per eligible organization, based on expenses incurred between March 3, 2021, and December 31, 2022.

DMO Grants will be administered by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA). Applications for the program are open now through September 29, 2021. Informational webinars and program FAQ to follow. Grant recipients will be announced later this fall.

Additional information, including grant program criteria, is available on the Destination Marketing Grant website.

Durable Goods Orders Slip as Supply Chain Disruptions Persist

Orders for big-ticket items slipped last month as manufacturers continued to navigate a supply chain crunch that has resulted in higher materials costs.

New orders for manufactured durable goods in July fell 0.1% to a seasonally adjusted $257.2 billion, according to the Census Bureau. Excluding transportation, new orders decreased 0.7%. They fell 1.2% when excluding defense.

Supply chain disruptions that were caused by factories shutting down in an attempt to help slow the spread of COVID-19 resulted in unfilled orders increasing for a sixth straight month, rising 0.3% to $1.225 trillion. Unfilled machinery orders, which have increased 16 straight months, rose by $2.3 billion to $109.2 billion.


Governor Creates a COVID-19 Vaccine Incentive Program

Gov. Tony Evers is turning to cash incentives to persuade more Wisconsin residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a more contagious variant of the virus threatens the state.

Evers announced a new program Monday that would distribute through Labor Day $100 Visa gift cards to anyone in the state who gets their first shot of a vaccine from a Wisconsin provider between August 20 and September 6.

The governor told reporters at a news conference at Winnebago Health Department in Oshkosh that he had been skeptical of creating an incentive program but changed his mind after seeing results of a new program in Michigan that provides cash prizes ranging from $50,000 to $2 million.

“I’ll be quite frank with you, I was one of the skeptics of the discussion, but I saw how well this particular program worked in the state of Michigan,” he said. “Time for me to move beyond that and do the incentive. It is really important for us to make sure this school year gets off to a good start, and this is one of the ways to do that is to make that happen.”

The gift cards will be mailed to applicants and may take up to six weeks to be distributed. To receive the card, eligible Wisconsin residents should fill out a form available at, which will be used to verify the vaccine was administered.

FDA Grants Full Approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday granted the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine full approval. The federal agency reached the milestone of issuing the first complete authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine after an approximately three-month review of Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech’s application to the FDA for full approval.

The vaccine will be marketed as Comirnaty, with the full authorization applying to vaccine recipients age 16 and older, the FDA announced in a release.

The FDA’s emergency use authorization will remain in place for those between the ages of 12 and 15. The emergency use authorization also still applies for a third dose for immunocompromised people.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, like the other two available in the U.S., had been given emergency use authorization, allowing it to be administered only during the public health emergency. But under the full authorization, the FDA is giving permission for patients to get the shots once the public health emergency is declared over.

More than 204 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been administered across the country under the emergency use authorization, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Governor Announces New Round of Farm Aid from Latest Federal Relief Funding

Wisconsin farmers will be receiving another $50 million in direct payments later this fall.

Governor Tony Evers announced the new funding Wednesday for the Wisconsin Farm Support Program, which the state created last year to help farmers recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, the state distributed $50 million in direct payments to farmers who applied through the state Department of Revenue. Producers who made between $35,000 and $5 million in gross income on their 2019 tax filings were eligible for a payment up to $3,500.

Officials say the application period will open after the fall harvest to give farmers enough time to learn about the program and apply. DATCP and the DOR will work together to administer the program.


TSA Extends Mask Rule for Airline Passengers to January

Federal officials are extending into January a requirement that people on airline flights and public transportation wear face masks, a rule intended to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Transportation Security Administration’s current order was scheduled to expire Sept. 13. An agency spokesman said Tuesday that the mandate will be extended until Jan. 18.

The TSA briefed airline industry representatives on its plan Tuesday and planned to discuss it with airline unions on Wednesday. The mask rule also applies to employees on planes and public transportation.

Individual airlines declined to comment on the Biden administration’s decision, and their trade group, Airlines for America, said only that U.S. carriers will strictly enforce the rule. A broader group, the U.S. Travel Association, said the extension “has the travel industry’s full support.” The largest union of flight attendants said the move will help keep passengers and aviation workers safe.

Fisker, the Electric Carmaker Eyeing Partnering with Foxconn, Wants a Wisconsin Law Changed

The cofounder of the electric automaker partnering with Foxconn to possibly build vehicles in Racine County wants a Wisconsin law changed.

In an interview with Forbes published this week, Fisker CEO Henrik Fisker said that a nearly century-old state law could stand in the way of his company and Foxconn deciding to construct vehicles in (and bring jobs to) Mount Pleasant.

The law in question dates back to the 1930s. It requires franchised car dealers to sell vehicles to consumers; carmakers (i.e. Ford, Tesla, General Motors, Honda, BMW, etc.) cannot sell their vehicles directly to consumers, with few exceptions.

“The one sticking point for Fisker — now, this is still Foxconn’s decision — but the one sticking point for me would be that I don’t want to start producing a car in a state where I can’t sell my car direct,” Henrik Fisker told Alan Ohnsman of Forbes. “If they change those (rules) I think they will be in the lead, but right now they’re not.

Defenders of the law, including the Wisconsin Auto & Truck Dealers Association, say the ban on direct sales opens up more job opportunities and protects pre-existing automobile dealers.

WATDA President William Sepic said that the ban on direct sales protects consumers. Car salespeople are able to “be an advocate” between consumer and manufacturer, Sepic argued. By making it easier to take dealers out of the picture, consumers could lose out.

“Think about it like this,” he said in an interview Friday. “If you have three car dealers, they can each set different prices for the exact same car, and the consumer can pick and choose. Likewise, they can make three different offers on buying a used car.”