From Steve Baas, MMAC Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs:
On May 13, 2020, the State Supreme Court ruled that DHS Secretary Andrea Palm exceeded her statutory authority when she extended Wisconsin’s Safer at Home restrictions. The Court’s decision declared the Safer at Home order “unlawful, invalid and unenforceable,” and required that all future statewide protocols of this sort must be done via state statute or administrative rulemaking.
While the Court’s ruling immediately removed the existing state restrictions on business and individual activity, it does not mean we have entered a phase with no health and safety restrictions. Without the state order or new state rule in place, responsibility will fall to municipal governments to decide what, if any, restrictions they want to impose in their own communities. Many communities in the region have already taken steps to impose their own local “Safer at Home” protocols on individuals and businesses. A summary of those steps is available below. MMAC will continue to monitor and post these individual local health orders on our website.
As government behavioral mandates are loosened or eliminated, a greater burden will fall on individuals and businesses to act safely and responsibly in an environment where COVID-19 risk still persists and will for the foreseeable future. By taking the COVID-19 threat seriously from the outset, our state and region are now well-positioned to begin the process of repairing the economic damage sustained over the past several months. But this is no time to let our guard down. The way forward from here is a responsible return – not to normal, but to a “new normal” that balances increased economic activity with safety measures to protect employees and customers.
Local orders include:
MILWAUKEE COUNTY – 18 of 19 municipalities, excluding the City of Milwaukee, issued a joint order that is in effect through 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, May 21.
KENOSHA COUNTY has withdrawn its local order.
CITY OF MILWAUKEE issued an updated order on Thursday, May 15.
OZAUKEE COUNTY issued a statement on May 14.
RACINE COUNTY issued recommendations on May 14.
CITY OF RACINE extended Safer at Home until May 26, and will look at a phase-in process after that.
WALWORTH COUNTY issued guidance on May 14.
WAUKESHA COUNTY issued guidance on May 14.
WASHINGTON COUNTY implemented a “blueprint to reopen” on May 14.
MMAC VP of Governmental Affairs Steve Baas joined the MCW/MMAC Daily Briefing on MKE’s Health and Economy to provide an overview of the $2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. >>Watch the briefing
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR), like the IRS, automatically extended income tax payment and return due dates to July 15, 2020. Today the department announces additional measures including immediate steps to help small businesses with sales tax payments due on March 31. Small businesses can immediately request an extension to file sales and use tax returns due March 31, 2020 until April 30, 2020 and due April 30, 2020 until June 1, 2020. >>View press release
From MMAC’s governmental affairs team, the following is a preliminary overview of a federal stimulus package that has been agreed to by the White House and U.S. Senate. Given that this has not been formally approved by both chambers of Congress, the situation remains fluid and details may change. Also, read a detailed analysis of the bill from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
- A $500 billion loan program for businesses
The biggest sticking point between Democrats and Republicans throughout the negotiations was $500 billion worth of emergency loans both for large businesses and municipalities grappling with the coronavirus outbreak. The current agreed-to version contains additional oversight provisions.
- “Unemployment insurance on steroids”
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer announced Monday afternoon that unemployment insurance will be expanded to grapple with a new surge in claims, calling it “unemployment insurance on steroids.” The new bill will increase unemployment insurance by $600 per week for four months. This money is in addition to what states pay as a base unemployment salary. This benefit would extend to gig economy workers, freelancers, and furloughed workers who are still getting health insurance from their employers, but are not receiving a paycheck.
- Expanded funds for hospitals, medical equipment, and health care worker protections
In a statement, Schumer reported to Senate Democrats that the latest bill will contain $150 billion for hospitals treating coronavirus patients. Of that money, $100 billion will go to hospitals, $1 billion will go to the Indian Health Service, and the remainder will be used to increase medical equipment capacity.
- Increased aid to state and local governments
Schumer also said about $150 billion of federal money would be allocated for state and local governments who are dealing with the impacts of the crisis in their local communities, including $8 billion for tribal governments.
- Direct payments to adults below a certain income threshold
The legislation would include a one-time $1,200 check that would be sent to most adults making $75,000 or less annually, according to past tax returns. A $500 payment would also be sent to cover every child in qualifying households. The final policy marks a significant change from the direct payments initially proposed by Republicans, which would have given less to many individuals who do not have taxable income. It now includes the majority of adults who are under the $75,000 threshold and phases the payment out as people’s incomes increase.
- Loans to small businesses
There would be $367 billion in the bill aimed at providing loans for small businesses.
The US Chamber of Commerce released this bipartisan summary of the "CARES" Act on March 25, 2020.
- Order is effective for a full month: March 25 (8 am) – April 24 (8 am).
- Similar to other state orders, requires all Wisconsinites to stay at home except for activities defined as essential. There are exceptions for which people can leave the house that are consistent with other states (going to the grocery store, going to the doctor, office, going to work for an essential company, etc.).
- List of essential businesses allowed to continue operating is consistent with what other states have done (grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, take-out restaurants and bars, media, financial institutions, critical trades, hardware stores, shipping and logistics, transportation, etc.). Also allowed to continue operating is any business identified in memo from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) detailing Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response
- Individual companies judge whether they meet the definition of essential detailed in the order. If a company concludes that it meets the definition, it can continue operating (no need to request permission or receive a designation from the State of Wisconsin or WEDC). If a company is unsure if it meets the definition or wishes to request an exception, it should consult the WEDC website
- All non-essential businesses must cease operations March 25, 2020.
Visit WEDC's webpage on essential business declaration for a detailed list.