Wisconsin has reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will deliver more than $70 million per month in federal food aid just weeks before the state was to begin losing out on the funding because the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ COVID-19 emergency order.
The deal, which Evers announced Tuesday, will ensure Wisconsin continues to receive more than $70 million in monthly food assistance benefits for more than 400,000 Wisconsin households, an increase from the roughly $58 million for 255,000 households the state has previously received each month.
The federal government made the supplemental food aid available to states with a declared public health emergency for COVID-19, which Wisconsin has had in place for most of the pandemic. But at the end of March, the state’s justices struck down Evers’ latest COVID-19 emergency order and mask mandate and barred him from declaring more without the approval of the Legislature. The Republican-controlled Legislature has not acted, rendering the state ineligible for the millions of dollars in federal aid beginning in May.
If the Wisconsin Supreme Court would have allowed the governor's emergency order to last one more full day, the increased aid would have lasted another month.
On Tuesday, however, the USDA agreed to accept a pared-back emergency declaration from state Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake that will be enough to preserve the benefits. The declaration directs DHS to continue leading the state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts; providing COVID-19 testing; assisting local health officers with contact tracing; advising the public on best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19; and conduct ongoing disease surveillance.
“More than $70 million a month means we can get support to a lot of folks across our state who are still struggling in the midst of a pandemic and need help putting food on the table,” Evers said in a statement. “I’m proud we were able to work with our federal partners to come to an agreement that will ensure we can keep providing these critical resources to Wisconsinites across our state.”
DHS has been working with the USDA’s office of general counsel to find a different path to continue receiving supplemental food aid since the Supreme Court’s decision. Since March 2020, the state has received more than $500 million in supplemental nutritional aid.
The additional emergency food aid meant household benefits lasted 23 days into the month on average in December 2020, a boost from an average of 16 days into the month in December 2019.
Wisconsin households using the aid stood to lose out significantly if Wisconsin forewent the emergency funding.
Sherrie Tussler, executive director of Hunger Task Force, previously told reporters many low-income senior citizens who now receive $204 a month for food would see their monthly benefits drop to $16 if emergency food aid dried up.
Tussler said there were 771,186 individuals across the state enrolled in FoodShare in February.
Speaking with reporters before Evers’ announced the state’s deal with the USDA, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos suggested legislators could secure those dollars by voting to override Evers’ veto of legislation passed earlier this year by Republicans that included measures to limit the governor’s use of emergency orders and give Republicans in the Legislature authority over how the state spends future federal COVID-19 dollars. The legislation also allowed Evers the ability to pass a limited emergency order to secure federal funds for food assistance.
“I think he made a mistake in vetoing the legislation,” said Vos, R-Rochester. “I hope my Democratic colleagues will join us in voting to override the veto and I’m happy to bring that up at some point in the future, but frankly, I have not gotten any offers from the Democrats to work with us on finding a solution that goes back to say AB1 was the right answer and let’s get it done.”
It’s unclear if Republicans will still try to override Evers’ veto.
Shining stars: Meet the Madison area's Top Workplaces
Make no mistake about it: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have left painful scars. But this year’s Top Workplaces project shows that many employees across the Madison region remain resiliently upbeat and are clinging to their workplace cultures, even from a distance.
Celebrate the best of Madison’s local employers and hear top executives explain how they create and maintain their cultures of growth.
This year’s winners run the gamut from dentistry to financial institutions and engineering to software developers and many more.
Survey feedback from employees is the sole basis for determining Top Workplaces. And that feedback serves as the ultimate test of how employers are responding in the age of COVID.
This year’s top-ranked large organization, with about 590 Madison-area employees, UW Credit Union has made diversity a priority during the past few years.
Exact Sciences, which rose from a small operation to a growing force in cancer diagnostics, thrives on a workplace culture fueled by innovation, teamwork and a common enemy.
Teamwork, problem-solving and helping agents find success — however they measure it — drive the workplace culture at First Weber Realtors.
Everyone wants their pre-pandemic lives back, but the crisis revealed the value of Summit Credit Union’s strong culture.
The ability of Kwik Trip employees to manage change was important to the convenience store chain’s success during the past year, as it expanded, rolled out new product offerings and dealt with COVID-19.
Here are the other top-ranked large firms in Top Workplaces 2021, rounding out a diverse mix of some of the area’s bigger employers and featuring a range of benefits that employees are able to tap into.
The Madison-based firm, which develops mass notification software to alert employees at schools, government office and businesses to emergency situations, strives to understand what drives high job satisfaction among its employees.
WPPI Energy president and CEO Mike Peters says communication is vital to the success of the Sun Prairie-based, member-owned operation that serves 51 local electric utilities with wholesale electric power supply, utility technologies and services.
Employees at Madison-based Ascendium Education Group have adopted the values and mission of the organization and appreciate the training that keeps them on the cutting edge.
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation values humility and customer service in a culture that has buy-in from CEO Steve Jacobson to the newe…
The disruption and chaos inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic tested the stability of First Choice Dental’s workplace culture.
The Top Workplaces winners among midsize companies reflect innovative styles to building corporate cultures that their employees embrace. Here’s a look at the other winners in the mid-size category:
When the pandemic arrived, Horizon Develop Build Manage president and CEO Dan Fitzgerald was certain of one thing: His employee culture, built purposefully and over time, would carry the company through all of the disruption.
When Jack Koziol started InfoSec Institute in Madison in 2004, he felt that workplace culture was nothing more than a corporate buzzword. Seventeen years later, he knows better.
In the past chaos-packed year, revenues dipped for the downtown advertising, design and digital agency — a result of the economic mess created by the pandemic — and the agency had its first layoffs in 20 years, while its staff was scattered to complete work remotely.
Being successful in providing customers with information technology solutions and services starts with a family-centered culture based on fun, gratitude and expertise at AE Business Solutions.
The Sun Prairie-based company, which specializes in servicing and supplying components for heavy-duty, off-highway equipment through 10 service centers in the U.S. and Canada, strives for transparency.
Although winners in the small-company category reflect a variety of missions, they share a common characteristic: They have built strong workplaces that provide stand-out benefits and flexibility. Here are the other winners in the small-company category:
Among this year’s Top Workplaces, employees singled out several companies for their extraordinary efforts in important phases of workplace life, ranging from leadership to transparency.
Businesses that suddenly found themselves in the midst of a pandemic that shattered conventional ways of working quickly discovered that a strong workplace culture was vital to surviving and thriving during the crisis.
We have no idea what the extent of these changes will be or whether this whole notion of “normal” will ever find itself back into our lives.
Jim Nussle, president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association, spoke about what makes CUNA’s culture special.
Kathy Marsh, co-founder and vice chair of Musicnotes, shares her thoughts on the workplace culture at the Madison-based digital sheet music retailer.
Larry Barton, chief executive officer of Strang, talks about creating a strong culture at the Madison-based firm.
To become a Top Workplace, organizations instill in their team members a variety of values and approaches that keep their businesses thriving in the marketplace, their employees engaged and their communities strong.