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: 4.8.2020

April 8, 2020

COVID-19 DAILY HEALTH UPDATE
(Information from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) current as of 1:00 p.m. Central, Wednesday, April 8, 2020)

Total people with negative results: 30,115
Total people with positive results: 2,756
Hospitalizations: 790 (29%)
Total deaths: 99

STATE CALL TO ACTION: CONTACT YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS TODAY REGARDING COUNTY COVID-19 PRIORITIES & FUNDING
Negotiations are currently taking place among legislative leaders regarding an upcoming floor session of the Wisconsin State Legislature to address COVID-19 issues. 

It now appears the legislature could convene sometime next week.
Late this afternoon, a summary of potential legislation to be taken up next week was released and can be found here. WCA is reviewing the legislation and is communicating with the Governor and legislative leaders on the proposal. Learn more here.

In preparation for a floor session, WCA requests all county officials reach out to their respective legislators and request that county governments and services be prioritized in any future legislation. Counties are at the forefront of the COVID-19 epidemic and require additional resources. A letter was sent from WCA to the Governor and legislative leaders yesterday and can be used by county officials when making their request to legislators.

While Congressional action in Washington, DC will result in additional federal funding for Wisconsin, many of the federal funds are earmarked for specific purposes and may not reach counties. Both federal and state support is needed to ensure counties can continue providing public health and safety services during these unpredictable times.
WCA Requests to Governor Evers, Speaker Vos, and Majority Leader Fitzgerald:

  • State funding to assist counties in covering costs associated with health, human services and emergency personnel, specifically their significant overtime costs. 
  • State funding to assist counties in covering costs associated with PPE purchases. 
  • State funding to offset dramatic increases in county public health department costs. 
  • State funding to assist counties in covering costs associated with purchasing remote work equipment for emergency personnel and other essential employees. 
  • State funding to assist counties with significant cost overruns in nursing homes and jails. 
  • Changes to state statute to allow WRS retirees to return to work (on a temporary basis) without having to suspend their annuity. 
  • Changes to state statute to eliminate the 75-day waiting period for WRS retirees before they can return to work. 
  • Creation of a state fund—in place of county worker’s compensation coverage—to provide income continuation during a period of isolation or recuperation relating to COVID-19. 
  • Providing temporary immunity from civil liability to certain health care facilities (including local government facilities used as temporary health care facilities) and certain health care providers for the provision of healthcare services related to COVID-19. 
  • Authorize counties to borrow funds for purposes of funding cash flow and operational needs. 

If you have any questions, please contact WCA Director of Government Affairs Kyle Christianson via email or at 608.219.3574.

FEDERAL CALL TO ACTION: CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSMAN TO COSPONSOR BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO MAKE STATE AND COUNTY GOVERNMENTS ELIGIBLE FOR EMERGENCY PAID LEAVE PAYROLL TAX CREDITS
Deadline for Original Cosponsors – Monday, April 13 at 12:00 PM
It has been requested that we contact our Wisconsin’s Congressional Delegation and ask them to cosponsor bipartisan legislation to support state and local governments facing unprecedented fiscal pressures due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The legislation would make state and local governments eligible for payroll tax credits for emergency paid sick and family leave.

FEDERAL CALL TO ACTION: SUPPORT EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE TO STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
Deadline to Sign on April 9 at 12:00 PM
It has been requested that we contact our Wisconsin’s Congressional Delegation and ask them urge leadership to provide additional funding and flexibility for the State and Local Coronavirus Fund by signing onto a letter:

Q & A: CONSIDERATIONS FOR COUNTIES UNDER THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR’S FINAL REGULATIONS IMPLEMENTING THE FFCRA
On April 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”), Wage and Hour Division issued final regulations for implementing the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (“EPSLA”) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (“EFMLEA”) to assist working families facing public health emergencies arising out of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) global pandemic. Both the EPSLA and the EFMLEA are provided for under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) and became effective on April 1, 2020.

The Association and its general counsel von Briesen & Roper, s.c., have received many questions regarding employee leave eligibility and employer requirements under the FFCRA. Our general counsel has prepared the Q & A below to provide information related to common questions and issues faced by counties as employers based on the DOL’s final regulations.

This Q & A updates and supplements previous guidance from the Association.  This information should be reviewed carefully with corporation counsel to ensure county compliance with other applicable employment laws and regulations.

Read Q & A: Considerations for Counties Under the Department of Labor’s Final Regulations Implementing the FFCRA

USDA RURAL DEVELOPMENT IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS
USDA Rural Development in Wisconsin is open for business and here to serve our rural communities affected by COVID-19. Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA Rural Development is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities and all the people who call them home during this challenging time. We have taken a number of immediate actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • Effective March 19, borrowers with USDA single-family housing Direct and Guaranteed loans are subject to a moratorium on foreclosure and eviction for a period of 60 days. This action applies to the initiation of foreclosures and evictions and to the completion of foreclosures and evictions in process.
  • Effective immediately until September 30, 2020, lenders may offer 180-day loan payment deferrals without prior agency approval for Business and Industry Loan Guarantees, Rural Energy for America Program Loan Guarantees, Community Facilities Loan Guarantees and Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantees.
  • We have extended application deadlines for our Rural Business Development Grant Program, the Rural Energy for America Program and the ReConnect Program.

To learn more about Rural Development’s COVID-19 response visit here.