Gov. Evers signals another COVID-19 relief bill is unnecessary as federal funds head to the state

NOW: Gov. Evers signals another COVID-19 relief bill is unnecessary as federal funds head to the state

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Another COVID-19 relief bill for the state is unlikely after Governor Tony Evers signaled it's not necessary as billions in federal aid will head to Wisconsin after President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law.

Wisconsin will receive $5.7 billion from the $1.9 trillion colossal bill approved by Congress and signed by President Biden this week to provide money for vaccines, small businesses, unemployment benefits and schools. 

With federal funding and proposed budget initiatives to address COVID-19 expenses, Gov. Evers said he’s not urging lawmakers to put another relief bill on his desk. 

“I think in combination of what we’re doing in our budget and what the federal government is proposing to do is a good match,” Evers said.

For months, Evers urged lawmakers to approve relief for the state in respond to the pandemic, but he's now hitting pause on the idea. 

He vetoed a COVID-19 relief bill last month which included $100 million for COVID-19 expenses, liability protections for businesses, a ban on closing places of worship during the pandemic and a proposal to not require employees to get vaccinated among other things. 

Evers did sign into law protections for businesses from lawsuits related to COVID-19 after the proposal was incorporated into a package of bills to begin updating the technology used at the Department of Workforce Development to process unemployment claims. 

Most of the other proposals are now being considered as standalone bills, but a majority of them are opposed by Evers and could face a veto if approved by the Legislature. 

“There are still some odds and ends we had to agree to with the leaders that might be helpful to move forward, but I look forward to using our budget as COVID relief also, to moving us to a better place,” said Evers. 

Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) last fall said he didn’t believe there was a reason to pass another relief bill and still stands by those comments as more federal funding is on its way. 

“I don’t see that there’s anything significant that if we don’t get one passed at this point,” Kapenga said. “Things keep changing, maybe 10 months ago we thought it was important and now that we’re 10 months down the road, there are a lot of things that are no longer significant.”

Evers has control over how the federal funds are spent. Republicans are attempting to pass legislation to have a say where the money goes, but if it passes, it will likely face a veto.

“With federal funds coming in, to try and direct it towards pet projects, it’s not the right time to slow it down,” said Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee). “We want to get the recovery moving as quick as we can.”

The Republican-led budget committee will have a say in how the next two-year spending plan is crafted, which is another resource the Legislature can use to help the state post-pandemic. 

“This is a chance to address the to-do for the state so we’re ready for whatever is thrown at us,” Larson said.

While it’s unlikely, at least for now, the Legislature will craft another stimulus bill in response to COVID, health care and education are top of mind of lawmakers for the remainder of the year. 

“We’re going to see long-term detrimental impacts of the policies that took place, and I believe education will be the largest thing we have to focus on,” Kapenga said.

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