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: 4.6.2020

April 6, 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 6, 2020)

Total people with negative results: 26,574 (+1,405)
Total people with positive results: 2,440 (+173)
Hospitalizations: 668 (+44) or 27%
Total deaths: 77 (+9)

TODAY’S COURT RULINGS IMPACTING APRIL 7 ELECTION
BREAKING: U.S. Supreme Court Issues Decision Overturning District Court Order Extending the Deadline for an Absentee Voter to Mail an Absentee Ballot
On the heels of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Order reinstating in-person elections tomorrow (see story below), the United States Supreme Court late this afternoon issued a Decision overturning a District Court Order extending the deadline for an absentee voter to mail an absentee ballot. 

The Court’s Decision reinstates the requirement that absentee ballots be postmarked or hand-delivered by April 7 to count. By virtue of its ruling, the Court also invalidated the District Court’s prohibition on clerks reporting any election returns prior to 4:00 p.m. on April 13. The following is a summary of the Court’s ruling:  

“In this Court, all agree that the deadline for the municipal clerks to receive absentee ballots has been extended from Tuesday, April 7, to Monday, April 13. That extension, which is not challenged in this Court, has afforded Wisconsin voters several extra days in which to mail their absentee ballots. The sole question before the Court is whether absentee ballots now must be mailed and post-marked by election day, Tuesday, April 7, as state law would necessarily require, or instead may be mailed and postmarked after election day, so long as they are received by Monday, April 13. … Therefore, subject to any further alterations that the State may make to state law, in order to be counted in this election a voter’s absentee ballot must be either (i) post-marked by election day, April 7, 2020, and received by April 13, 2020, at 4:00 p.m., or (ii) hand-delivered as provided under state law by April 7, 2020, at 8:00 p.m.”

Wisconsin Supreme Court Issues Order Reinstating Tomorrow’s In-Person Elections
The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an Order late this afternoon reinstating tomorrow’s in-person elections and invalidating those parts of Governor Evers’ Executive Order #74 postponing the election. 

As indicated in the Order, the provision of Executive Order #74 ordering the Legislature into a special session commencing tomorrow (April 7) was upheld, but the balance of Executive Order #74 was enjoined. 
We at the Association will keep you apprised of any further developments. 

QUESTIONS

  • As always, do not hesitate to contact WCA with questions at 866.404.2700 or von Briesen’s Andrew T. Phillips via email.

ASSEMBLY REPUBLICANS ASK GOVERNOR TO PRIORITIZE FUNDING LOCAL GOVERNMENTS WITH FEDERAL ASSISTANCE DOLLARS
Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and his Assembly Republican colleagues sent Governor Evers a list of priorities for the $1.9 billion in federal assistance from the CARES Act that will be given to Wisconsin in the coming weeks.
The letter, which was delivered to the Governor’s Office late Friday, stated, “Because of the seriousness of this pandemic, we believe in the importance of setting aside partisan differences and working together. We hope you believe the same.”

The letter asks the governor to set the following priorities:

  • Needs of hospitals and healthcare facilities
  • Safeguards for business owners and workers
  • Assistance to local governments

UPDATED: Q & A FOR COUNTY EMPLOYEE UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE BENEFITS UNDER THE CARES ACT
On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) to provide nearly $2 trillion of support to families and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to economic aid, the CARES Act expands unemployment insurance benefits (“UI benefits”) through the Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act. For purposes of this Q & A, the most relevant of the benefits provided by the Act is the availability of an additional $600 per week in UI benefits to a qualified individual in addition to the amount paid under existing State law. Importantly, the UI benefits are available to public sector employees in addition to private sector employees.  

The Association and its general counsel von Briesen & Roper, s.c., have received many questions regarding county employee eligibility for the UI benefits under the CARES Act. Many of the questions relate to the interaction of the enhanced benefits with a partial reduction in hours (furlough or layoff). Decisions counties make concerning its workforce are critically important and counties are rightfully reviewing all options.  

NOTE: Over the weekend, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) issued Letter No. 15-20 providing guidance on these programs. Clarification has been provided for the following question. The answer has been updated to reflect these rulings.
Q:     Will employees who receive STC benefits also receive the $600 benefit?A:      Per guidance issued by the DOL on April 4, 2020, employees will be entitled to receive STC benefits in addition to the $600 benefit discussed above.

CONNECTING ESSENTIAL WORKFORCE FAMILIES WITH AVAILABLE CHILDCARE
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is excited to launch two new tools to help connect essential workforce families to local, safe child care. Healthcare workers and essential employees are now able to submit a request for care through the department’s updated Child Care Finder or proactively view up-to-date availability across the state using the department’s new child care map.
Essential workforce families are being asked to submit those requests as soon as possible, as that data is helping child care centers determine whether they are going to continue operating to meet local demand.

To request child care, essential workforce families should fill out this form. Additionally, families can search for available care at a publicly available map.
Please share with all interested parties.

PSC AND DPI RELEASE RESOURCES FOR PUBLIC WIFI; ASKING FOR ASSISTANCE IN LOCATION SURVEY
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) and the Department of Public Instruction have been partnering to gather information and resources for Wisconsin residents without home internet access. With excellent provider participation, the PSC developed an Emergency Internet Resource page you can access here.
The PSC has also developed a website that let’s users map drive-Up Wi-Fi locations throughout the state. The PSC is requesting that public Wi-fi spots please complete the below survey for each location, as it is their goal is to have 1,000 locations by the end of the week.

The PSC’s Consumer Affairs section is aiming to provide a phone number for Wisconsin residents that need assistance finding internet access or a drive-up Wi-Fi location in the next week.