News of the Day

White House Seeks Limited Coronavirus Relief Bill

The Trump administration on Sunday called on Congress to pass a stripped-down coronavirus relief bill using leftover funds from an expired small-business loan program, as negotiations on a broader package ran into resistance.

The administration proposal, which Democrats dismissed as inadequate, was the latest twist in on-again, off-again talks to try to secure more stimulus, as the economy struggles to recover from coronavirus-related shutdowns that threw millions of Americans out of work.

In a letter to lawmakers, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of State Mark Meadows said they would continue to talk to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to try to reach agreement on a comprehensive bill.

But they said Congress should “immediately vote” on legislation to enable the use of the unused Paycheck Protection Program funds, which total around $130 billion.

“The all or nothing approach is an unacceptable response to the American people,” they wrote.

Second Round of We’re All In Grants will Provide $50 Million for Small Businesses

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will provide a second round of We’re All In Small Business Grants to distribute an additional $50 million to small businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tony Evers announced on Tuesday.

Applications for the grants will open at 8 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19, and close at 11:59 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2. As with the previous round of We’re All In Grants, awards will not be made on a first-come, first-served basis.

Businesses that received funds under the first round of We’re All In Grants, as well as the Ethnic Minority Emergency Grant program, are also eligible for the second round of We’re All In Grants. Priority will be given to businesses that have not previously received funds from either of the first two programs, those with ethnically diverse ownership, and those in the hardest-hit sectors, such as restaurants and taverns, hair and nail salons and barber shops, and other services.

The grants will be administered by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue in partnership with WEDC. Learn more about the program and apply at

To be eligible for the second round of We’re All In Grants, an applicant must:

  • be a Wisconsin-based, for-profit business;
  • in 2019, have 75% or more of company labor costs in Wisconsin and 75% of their assets in Wisconsin;
  • earn more than $0 and less than $1 million in annual revenues (gross sales and receipts); and
  • have started operating prior to Jan. 1, 2020, (Seasonal businesses should use the highest total FTEs employed during the season.)
  • have filed their 2019 taxes.

For this round, We’re All In Grants will be administered by the Department of Revenue in partnership with WEDC.


Judge Extends Injunction that Prevents Naming Businesses with COVID-19 Positive Employees

A Waukesha County judge agreed to continue blocking Gov. Tony Evers’ administration from releasing the names of businesses that have at least two employees test positive for COVID-19.

Online court records show that a hearing in the case has been scheduled for Nov. 30 at 2 p.m.

The records do not specify for how long the court’s injunction will last, only that it was extended Wednesday during a motion hearing.

Waukesha County Judge Lloyd V. Carter first blocked the Evers administration from releasing the information on Oct. 1.

The initial order extended for five days.

Several media outlets have filed requests for the information, and Evers said that the state intended to comply with their requests.


Governor Evers Issues Emergency Order Limiting Indoor Public Gatherings

Gov. Tony Evers’ administration issued an order Tuesday restricting the size of crowds at indoor locations like restaurants and bars, citing a spike in COVID-19 cases that has strained hospitals across the state.

The order is set to take effect at 8 a.m. Thursday. It would end Nov. 6.

Under the order, a private venue would be limited to 25 percent of its usual capacity. For example, a restaurant with a capacity of 200 would be limited to a crowd of 50.

The list of exemptions to the order is long. It wouldn’t restrict outdoor gatherings, where the state Department of Health Services said the risk of COVID-19 transmission was lower.

The order also wouldn’t apply to indoor workplaces that aren’t open to the public, like a warehouse or manufacturing plant.

Many of the same businesses that were exempt from the stay-at-home order would also be exempt from this order, such as grocery stores or construction businesses.

Universities and K-12 schools would be exempt from the order, as would child care centers. Campaign events, polling places and churches would also be exempt.

It would be up to local governments to enforce the order. They could issue fines of up to $500, but it wouldn’t carry criminal penalties.

How the U.S. Economy Powered Through Q3

The U.S. economy was resilient in the third quarter, with sales and growth powering higher despite the persistent coronavirus pandemic, increased uncertainty about the future and Congress’ inability to pass another spending package to help struggling small businesses and unemployed workers.

Driving the news: Bank of America on Monday revised its third quarter growth forecast to 33%, up from 27%, and just below Goldman Sachs’ recently revised forecast for a 35% jump, up from 30%.

  • While both are well above the Wall Street average (consensus is for 25.9% growth, per FactSet), the two heavyweights’ lofty predictions highlight a theme of improved expectations.

What happened: Even with fewer businesses open and social distancing restrictions in place, Americans increased their spending significantly, especially on vehicles, furniture, home renovations, electronics and at big box retail stores.

  • August’s U.S. retail sales report showed a 2.6% increase from August 2019 and total sales for the June–August 2020 period were up 2.4% from the same period a year ago.
  • June and July’s increases were thanks largely to direct payments and enhanced unemployment benefits paid by the government, but even after they expired Americans kept spending.

Wisconsin’s Economy Shrunk by Nearly 33% Between April And June

Wisconsin’s economy shrunk by an annual rate of 32.6 percent between April and June compared to the first three months of 2020, according to new numbers released Friday from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The drop is the highest recorded by the agency since it started tracking quarterly GDP figures for states in 2005. It dwarfs some of the worst losses seen in past quarters, which hover around 8 percent.

Wisconsin’s economy totaled $314 billion in the second quarter of 2020, down from $348 billion in the second quarter of 2019.

The state’s losses put it virtually in line with the contraction seen across the five-state Great Lakes region, which shrunk overall at an annual rate of 32.8 percent. Among the Great Lakes states, Illinois’ economy fared the best in the second quarter, and Michigan saw the biggest losses.

The sectors that slowed down growth the most were durable goods manufacturing, health care and social assistance, and hotels and the food service industry.

Judge Blocks State Release of Employer COVID-19 Data

A judge in Waukesha County has temporarily blocked the state from going through with its planned release of data going back to May about which Wisconsin employers had at least two cases of COVID-19.

The order comes in response to a lawsuit filed Thursday seeking to prevent the state from releasing that data by the state’s largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, in conjunction with chambers of commerce in Muskego and New Berlin.

Gov. Tony Evers said shortly after the lawsuit was filed that his administration has received multiple open records requests to release that information, and that attorneys for the state have said it would be a legitimate release of data.

“We have an obligation to the public to obey the law in that area,” Evers said, “and we will be releasing (that data) to the people in the media that have asked for that information in the very near future.”

According to WMC, the data could have been released as early as Friday. Their lawsuit was filed Thursday afternoon.

The lawsuit argues that revealing that information would violate the privacy of COVID-19 patients.

“The statutes make it clear that if you release the name of a patient’s employer, that allows for that patient to be identified,” said Ryan Walsh, WMC’s attorney. “That is a violation of that patient’s privacy rights.”

WMC also pointed out the potential harm to businesses, saying in the suit that the release of those businesses’ names “will falsely create the impression that the businesses at issue are somehow dangerous” even though some may not have had positive cases for months.

Consumer Confidence in U.S. Posts Biggest Gain in 17 Years

Consumer confidence rebounded in September by the most in more than 17 years as Americans grew more upbeat about the outlook for the economy and job market, though sentiment remained below pre-pandemic levels.

The Conference Board’s index increased 15.5 points, the most since April 2003, to 101.8 from August’s upwardly revised 86.3, according to a report issued Tuesday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a reading of 90 in September, and the figure exceeded all estimates.

Respondents indicated they were more likely to make big purchases in the months ahead. The share expecting to buy major appliances rose to a seven-month high of 49% from 44.9%. Those planning to buy a car increased to 11.8% from 10.1%, and more intended to buy a home.

The share of survey respondents who said they expected their incomes to increase rose to a six-month high of 17.5%, though that’s down from 22.7% who said so in February before the pandemic. Optimism in general was driven by higher-income individuals, the report showed.

Larger shares also expected more jobs and better business conditions in coming months.

Consumers that said business conditions are currently favorable increased to a five-month high of 18.3% from 16%. The percentage of consumers who said jobs are hard to come by decreased to 20%, the lowest since March, from 23.6%.


WEDC to Award $3 Million to Small Businesses with COVID-19 Innovations

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is sponsoring the We’re All Innovating Contest to recognize and promote the creative ways startups and small businesses are adapting to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The We’re All Innovating Contest will provide a total of $3 million to approximately 195 winners selected through a competitive process to support new business models and technological innovations, from specific health-related solutions to technology that addresses how we’re changing the way we live, learn and work. Top winners in the categories will receive a maximum of $68,000 to take their ideas forward.

The We’re All Innovating Contest aims to provide funding for both new and existing companies that have introduced innovations responding to direct health and economic impacts of COVID19; launching new innovations, including business models and best practices for operating during COVID-19; and providing access to capital statewide, including rurally located and ethnically diverse entrepreneurs.

The contest is designed to reward as many of these ideas as possible. It will help offset costs incurred since March 1 and those anticipated through December 30, 2020. Additional criteria will consider progress to date and the potential for the innovation to move forward.

The competition is open to new and established businesses with 50 employees or less.
Businesses may enter in one of the following categories of innovation:

• Technology innovation to address COVID-19 impacts on health
• Technology innovation to address COVID-19 impacts on businesses
• Service and business operation innovations to respond to COVID-19 disruption

The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. Sunday, October 18, 2020. For additional details and to apply, visit WEDC is working with the Wisconsin Technology Council and judges across the state to process and evaluate applications for the contest.

Industry Survey Paints Bleak Picture for Wisconsin Hotels and Lodges

A new internal survey finds nearly half of the state’s hotels and lodges may not make it another year without some financial assistance.

The numbers released by the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association showed 47 percent of lodging facilities face closing within 12 months unless they receive a loan or grant assistance.

On top of that, the survey also revealed half of their pre-pandemic staff remain furloughed or laid off.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is the single greatest crisis the hotel and lodging industry has ever faced and the situation remains dire.  We need to see some true leadership out of Madison and at the federal level if the hotel and lodging industry is going to weather this storm,” WH&LA President & CEO Bill Elliott said.

The state association also pointed to national figures from the American Hotel & Lodging Association that reported more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents stated they would be able to make it six more months at current revenue projections without any relief. Nearly three-quarters predicted more layoffs would be likely as well.