COVID-19 UPDATES FOR COUNTY OFFICIALS

As issues continue to develop and change at a quick rate with COVID-19, the Coronavirus, we at the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) are working alongside Governor Tony Evers, the Administration, the National Association of Counties (NACo) and our general counsel, von Briesen & Roper, s.c., (von Briesen) to provide the latest resources and updates to assist county officials during this unprecedented time.

COVID-19 Daily Update: 4.20.20

April 20, 2020

COVID-19 DAILY HEALTH UPDATE
(Information from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) current as of 1:00 p.m. Central, Monday, April 20, 2020)

Total people with negative results: 46,603 (+1,280)
Total people with positive results: 4,499 (+153)
Hospitalizations: 1,211 (+21) or 27%
Total deaths: 230 (+10)

WCA REQUEST TO GOVERNOR EVERS TO PROVIDE LOCAL FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO WISCONSIN’S 72 COUNTIES
Today, the Wisconsin Counties Association sent a letter to Governor Evers, outlining requests for local financial assistance to Wisconsin’s 72 counties.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act appropriates $150 billion to state, local, and tribal governments. The funds appropriated are to be used for expenses incurred in response to the public health emergency between March 1 and December 31, 2020.

The National Association of Counties (NACo) has indicated the U.S. Treasury Department (Treasury) will be issuing guidance on the use of these funds in the near future. Of the $150 billion CARES Act allocation, Wisconsin is expected to receive an estimated $2.3 billion.

GOVERNOR EVERS ANNOUNCES BADGER BOUNCE BACK OUTLINING CRITERIA FOR REOPENING ECONOMY
Gov. Tony Evers today announced Wisconsin’s “Badger Bounce Back” plan which outlines important criteria for Wisconsin to be able to reopen its economy in phases and includes steps to make sure workers and businesses are prepared to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

In coordination with this announcement, at the direction of the governor, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm issued Emergency Order #31 establishing the process and outlining the phases of the plan. The emergency order is available here.

“As we’ve learned over the past month, in the most difficult of circumstances, Wisconsinites will rise to the occasion, helping each other and working together to do what’s best for our families, our neighbors, and our communities,” said Gov. Evers. “That’s what the Badger Bounce Back is all about: our resilience as a people and as a state. I am excited and hopeful about this plan. While being safe at home continues to be important, this plan is an all-out attack on the virus and it begins the process of preparing our businesses and our workforce for the important planning that will result in the safe and logical reopening of our economy.”

The Badger Bounce Back plan is informed in part by the President’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again that was issued by the White House on April 16, 2020. Currently, Wisconsin does not meet the criteria the White House established to start reopening our state. The Badger Bounce Back plan takes important steps to get the state of Wisconsin there. 

The goal of the Badger Bounce Back plan is to decrease cases and deaths to a low level, and increase capacity in our healthcare system so the phased reopening of businesses is possible. As part of that plan the state will be working to increase access to more testing and expand lab capacity. Under the Badger Bounce Back plan, everyone who needs a test should get a test. The state is setting a goal of 85,000 tests per week, averaging about 12,000 tests per day. More information on the state’s testing efforts was released earlier today, and is available for review here.

SAMPLE RESOLUTION RELATED TO ACT 185: AUTHORIZING A TAXATION DISTRICT TO WAIVE INTEREST AND PENALTIES ON PROPERTY TAX PAYMENT INSTALLMENTS
The Wisconsin Counties Association and its general counsel, von Briesen & Roper, s.c., have received many questions surrounding Act 185 and property tax implications. Our general counsel has prepared this sample resolution related to this aspect of Act 185 based upon requests from our county membership.

This information should be reviewed carefully with corporation counsel to ensure county compliance with other applicable laws and regulations, including its own policies and procedures.

Q AND A RELATED TO ACT 185: AUTHORIZING A TAXATION DISTRICT TO WAIVE INTEREST AND PENALTIES ON PROPERTY TAX PAYMENT INSTALLMENTS
On April 15, 2020, Governor Evers signed 2019 Wisconsin Act 185 (“Act 185”) into law, with an effective date of April 17, 2020. Act 185 provides a number of relief measures addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One relief measure that particularly impacts counties is the provision in Section 105(25) of Act 185 that allows a taxation district (city, village or town) to waive interest and penalties on property tax installment payments due on April 1 or after so long as the payments are made on or before October 1. 

The waiver is only available if both a county and a taxation district adopt a resolution authorizing the waiver. Importantly, if a county adopts a resolution authorizing the waiver, the August 20 settlement is not for the full amount of taxes owed each taxing jurisdiction (every entity authorized by law to impose a tax), but only those amounts actually collected by July 31. As one might imagine, a delay in property tax installment payments and the statutory August settlement impacts other statutory deadlines and requirements.  

The Wisconsin Counties Association and its general counsel, von Briesen & Roper, s.c., have received many questions surrounding Act 185’s implementation. As well, the Association has engaged in extensive discussions with our counterparts at the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and the Wisconsin Towns Association, as well as the Department of Revenue. 

Our general counsel has prepared the Q & A below to provide information related to Section 105(25) of Act 185. Based upon the discussions with the Department of Revenue, the Association expects the Department to agree with the analysis below. The Association would like to thank the League and Towns Association for their work in collaborating on the analysis.  

JOIN NACO CALL TUESDAY FOR UPDATE ON COUNTY PRIORITIES
Please join the National Association of Counties (NACo) Tuesday, April 21 at 4 p.m. EDT for an update on county priorities in federal coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts. 
Hear from U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, who will discuss new federal resources available for county residents and new requirements for counties governments as employers due to recently enacted COVID-19 response legislation.