Wisconsin could get at least $2 billion under coronavirus stimulus plan

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Based on their populations, Wisconsin and its largest metro areas could receive at least $2 billion from the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump on Friday, according to a new memo released by the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Most of that, about $1.9 billion, would go to the state, it said; with the remaining $360.6 million going to the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and Dane County, all of which have populations of more than 500,000.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said separately that the priorities for the money must be health care and assisting people hurt by the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Last week, more than 100,000 people in Wisconsin filed to receive unemployment benefits, according to the state Department of Workforce Development.

“Obviously, health is paramount right now. We need to be doing everything we can to increase testing capacity and … follow up with people who have tested positive,” Barrett said Saturday.

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Vos issued a statement calling on Gov. Tony Evers to spend the funds to “enhance the health care system to ensure no one goes without care” and “help those most affected by this shutdown.

“These dollars must be used to help acquire ventilators and more personal protection equipment as well as help public health departments and health care providers all over the state,” Vos said.

Efforts to reach the offices of Evers and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele on Saturday morning were not immediately successful.

The fiscal bureau memo looks at just one part of the stimulus plan, the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Additional dollars could come to the state from other portions of the bill, for example, money targeted for education.

Based on its 2019 population, the fiscal bureau said, Wisconsin could receive almost $2.26 billion through the relief fund. Because of their large shares of the state population, the City of Milwaukee could receive an estimated $102.7 million, Milwaukee County about $164.5 million and Dane County about $93.4 million.

The memo said the fiscal bureau is still in the process of evaluating the bill and that questions remain, including whether states can use the payments to fill in revenue gaps caused by the economic slowdown, reimburse the costs of the public health response, or cover expenses incurred by local governments where populations do not exceed 500,000.

Trump signed the $2 trillion bipartisan stimulus package Friday that is intended to address the threat of economic disaster posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump signed the measure — the largest stimulus in U.S. history — in the Oval Office hours after it was approved by the House of Representatives, an unusually rapid approval that underscored dire warnings of a recession as companies began to lay off workers and U.S. consumers hunkered down in their homes to avoid spreading the virus.

The stimulus package will provide $1,200 checks to many Americans — and more for families — while making available hundreds of billions of dollars for companies to maintain payroll through the crisis. It significantly expands the nation’s unemployment safety net and it directs a huge infusion of cash to hospitals and other medical facilities on the front line of fighting the pandemic.

Contact Annysa Johnson at anjohnson@jrn.com or 414-224-2061. Follow her on Twitter at @JSEdbeat. And join the Journal Sentinel conversation about education issues at www.facebook.com/groups/WisconsinEducation.

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