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Gov. Evers signs COVID-19 relief bill into law

NOW: Gov. Evers signs COVID-19 relief bill into law

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Updated: 5:38 p.m. on April 15, 2020

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Just hours after the state Senate passed the COVID-19 relief bill, Governor Tony Evers signed it into law, capping off two days of an Extraordinary Session by the Legislature.

The legislation passed on a 31-0 vote in the Senate and a 97-2 vote in the Assembly. Sen. Lena Taylor (D – Milwaukee did not vote on the bill in the Senate because she said she was not allowed to speak during debate and democratic Reps. Marisabel Cabrera and Jonathan Brostoff – both of Milwaukee – voted against the proposal Tuesday because they said it did not go far enough to address the crisis.

Governor Evers echoed those concerns in his statement following the passage of the bill by the Senate on Wednesday.

“The bill […] falls short of what is needed to address the magnitude and gravity of what our state is facing, but I am not willing to delay our state’s response to this crisis,” Evers said in a statement.

Specifically, the governor and democrats were concerned that the legislation did not do enough to address hazard pay or worker’s compensation for first responders on the frontlines of the battle against the coronavirus. An amendment introduced by Assembly republicans on Tuesday weakened that effort.

The law does, however, allow the state to grab the more than $2 billion in federal stimulus funds as well as allow the legislature’s finance committee to allocate up to $75 million in emergency funds during the crisis.

It also waives the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits and eases some training requirements for health care workers in order to address any shortages in that workforce.

Republican leaders believe the law is a good first step in addressing the crisis.

“This bill isn’t perfect and it might be the first in a number that we are going to have to pass in the Legislature,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R – Juneau) said during the Senate’s virtual session Wednesday. “But it is timely, and I think it is well thought out and I think it will help.”

Democrats, however, believe the law has shortcomings.

“Our number one priority right now needs to be the health and safety of each and every resident,” Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D – La Crosse) said. “That is why it is disappointing that the plan before us today is limited in scope.”

Other democrats expressed outrage over the handling of Wednesday’s Senate session.

Sen. Tim Carpenter (D – Milwaukee) said he was disgusted after not being let into a room in the Capitol where some members of the Senate, including Senate President Roger Roth (R – Appleton) and the chamber’s clerk staff, were presiding over the virtual session.

Carpenter also told CBS 58 he is concerned the Legislature’s leadership may not meet again this year to address further concerns of the crisis.

“What they’re doing is a slow walk on things,” Carpenter said. “They’re not allowing much input and the fallout from that is we will not have a public health strategy that is going to save lives and save people from being sick.”

Both Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald acknowledge that more action is likely needed, but have not guaranteed the chambers will meet again.

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Published: 12:30 p.m. on April 15, 2020 

MADISON, Wis. (AP/CBS 58) — The Wisconsin state Senate passed the COVID-19 relief bill Wednesday, April 15. It will now head to Gov. Tony Evers' desk. 

The state Assembly overwhelmingly passed the legislation Tuesday in the first virtual legislative floor session in Wisconsin history. About two-thirds of the members attended the session via videoconferencing.

The bill would ensure that Wisconsin can capture the $2.3 billion coming to the state under a federal stimulus bill, including higher Medicaid payments and unemployment benefits.

Lawmakers would be allowed to allocate up to $75 million in funding.  

Gov. Evers released the below statement following the Wisconsin State Senate's passage of COVID-19 response legislation and sent a letter calling for the bill to be sent to his desk immediately:

“My pen has been waiting for weeks to sign legislation that guarantees Wisconsin will capture our fair share of federal dollars under the CARES Act and ensures workers experiencing unemployment and underemployment won’t be forced to wait an extra week for needed benefits to kick in. This bill is finally a step in the right direction, but there is much more work to be done. 

“Although I remain concerned about what is missing from this legislation I have called for this bill to be sent over for my signature as soon as possible. The bill I will sign falls short of what is needed to address the magnitude and gravity of what our state is facing, but I am not willing to delay our state’s response to this crisis. 

“This bill does not provide hazard pay or workers compensation for all frontline and critical workers like first responders, childcare providers, and healthcare workers who are risking their lives going to work every day. This bill lacks meaningful support for small businesses and farmers who are struggling to make ends meet and includes no additional investments in our businesses or farmers through WEDC’s successful 20/20 program. 

“Our state is facing significant challenges as we respond to and prevent the spread of COVID19. The bottom line is that we have to do everything we can to keep our families, our neighbors, and our communities safe while also looking towards our economic recovery. People across our state are hurting. We have asked Wisconsinites to make sacrifices so we can keep them safe, and the Legislature needs to do their part.

“My administration has been working to do as much as we can to respond to COVID-19 but we need to have the flexibility and resources to be able to provide necessary support for the people of our state. It’s clear that more legislation will be needed to meaningfully address COVID-19 in Wisconsin and help workers, families, businesses, and farmers.”

Read the letter here: 

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