MADISON - The ongoing response to the COVID-19 global health pandemic from Donald Trump and his administration plunged the nation into an economic crisis, leaving many Wisconsinites to deal with layoffs and job losses.
Now the state Republican Congressional delegation, led by U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, is opposing an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits, even as the recession drags on and unemployment rates remain at historically high levels.
"Wisconsin workers who've been laid off or lost their jobs shouldn't have to pay for the Trump administration's failure," said A Better Wisconsin Together Executive Director Nicole Safar. "That's exactly what Senator Johnson and the rest of the Wisconsin Republicans in Congress would do by refusing to extend extra federal help for unemployed workers during a recession."
As part of federal COVID-related "Paycheck Protection Program" relief legislation adopted in March, unemployed workers have been eligible for an additional $600 per month in federally funded unemployment insurance benefits. The authorization for the enhanced benefits expires in July. With unemployment remaining in double digits, an extension through the end of the year has been proposed by Democrats.
Safar noted that the crisis is even worse in communities of color, who've been disproportionately impacted by the COVID pandemic. Black unemployment and unemployment in other communities of color is significantly higher than the national and state average.
In an opinion piece authored by Senator Johnson, he claimed the additional benefits being provided to workers were "a glaring example" of the need to "reform" the program to prevent undeserving entities from receiving help. He went on to disparage Wisconsin workers, suggesting they are choosing to "stay unemployed" because of the temporary extra help they are eligible for.
Republican U.S. House Representatives from Wisconsin are following Johnson's lead. In a recent news report, they all indicated they were opposed to extending enhanced federal unemployment benefits beyond July.
Safar concluded, "It didn't have to be this way. Donald Trump dismissed the threat of COVID and delayed responding to the global health pandemic, triggering a recession that's left millions of workers unemployed or laid off. Wisconsin Republicans would make a bad situation even worse by taking help away from these same workers and their families."
KENOSHA - A Kenosha police officer wounded in a shootout last week while investigating a vehicle break-in has been released from a hospital, Wisconsin Department of Justice officials said Friday.
A release by the department's Division of Criminal Investigation identified the officer as Justin Pruett, who has been with the Kenosha police force for two years. He suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen, the Kenosha News reported.
KINGSTON, MO - Attorneys for a Missouri man accused of killing two brothers from Wisconsin are seeking to have two charges of abandoning a corpse dismissed in the case.
Garland Nelson, of Braymer, is facing the death penalty in the deaths of 24-year-old Justin Diemel and 35-year-old Nicholas Diemel, of Shawano County, Wisconsin. They disappeared after visiting Nelson's farm in July 2019 and their burned remains were later found in Missouri and Nebraska.
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin-Madison has received less than 1% of the money that Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group pledged to it two years ago amid the electronics giant's expansion plans in Wisconsin.
In August 2018, Foxconn committed $100 million to the university to help fund an engineering building and for company-related research. It gave the school $700,000 in the first year of a 5-year agreement and records show the school has received no additional money over the past year.
MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee's former police chief, who was demoted to captain in part for using tear gas against protesters demonstrating over George Floyd's death, has chosen to retire instead of staying with the department.
The city's Fire and Police Commission voted unanimously last week to demote Chief Alfonso Morales.
Commissioners criticized how Morales handled multiple incidents involving Black people, including the arrest of Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown.
Speaking Wednesday on WTMJ-AM, Morales said he's retiring because if he returned as a captain it would be at a reduced salary and would negatively impact his pension payments.
Morales also defended his record as chief.
His attorney says he and Morales are exploring a range of legal action, including filing a claim for damages.
RHINELANDER - Traffic slowed to a stand-still on Highway 8 West out of Rhinelander but not because of any accident or construction.
NATH and The Good News Project partnered for the third year in a row to host an e-cycling fundraiser.
"There's still a huge line of cars waiting to drop off their things and that's been going on since before we opened at 8. It's been a very busy and very successful fundraiser," say Rick Covin, Board Member for the Northwoods Alliance for Temporary Housing.
NATH operates Frederick's Place in Rhinelander. This is their third year partnering with The Good News Project out of Wausau to host the electronics recycling event.
"We're having anyone from the area able to bring their electronics, even vacuum cleaners, stereo systems, computers, TVs, monitors, and for a small fee which is much less than you would have to pay at the dump," says Covin.
A portion of the proceeds will go toward helping fund the shelter's operation. COVID and other complications forced NATH to cancel many of their successful fundraising events, like the Harvest Hoedown normally scheduled for October.
"While our expenses have not gone down, even gone up some, our income, which is fundraising grants, and gifts, has gone down," says Covin.
If you didn't make it Friday, don't worry! You can stop by from 9 to noon Saturady.
"We'll all be here ready to take their recyclables and all that stuff that's been gathering dust in their basement, closet, and garage, gather that up, those old electronics you have to pay through the nose to get rid of at the dump, bring 'em here, and we'll give rid of em for a small fee and it'll go to a good cause," says Covin.
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