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COVID-19 resources for Wisconsinites

Posted by Sarah Godlewski, State Treasurer
Sarah Godlewski, State Treasurer
Sarah Godlewski, State Treasurer has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 24 March 2020
in Wisconsin

coronavirus-hand-sanState Treasurer offers helpful information in dealing with the crisis.

MADISON - I know we are facing trying times. COVID-19 is impacting not only the health of our loved ones but people’s livelihood. Yet despite it all, the people of Wisconsin continue to amaze me with their acts of kindness and generosity to those around them.

We are grateful to the health care professionals, the public safety officers, the day care providers and everyone else who are making sacrifices to help others. I know that together, we can make it through this.

sarah-godlewskiI’ve heard from a number of small business leaders from across the state who have shared their personal stories of having to shut down or lay off workers. I’m working with key government partners to provide support for our state businesses and have shared a few of those resources available below.

Beyond businesses, I also want to share some community resources for those in need.

I understand these resources will not help everyone, but they are an important start. I will continue to work to provide additional resources and information for workers and businesses who are navigating this time of uncertainty.

Food Security

  • Stores across the state are starting Senior Shopping Hours, so that those most at risk can shop safely.
  • Hunger Task Force is offering Stock Boxes, featuring cereal, milk, canned veggies and fruits, pasta or rice, protein, fruit juice, canned meats and 2 pounds of cheese, to low income Wisconsinites. If you want to help, donate here.

Resources for Small Businesses

  • Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is creating solutions for businesses. WEDC is working to provide $5 million in grants for small businesses of fewer than twenty people. Learn more about it here.
  • The Small Business Administration has approved Governor Evers’ request for loans for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Apply here.

Mental Health

  • If you are struggling with mental health, support is available. Call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746

Childcare and Resources for Students

  • The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families has information for child care, including requests for assistance.

Volunteer Opportunities

  • No matter where you live in Wisconsin, there are opportunities for people looking to help out. Check out Volunteer Wisconsin for ways to support your community.

I was living near the Pentagon on 9/11. I remember in those hours and days after, that I didn’t know how we would possibly recover as a nation. But then I saw neighbors and friends giving blood, volunteering and helping each other get by, one day at a time.

This pandemic is unlike any crisis we have ever faced as a nation, but I know that, if we follow the safety precautions and continue to work together, we will be successful.


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Vote NO on Marsy’s Law

Posted by Fred Risser, State Senator District 26
Fred Risser, State Senator District 26
Fred Risser, State Senator District 26 has not set their biography yet
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on Friday, 20 March 2020
in Wisconsin

marcys-law-ad-wiQuestion on Apr 7 ballot, innocuously seeking expansion of crime victims’ rights, masks an amendment twice as long as the Bill of Rights that will alter protections at the foundation of our criminal justice system, says Senator Fred Risser.

MADISON - Wisconsin’s April ballot contains a so called victims’ rights question that merits a resounding “NO” answer.

The question, innocuously seeking expansion of crime victims’ rights, masks an amendment twice as long as the Bill of Rights that will alter protections at the foundation of our criminal justice system.

Don’t let the question’s statement that the amendment leaves federal rights intact fool you. The proposed amendment will eliminate rights under the state constitution and statutes.

If passed, the amendment would diminish the rights of those accused of crime and chip away at the presumption of innocence. “Victims” are determined prior to any crime even being proved. Those alleged victims could be allowed to withhold evidence that may prove a defendant’s innocence, which could encourage and protect false accusers. Alleged victims could demand attendance at proceedings even when fairness to the defendant requires separation of witnesses. Alleged victims may interfere with the role of the public prosecutor with unlimited conferences and input.

fred-risserIf passed, the amendment could hinder crime-solving and reduce public safety. Under the amendment, an alleged victim may claim a right to privacy that prevents police from disclosing the location of a crime or particular facts that could generate public tips leading to the perpetrators.

If passed, the amendment’s notice provisions will likely increase court administrative costs and delay court proceedings. Courts will need to track down potential victims, provide them with notice, and probably halt proceedings (even trials) if an alleged victim enforces the right to attend but the schedule doesn’t work for him or her. In South Dakota, a similar amendment swamped court staff with paperwork and delayed proceedings.

Not only is this drastic amendment unwise, but it is completely unnecessary in Wisconsin. The language is not tailored to our state. Our state constitution and statutes already provide numerous victims’ rights, including the right to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect for privacy.

While helping victims is laudable, this amendment is not the way to do it. Victims are better served by provision of additional resources for victims than by altering the balance between an accused and the state.

Fred Risser, State Senator

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Fellow Seniors - How is America treating your grandkids?

Posted by Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist
Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist
Buzz Davis, formerly of Stoughton, WI now of Tucson, is a long time progressive
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on Thursday, 19 March 2020
in Wisconsin

student-on-sidewalkLong time progressive activist supports Sen. Bernie Sanders.

TUCSON, AZ - Seniors pay attention to politics and we VOTE. Our votes count heavily. There will be many close races this year.

We’re old and have survived wars, recessions, layoffs, strikes, good times and bad, poor health and deaths of family and friends. We’ve worked with many people and judge good character a bit better than when we were teens.

Our present president has a character problem. Leading government and foreign affairs is very complex. It’s critical to our grandchildren’s’ future to have leaders we can trust - not people who lead us into being killed or trapped.

We seniors know when we’re in trouble.

Because of past failures, we face climate disaster, nuclear war disaster, run-a-way greed and corruption that has led to the greatest wealth inequality in decades and the disaster of ”forever wars” costing trillions and killing millions. When we find 1% of the people controlling twice the wealth of the next 6.9 billion people, we know we’re in trouble and ripe for civil wars.

We seniors are dumping all these disasters on our kids. Corporations, our economy and federal and state governments have created an educational and work world for our kids and grandkids that results in LESS economic security than our parents left us. People can educate themselves, work hard all their lives, play by the rules and still end up in retirement barely living above poverty.

With inflation factored in, the average annual wage for workers has NOT improved much since the 1970’s. Jobs have gone from offering health care and pensions to NOT offering pensions and forcing workers to pay thousands for healthcare – if they get healthcare.

Many have no sick leave so they cannot properly care for ill children.

Many of our parents were in unions and nearly 30% of us were unionists. But unions are now busted. Only 8% of private sector workers are in good paying, union jobs with benefits and pensions.

How can we get out of this fix? Senators Warren and Sanders advocate strong structural “change” in America. Biden fears change’s impacts on special interests.

It’s like America is on the ship Titanic.

The watchman seeing icebergs yells, “Danger Ahead!” The Titanic captain is steering toward that iceberg knowing the Titanic will never sink. Biden says calmly to passengers, with the orchestra playing in the background, “Trust me - just a few policy tweaks, we’ll be OK!” Sanders is racing to the Captain yelling, “Change course Now – damn it!”

Meanwhile Trump is handling your grandkids’ futures between golf games saying, “All that crisis talk is fake news.”

We must vote to build a better world for our grandkids.

If we Don’t change our ways, the America we know Won’t be there for our grandkids.

Until we stop polluting our atmosphere, rising oceans, flooding rivers, violent storms, droughts, fires, high winds, super high temperatures, heavy snows will get worse killing the planet for human habitation.

Scientists tell us nuclear war will create a “nuclear winter” with clouds blocking sunlight prohibiting most crop growth for years - starving hundreds of millions who have lived through the nuclear blasts and months of worldwide fires and radiation.

These existential threats, will destroy our way of life, democracy and earth.

Syrian woman and child

Seniors, the world’s children deserve a chance to live life. They must not pay for our failures with their deaths.

We must vote for massive, progressive change to pull America back from the brink looming disaster.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is the one who provides us with the best plans to solve our problems.

Vote Sanders to give little kids a fighting chance!

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Emergency Preparedness to Build Resilient Communities

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 18 March 2020
in Wisconsin

flood-wi-fieldSen. Smith talks about the importance of emergency preparedness to protect communities from natural disasters or public health emergencies, specifically, the Flood Prevention & Resilience Plan targeted toward flood prevention and relief.

EAU CLAIRE, WI - Emergencies hit communities without notice and threaten our local economies. We are facing an unprecedented public health emergency right now, but we have faced emergencies before and we’ve become stronger from it.

Flooding in western Wisconsin has tested our communities’ responses to emergencies. Public health emergencies and flooding are dramatically different emergencies, but both require us to work together to keep our communities healthy and safe.

We’ve seen political leaders show up for photo opportunities when something dramatic happens, especially after a natural disaster. It’s not bad when leaders show up; it’s important they see firsthand what happened and be an advocate, but there’s more to do.  We need to know how we can prevent disasters in the future and how to support those affected by these events.

jeff-smithThat’s why, just last week, I joined Governor Tony Evers for a visit to the Town of Dodge and the City of Arcadia. Last year, Governor Evers made the same visit when both places were flooded in Trempealeau County. Flooding has become an annual occurrence in these places. What we once called 100-year floods are now considered normal.

Flooding has not occurred yet this season and this was no photo opportunity with any press in Dodge. This visit occurred because Governor Evers hasn’t forgotten last year’s floods. Rather than wait until the next flood happens, the Governor and I want to continue the conversations we had last year with local government officials and introduce planning measures to address conditions that make flooding more frequent and severe in western Wisconsin.

Between 1950 and 2006, communities in every region of Wisconsin, have experienced an increase of average annual rainfall by more than 7 inches, according to the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. The increase in rainfall, along with destruction of our wetlands and failing infrastructure, directly correlate to the escalating frequency of floods in Wisconsin. Together, these factors threaten our community’s public safety, health and economic security.

In the meetings, residents and local officials voiced concerns that flood prevention measures cost too much. Local town, city and county budgets are already stretched and cannot handle the expensive fixes needed to protect residents from flooding. That’s where the state needs to step up to the plate.

After the tour of Trempealeau County, Governor Evers, myself and several of my legislative colleagues introduced the Flood Prevention & Resilience Plan, a package of 6 bills directly targeted toward flood prevention and relief. This package of bills will:

·         Invest $10 million into the Municipal Flood Control grant program to help municipalities fund flood prevention projects, including flood proofing, riparian restoration, acquisition of vacant land, construction of flood control structures and flood mapping projects.

·         Create a flood mitigation program to proactively address infrastructure that is identified as at-risk and provide local units of government with grant reimbursements to cover 50% of the cost of modifying, replacing, or relocating culverts or bridges.

·         Increase funding for the Soil and Water Resource Management grant program to promote the installation of structural pollution-abatement and conservation practices.

·         Require all emergency work, designated by Federal Emergency Management Agency, be eligible for disaster assistance payments, including debris removal, protective measures for roads and bridges, water control facilities, utilities, and parks. Legislation will also reduce the amount recipients of disaster assistance payments are required to make.

·         Allow individuals to deduct amounts of premiums paid for flood insurance from their taxes.

·         Incentivize local governments to rebuild infrastructure at a higher capacity to withstand flooding by increasing the reimbursement rate paid to local governments.

These flood prevention investments will help local governments rebuild and prepare when the next flood emergency happens. I’m impressed by Governor Evers’ commitment to take proactive steps to help communities susceptible to flooding. Governor Evers didn’t show up for a photo opportunity in a disaster area. He came back when the cameras weren’t rolling to talk with people about how to make their lives better and communities stronger.

Now, it’s up to the Legislature to move forward on these proposals. In the meantime, remember to do everything you can to prepare yourself by getting flood insurance and staying educated by visiting

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Logic behind Healthcare

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 11 March 2020
in Wisconsin

medicaid_checkupOver the past thirty years, Wisconsin has fallen 16 spots in national healthcare outcomes to 23rd. It’s beyond time to give Wisconsinites the care they deserve by expanding Medicaid.

EAU CLAIRE, WI - We’ve been hearing a lot in the news lately about our health. Just last week, I found myself in many conversations with healthcare professionals talking about ways to improve the health of our community – and no, I’m not only talking about keeping our communities safe by preventing the spread of coronavirus.

Throughout my conversations with caregivers, nurses, health professionals and researchers, we identified prominent issues affecting the state of public health in Wisconsin. While discussing issues, from surprise medical bills to the nursing shortage to the opioid epidemic, I started to think about how we’re all connected to these issues in one way or another.

Although we may not be directly impacted by these health challenges in our personal lives, they affect our community in significant ways. Collectively, our state has a role to play for addressing public health challenges and making our communities healthier for all. Our capacity to empathize with others has the ability to save lives.

medicaid-coverage-wiscLast week, I attended the UW Robert La Follette School of Public Affairs Health Policy Forum. The forum highlighted public health challenges facing Wisconsin including the long-term care workforce shortage, patient protections and housing affordability. I had the opportunity to participate as a panelist with three rural health experts to discuss strategies that can help solve the unique healthcare struggles facing rural Wisconsin.

The real value of the panel was listening to the health professionals who live within the communities they serve. Being around incredibly smart people in the medical field could be intimidating, but I found their concerns and potential solutions were similar to what I’ve heard from residents of rural western Wisconsin.

For example, we agreed Wisconsin must join other neighboring states by investing in broadband expansion to advance access to rural clinics and health professionals. This idea is also something I’ve heard many times from residents of western Wisconsin. Broadband expansion has been a boon to our neighboring states’ rural communities in sustaining a strong economy and improving telehealth availability for the elderly or patients who may face difficulties in traveling. It only makes sense.

jeff-smithAfter the panel, I met a physician with years of experience in improving healthcare delivery, continuing his mission to help health systems provide the best care to their patients. During our conversation, he reminded me about Wisconsin’s significant drop in healthcare outcomes. According to the 2019 United Health Foundation’s Annual Report, Wisconsin ranked 7th nationally for healthcare outcomes in 1990. In 2019, we’ve fallen 16 spots to 23rd. By comparison, Minnesota only dropped from 2nd to 7th and Illinois increased their rank from 24th to 29th in the same time period. Republicans have not found the political will to expand Medicaid, while neighboring states have, it’s not a coincidence this has been the result.

We have a responsibility to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin. For each month that Republicans refuse to act, Wisconsin wastes approximately $13 million in state funding to pay for other states’ Medicaid programs. Over the next two years, Wisconsin would save $320 million, while lowering premiums for private insurance holders by 7 to 11 percent.

I’ve noticed lawmakers or individuals in positions of power don’t take action unless they are directly or severely affected. During the public health forum, many healthcare professionals pointed out, more than once, that Wisconsin has a serious opioid addiction problem.

The opioid epidemic, affecting individuals, families and communities across the country, is not new to Wisconsin, but it has become considerably worse in recent years. It wasn’t until legislators personally knew someone or knew a family affected by the opioid epidemic that action was taken. We should never wish such pain on any family, but we ought to develop empathy for others and collaborate to address public health challenges, before we may have to experience it for ourselves.

Let’s think ahead and think about others. We should use our empathy for decision making so we can find our way out of this black hole of inaction. It’s lifesaving.

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