COVID-19 Update Webinar with Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald, Assembly Speaker Vos, and Association Leaders
Below are notes from a webinar hosted by WMC with guests, Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald, Assembly Speaker Vos, and Association Leaders.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald
- They are working to address the issues and working with the Evers Administration
- Senators are maneuvering and developing strategies to help their constituencies
- Pleased to see that Congress has acted and the federal stimulus package should get to Trump’s desk soon
- Republican leadership has been holding regular meetings each day with Governor Evers Administration
- They are also coordinating with state agencies to see what should run through the legislature and what shouldn’t.
- Their focus is being responsive and responsible while listening to medical expert guidance and making sure the economy is not negatively impacted.
- Military mentality adopted during this period of “mission first, people always.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos
- They understand what businesses are going through and want to make sure resources get to those who need them.
- It is necessary to connect people in need of work with jobs that are in demand.
- Drastic increase in unemployment claims this week.
- State legislature’s goal is to not duplicate federal relief plan, but to complement it and find the cracks that need fixing. The Federal Stimulus package will help, but it is not perfect.
- Did not have input in the way that the Safer at Home Order was designed, but is thankful for people complying with it
When will the legislature come back to work on legislation?
- The Senate did a practice run of virtually meeting yesterday with staff remotely pretending to be senators voting.
- The Senate is looking at meeting virtually for multiple reasons:
- They do not want to leave out constituencies if a Senator would be unable to participate due to COVID-19 risk
- Other bodies across the country have met and potentially spread COVID-19 or left representatives out of voting because of it
- A large number of senators and staff on the floor would pose a risk due to COVID-19
- The Assembly is moving more slowly than the Senate with their preparations for this:
- If they can gather together safely, they will
- The main goal is ensuring the continuation of a functioning democracy
April 7th election?
- Credit to Governor Evers maintaining the April 7th date, we need to have this election
- There are local offices like County Board whose terms are expiring, so changing this would alter their terms
- Democracy needs to continue, no matter how great the crisis
- Hopeful that Governor Evers will maintain his position
- Early voting has been happening, and there have been many absentee ballots requested
- A change to the election date would impact the over 100,000 people who have already voted
- Governor Evers and others have discussed all mail balloting instead of in-person
State Legislative Package?
- The Governor has a lot of power right now during the emergency declaration to act unilaterally
- The legislature isn’t looking at a big expensive package
- Their goal is to make sure the bureaucracy doesn’t get in the way
- They are working on stuff, but they are not ready to reveal it
- State leaders are optimistic that the current situation won’t last but are tuned into healthcare providers. There has been and will continue to be a give and take with the administration and Republican legislature.
Midwest Food Products Association President Jason Culotta
- There has been a record level demand for food products
- Production has increased
- Less sales into food service, more into retail
- Pleased that the order allows food production to get what they need to continue their work from other businesses
- Permitting exceptions and changes from the DOT have been very helpful to make sure trucks and drivers are equipped to do their job and handle increase in production
- Planting and Vegetables
- Set to have another wet spring, but it should be less severe than last year. We’ve got plenty of supply currently so that is not a concern
- Workforce concerns
- Food processors are playing a critical role, so we need to have our healthy workers show up to work
- Reliance on seasonal and migrant labor, so they will need to make sure that there aren’t issues with folks coming here from places like Texas.
Wisconsin Grocers Association President & CEO Brandon Scholz
- They’ve been feeling the impact of hoarding and stockpiling
- Supply lines – they are now in good shape
- Retailers are getting trucks on a daily basis
- Grocers have product and are meeting the highest demands they’ve experienced. There will still be gaps in some products that they have at times
- The hoarding and stockpiling of the past week was the first major run they’ve experienced, and they are wary of a second
- Their suggestion to people
- Make a plan, make a list, buy what you need for a week then come get it and they’ll have stuff
- Continue clean practices once home from grocery store
- Safety and staffing – Their staffing levels are in good shape, grocery workers have not been testing positive for COVID-19 thus far, and proper precautions and cleaning are happening daily.
Pre-orders and calling ahead?
- Online ordering has ramped up to unprecedented levels
- It will take a couple days to get delivered and pick up times could be delayed a couple days too
- It is great if people can do this wait to reduce exposure
Wisconsin Hospital Association President & CEO Eric Borgerding
- They are appreciative of the efforts that businesses have made to help with things like PPE shortages
- Watching Washington DC closely for their relief package
- Fiscal support for the healthcare system
3 Tools to address and limit the spread
- Protecting our front line healthcare workers is vitally important
- Still low on PPE, starting to get some reinforcements from federal stockpile
- There is more right now going to the states that are under siege
- Testing Capacity
- Critical to get a better gauge and handle on the spread (rate, effects)
- Important to figure out if someone is COVID positive to make sure they take the right steps
- Testing capacity has been more limited in Wisconsin, but places like Gundersen are increasing their testing capacity
- Materials to process the tests are necessary, some places had to eliminate drive-by tests because they didn’t have the processing capacity
- Working with Government
- Have needed broad and rapid waivers of regulations that stand in the way of expanding capacity to address COVID-19
- Identifying and implementing waivers has been crucial
Wisconsin Restaurant Association President & CEO Kristine Hillmer
- Restaurants have been hit hard, this is an extinction level event
- 1/3 Restaurant businesses
- 1/3 are already closed, trying to preserve funds for a possible reopening
- 1/3 are still operating but on a shoestring budget
- 1/3 are holding their own through this
- Huge impact on staff, sales, tourism sector and much more
- Example of one restaurant that has closed within the week and is looking to sell their equipment just to survive this
- Necessary to get cash to businesses and people
- Fees need to be delayed
- Need to address the unemployment
- They have been in communication with the Governor’s Administration and departments to get through this