Iron County Progressive



Election Updates

I was saddened, angry and disappointed when Republican legislative leaders fought tooth and nail to keep the in-person election scheduled earlier this week. We should not be encouraging mass gatherings during a pandemic against the advice of every health expert in the country. Even the Wisconsin Supreme Court met remotely for safety reasons when they made the decision to keep the election going.

This is reckless - no one should have to endanger themselves or their communities to exercise their democratic right. Unfortunately, for all my constituents who live in the 7th Congressional District, there is still a special election planned for May 12th.

I have signed on to legislation to move to a vote-by-mail election. Until we get bipartisan support for voting by mail or postponing the election, the only thing we can do is request mail ballots at myvote.wi.gov. Do it now, and tell your family, friends and neighbors to request theirs ASAP. You can also select an option to receive all of your ballots for the rest of the year by mail.

I'd like to say thank you to all the village, town and city clerks who are working so hard. Thank you to all who voted by mail so far, and thank you to those who risked your health to work at the polls or vote in person. 



Hello to my constituents in Northern Wisconsin,

I wanted to provide another update concerning the COVID-19 outbreak in Wisconsin. Thank you to everyone who has contacted my office with your questions, concerns and local updates.

First, it's important to know emergency warning signs for COVID-19 and get medical attention immediately if you experience them. Emergency warning signs include*:
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
  • New confusion or inability to arouse (wake) a person.
  • Bluish lips or face.
*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your doctor or medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Of course, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. You can protect yourself and others by taking preventative measures including:
  • Avoid close contact with others and practice social distancing.
  • Stay at home as much as possible.
  • Cancel events and avoid groups, gatherings, play dates and nonessential appointments.
  • Avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people, when possible.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes and mouth when in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily (for example, tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles).
Remember, this is a community effort! You may be healthy, but this is about protecting the vulnerable and not overloading our healthcare system. We are all in this together.


As always, the best information on COVID-19 can be found at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. There is also great information to be found for all of the state of Wisconsin agencies at the governors website, govstatus.egov.com. For local updates, here are the county health departments in the 74th Assembly District:
In the meantime, stay safe, stay calm and stay informed.

Important note: The information in this update is relevant as of April 10th at 10 am. Things are moving quickly and bound to change. 


Legislative Update


My office has been getting a lot of questions about the federal CARES Act. The state legislature needs to meet before we can incorporate many of the changes from the federal bill, and we've been pushing the Republican leadership to meet for a virtual session ASAP to get the people of Wisconsin the help they need. As of Friday morning, April 10th, it looks like the Assembly will be meeting early next week, although nothing has been finalized.

In the meantime, here is a very brief overview of the CARES Act:

Direct payments to citizens
  • Those who make up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples) will receive $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples and an additional $500 for each dependent child under 17.
  • Those who make more than $75,000 but less than $90,000 ($198,000 for married couples) will receive a reduced payment that is adjusted based on your gross income.
  • Those who make more than $99,000 will not receive a payment.
  • Your payment will be based on your 2019 federal tax filing, or if you haven't filed yet this year, your 2018 filing.
  • Payments are expected to arrive within three weeks if you have direct deposit set-up with the IRS. If you do not, your check will be mailed to you.
  • Calculate if you qualify for a stimulus payment by following this link. 
  • Here is an FAQ on the stimulus payments from Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Expanded unemployment insurance 
  • Eligibility has been expanded to include self-employed and gig workers.   
  • The maximum unemployment benefit has been increased by $600 per week through July 31st. 
  • Unemployment insurance will be available for 13 additional weeks (for a total of 39 weeks, or 8.9 months, in Wisconsin).
  • The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) is waiting for guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Once they receive this guidance, they will program their systems to accommodate the changes. If you don't qualify for unemployment insurance now, but believe you will under the new program, please wait to apply. 
  • The latest information can be found on DWD's website here.
  • Here is an FAQ on expanded unemployment from Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Child care assistance for essential employees 
Support for small businesses
  • $350 billion in loan forgiveness grants to small businesses and nonprofits to pay for expenses like payroll, rent, mortgage and utilities. 
  • $10 billion for the Small Business Administration (SBA) emergency grants to provide immediate relief for small businesses' operating costs. 
  • $7 billion for SBA to cover six months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans, and six months of loan forbearance for all small businesses. 
  • View the Small Business Owner's Guide to the CARES Act here.
I will be providing more updates on this and other federal legislation and how it affects you. If you have any further questions on federal programs, you can contact your senators: Tammy Baldwin, (715) 450-3754 or send a message here; Ron Johnson, (414) 276-7282 or send a message here


As for state legislation, I sincerely hope that we will come together and pass bipartisan bills that help all Wisconsinites hurt by COVID-19, no matter their age, income or geography.

Recently, Democrats in the Assembly met (virtually, don't worry) and came up with ideas and policies we would like to see happen in response to COVID-19. Here is what we have proposed so far:

Public Health & Health Care
  • Increased funding and staffing for the Department of Health Services (DHS) and local public health departments. DHS and Wisconsin healthcare facilities need more funding to accommodate increased staffing and additional resources to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Ensure that everyone has access to quality health care. We need to remove barriers to services and resources for all Wisconsinites and mandate coverage for testing, diagnosis, treatment, and medications/vaccines in relation to COVID-19.
  • Save state taxpayer dollars by maximizing federal resources. Legislators must make changes to state law so that Wisconsin may receive a federal match for state Medicaid programs in order to save taxpayer dollars.
Unemployment Insurance
  • Suspend the one-week waiting period for Unemployment Insurance (UI). This waiting period should be suspended to bring immediate relief to our neighbors impacted by unexpected job losses.
  • Expand UI to cover workers without access to paid leave. The legislature must ensure that workers who do not have access to paid sick leave and are told to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19, even if not diagnosed, are considered unemployed and are able to access UI.
  • Expand Wisconsin Work-Share statute. Wisconsin should provide employers with the flexibility to reduce hours to allow for more workers to stay employed while allowing employees to use UI to make up for a portion of lost hours.
Housing
  • Protect business and single-family renters from eviction. It is vital that businesses and individuals who are not able to generate income during this crisis are not evicted or have their rental history negatively impacted.
Education
  • Grant additional waiver authority for DPI. DPI should be allowed to waive requirements in statutes or administrative rules to allow for flexibility on things such as mandated testing.
  • Ensuring teacher and school employee pay. Teachers and employees should continue to receive compensation at their regular rates and hours.
Supporting Small Businesses
  • Expand access to low-interest, long-term loans and grants for small businesses. Small businesses should be provided state grants and low-interest, long-term loans to retain workers, maintain inventory, and pay bills if they have been impacted by COVID-19.
  • Defer sales tax payments for small businesses. Small businesses should be able to defer sales taxes without interest or penalty in order to generate more cash flow.
  • Give local government and small businesses flexibility in meeting state deadlines. We need to allow for increased flexibility to people, businesses, and local governments to meet tax deadlines.
Elections
  • Allow absentee ballots postmarked by the day of the election to be counted. Ballots that were mailed out on time must be counted even if they arrive late due to slowed postal service that is a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Waive the witness signature requirement during the public health emergency. Wisconsin must eliminate the requirement to have a witness sign another person’s absentee ballot to increase access to voting for individuals who live alone and/or are practicing social distancing.
  • Prepare to vote-by-mail in 2020. We should put a policy in place to eliminate the need for any in-person voting for future elections by mailing every registered voter an absentee ballot.
  • Modify voter registration deadlines. Individuals should be allowed to register online up to five days before the election date to reduce the number of in-person registration.
  • Modify nomination paper requirements for candidates. Implement safer processes for collecting nomination signatures that adhere to public health guidelines.
Legislature
  • Allow legislators to communicate with constituents during a public health emergency. It is crucial that legislators continue to keep their constituents informed during this time and the state needs to rescind rules restricting mass communication with constituents.
These are many the issues we will be advocating for in the upcoming special session. If you feel there is something we need to discuss that isn't on that list, feel free to share your ideas with my office at rep.meyers@legis.wisconsin.gov


Travel Under Safer at Home Order


Under the Safer at Home order, only essential travel is permitted. This includes: 
  • Travel related to essential activities, special situations, or essential businesses and operations; 
  • Travel to care for vulnerable persons; 
  • Travel to educational institutions; 
  • Travel to return to a place of residence from outside the jurisdiction; 
  • Travel required by law enforcement or court order; and,
  • Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside Wisconsin.
Many Northern Wisconsin counties have released an order for those who have summer homes in the area - please stay where you are until the Safer at Home order is lifted. However, if you are a seasonal resident who needs to return to Northern Wisconsin, bring your own supplies and self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Please follow the emergency order and stay in your homes if you are able. Essential supplies and health care facilities are limited in Northern Wisconsin counties, and you must think of the health and well-being of those around you.


Help for Small Businesses

Small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 may qualify for Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans. These disaster loans are another step toward providing much-needed assistance to Wisconsin's small businesses during this challenging and uncertain time.

The application to the small business loan portal can be accessed here. 

The SBA disaster assistance loans are: 
  • For up to $2 million;
  • For businesses under 500 employees;
  • Low-interest (2.75-3.75%), long-term (15-30 year) loans;
  • Available and funded 21 days after a completed application is submitted.
For more information, visit the SBA website here, or contact our local Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Development Director for Ashland, Bayfield, Iron, Price, Douglas and Sawyer Counties, Lance Ausing, at lance.ausing@wedc.org or call 608.210.6824.

For those who can, I encourage you to support your local businesses and restaurants. Here are some ways you can help out small businesses in our community: 
  • Purchase gift cards to local restaurants to use at a later date. 
  • Order delivery or takeout where possible. 
  • Visit the websites of your favorite local businesses, many are offering discounts or telling their customers how they can assist. Other businesses are offering services remotely or shipping merchandise to their customers. 
  • If you're online shopping, seek out local businesses to make these purchases.
Every dollar for your locally-owned businesses will help at this precarious time. 


Mental Health


Managing your mental health is just as important as managing your physical health at this time. Isolation can be a strong trigger for anxiety and mental distress, so please, do what you can to take care of yourself. Here are some suggestions from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services:
  • Get the 3 “goods." That’s good-for-you foods, a good night’s sleep, and a good amount of exercise.
  • Relax your body. Do what that works for you, like taking deep breaths, stretching and exercising, meditation or prayer.
  • Do something you enjoy. Eat a good meal, read, create a playlist of your favorite music, play video games, or talk to family and friends.
  • Set boundaries. Don’t let the pandemic take over what you read, watch, or talk about. And don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to talk about something else.
  • Tap into technology. Reach out to family and friends, colleagues, and support groups in whatever way you can: calls, email, texting, video chats, etc.
  • Use social media wisely. Connect with the world outside via social media—but don’t overload on COVID-19 posts, and make sure the sources you follow are credible.
  • Join an online community. Now is the time to make new friends and connect with people who share your hobbies and interests.
  • Establish a routine. Staying balanced is easier when you build periods of activity and rest into your daily schedule.
  • Talk it out. Try talking about your experiences and feelings with loved ones, a trusted advisor, or a support group or mental health professional. It can help.
If you need help or someone to talk to, here are some great resources:
  • National Disaster Distress Helpline: Speak to a trained crisis counselor. Call 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: Support for people experiencing domestic violence. Call 800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Support for people in emotional distress. Call 800-273-8255.
  • Veterans Crisis Line: Support for veterans struggling to cope with life's challenges. Call 800-273-8255, press 1.
  • Caregiver Help Desk: Connect to information needed to navigate caregiving challenges. Call 855-227-3640.
Please, stay safe and be kind to yourself. 


Avoid Scammers


Please be cautious online during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Scammers are trying to take advantage of the confusion and fear surrounding the pandemic and may try to take advantage of you, your family members and your neighbors during this emergency.
  • Beware of phishing email, phone calls and texts that request personal information from you. 
  • Be wary of claims of cures or special treatments. Always verify this information with the Department of Health Services or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  • Also be aware of possible price gouging. Price gouging is generally illegal during a pandemic, and wholesalers or retailers are prohibited from selling consumer goods or services at prices that are more than 15% higher than pre-emergency prices.
  • Please report all possible scams to the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection at DATCPHotline@wisconsin.gov or (800) 422-7128 or online here


Again, please reach out to my office with any questions or concerns. Email me at rep.meyers@legis.wisconsin.gov or call at (608) 266-7690.

We are all in this together, and I have great confidence that the people of Wisconsin will rise and meet this challenge.

Be well, and thank you,