As many of you know, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the extension of the Safer at Home order. The ruling took effect immediately, meaning that the state can no longer tell businesses when to operate, how to operate, or what services they can offer. For the many business owners that have contacted me worrying about their state licenses, this can no longer be held over your head by the state.
However, local health departments do have the authority to issue their own rules. If Barron, Washburn, or the surrounding counties wish to enact some rules, such as limiting the size of gatherings, they have the right to do so.
Barron County has been working on a local plan of how keep the community as safe and healthy as possible and they expect the plan to be ready by Tuesday, May 19th. Washburn County is encouraging residents to continue practicing social distancing and hygiene measures as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. This means washing hands, limiting gathering sizes, wearing face coverings, and maintaining 6 feet of space from others when outside your home. Additionally, they are encouraging businesses to follow guidelines developed by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) for reopening safely.
Right now the legislature is reaching out to the Governor once again, to ask him to negotiate with us on setting some new parameters. Unfortunately, Governor Tony Evers wanted to wait until after the Supreme Court decision.
It is important to remember that regardless of what rules may come out of Madison, we should all take practical and common sense measures to protect ourselves and our families. If you want to wear a mask in public, please do. If you don't feel safe going into a business that is now open, don't go. And most importantly please respect the fact that there are people in our community who are struggling to walk the fine line of keeping themselves safe and paying their bills.
We've been lucky to not have many cases in our neck of the woods, but that doesn't mean the numbers won't increase in the future. Again, please use common sense as we work to find a balance between protecting our health and safety and restoring the financial well-being of others.
As the information is always changing in our current world, I wanted to reach out to provide you with some up-to-date resources that could help your family and businesses.
Should I Get Tested?
With the Badger Bounce Back Plan, testing should be done on everyone who has symptoms of COVID-19. You can either contact your doctor and ask to be tested or find a community testing site. The Department of Health Services created an interactive map which displays the current COVID-19 community testing sites throughout the state. The map is updated daily and includes hours and contact information for the site. You can find the map here.
State of Wisconsin information: https://evers.wi.gov/Pages/Home.aspx
Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus checks from IRS): https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payments
Unemployment Benefits: To begin filing for unemployment, go to https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uiben/ and click on "Apply for Benefits Online." The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) also has a "Handbook for Claimants" which may be able to answer any questions you have about if you qualify for unemployment insurance. DWD advises applying online as their call center has been overwhelmed with calls as of late.
Seeking New or Temporary Work: The Wisconsin Job Center has an up-to-date list of jobs available in various occupations. You can view the list of in demand jobs here. They do have a reminder though that some of these jobs may not be considered essential.
Essential Workforce Child Care: The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has launched a new web form that allows essential employees to request child care services. They have also provided a map-based tool for parents looking to seek child care during this time.
Pandemic EBT: Families with children who normally get free or reduced price school meals will get temporary food benefits in place of school meals. The benefits will be put on a QUEST card or P-EBT card and can be used like a debit card to buy food. Schools should be reaching out to families who are eligible, but you can also find out more information here if you need to apply.
Local Resources: Workforce Resource Inc. provides information on resources that are available to those who have been laid off. Services are provided through federal and state programs including FoodShare Employment & Training, Wisconsin Works, Affordable Care Act, Senior Community Services Employment Program, Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act, YouthBuild, and Independent Living. You can contact them at 855-792-5439 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL): SBA will begin accepting new EIDL applications on a limited basis only to provide relief to U.S. agricultural businesses. Find more information here. Additionally, the Wisconsin Small Business Development Network is helping small businesses apply for the federal disaster loans.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): PUA may be available to individuals who became unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and are self-employed, do not have sufficient work history to be eligible for regular unemployment, or have exhausted other forms of state and federal UI benefits. Find how to apply here.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): An SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the pandemic.
Small Business 20/20: Businesses with 20 or fewer employees who work with a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) may be eligible for up to $2,000 over two months to cover costs of rent, payroll, and utility bills to provide relief for fixed monthly expenses. Businesses apply for the grant through their CDFI. Find more information here.
The WEDC also put out a guide for small businesses to help them navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find that guide here.
Momentum West has put together some economic development educational materials and will be holding webinars in the coming days.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has put together a toolkit for farmers and agricultural businesses to use as they see the impacts of this pandemic.
West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and Regional Business Fund (RBF), Inc: Assistance available for Barron, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Polk, and St. Croix counties. They have a COVID-19 Resource webpage to help businesses navigate the changing resources. The RBF also has funding programs available to help businesses.
Barron & Washburn County Economic Development Corps.: The Barron County and Washburn County Economic Development Corps. are continuously updating their Facebook pages to reflect the latest updates from the federal government and state government with what resources are available.
The Wisconsin Small Business Development (WSBD) Network is helping small businesses apply for the federal disaster loans.
Federal Resource Guide:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has put together a Federal Rural Resource Guide which is broken down into type of customer, type of assistance needed, and state and local resources available. You can find the guide here.