How Wisconsin Spent $2 Billion

The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) on Wednesday (Sept. 9) released the line-by-line summary of how the state has allocated the $2 billion in coronavirus relief from the federal government. The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, laid out certain guidelines for the use of money received from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), and the U.S. Treasury later issued additional guidance to states.  

Following those guidelines, the State of Wisconsin distributed all $2 billion across three broad categories through a series of aid initiatives: economic support, healthcare and related costs, and local government and education support. Highlights of the programs of interest to the banking industry are below.  

Economic Support 

Wisconsin allocated $25 million for a rental assistance program through which residents with a household income at or below 80% of their county’s median income to apply for direct financial assistance with rent or security deposit payments. Eligible residents may receive up to $3,000 in total, paid directly to landlords on their behalf. To administer the program, the state partnered with 16 local organizations across the state.  

The state supported the vital agricultural sector with a total of $65 million through the Wisconsin Farm Support Program ($50 million) and the Food Security Initiative ($15 million), administered by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). The Wisconsin Farm Support Program provided direct payments to farmers in two phases. Phase one disbursed a total of $41.6 million in payments of $3,500 each to 11,900 eligible farmers (defined as having a 2019 gross income of $35,000 to $5,000,000). With $8.4 million remaining at the conclusion of phase one, the Department of Revenue is currently administering a second phase with remaining funding for farmers with 2019 gross incomes of $10,000 or more who have not previously received a payment. Phase two payments are expected to be made by Sept. 18. 

Finally, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) used CRF funds to create the We’re All In Small Business Grant program, which provided $2,500 grants to up to 30,000 Wisconsin small businesses for a total of $75 million. The program stipulates grants may be used for any operating costs and for health and safety improvements. As of Sept. 4, 2020, preliminary records indicate that approximately $56.4 million has been distributed to 22,564 businesses in Wisconsin. 

Healthcare and Related Costs 

The state allocated $110 million for providing financial assistance to health providers, including emergency medical services, home and community-based services, and long-term health providers, such as nursing facilities and assisted living facilities. The funds distributed under this initiative are intended to help health providers cover expenses directly related to their COVID-19 responses, in addition to additional expenses such as overtime pay, changes to sanitation procedures, and disruption to standard care delivery. The program, administered by the Department of Health Services (DHS), closed its first round of applications on June 30. On Sept. 3, 2020, DHS announced that it will be opening a second round of applications, so as to provide providers with greater needs additional support from remaining funds. 

Wisconsin also directed $260 million to testing programs. Of that, $202 million will be used to provide testing kits to healthcare facilities.  

Local Government and Education Support 

The state allocated $32.3 million to support the UW system in covering costs of COVID-19 testing, with $8.3 million of that going to UW-Madison. Altogether, the system is purchasing 410,000 tests.  

Finally, Wisconsin divvied up $190 million in grants to reimburse each county, town, village, and city government in the state for unbudgeted expenditures related to COVID-19 incurred between March 1 and Nov. 6, 2020. The funds will be allocated according to each entity’s share of the state’s population, with a minimum allocation of $5,000. If a government does not use the full amount of its allocation before Nov. 7, 2020, the remaining balance will be returned to state to be used as needed for COVID-19 related local expenditures before the federal deadline of Dec. 31, 2020. 

Not included in that $190 million is grants to tribal governments. The state set aside an additional $10 million to provide grants to Wisconsin's tribal governments subject to the same usage guidelines as the grants provided to county and municipal governments. In addition, Wisconsin’s federally recognized tribal governments were eligible to receive direct payments from the CRF under the federal CARES Act. 

Read the full report here.

By, Ally Bates