Wisconsin Republicans announce proposals to address COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 6:09 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 20:44:48-05

MADISON — Republicans in Wisconsin's Assembly released their $100 million coronavirus relief package Tuesday.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) released the proposal Tuesday evening, after meeting with Gov. Tony Evers earlier in the day. Evers wanted a relief package about five times larger from the GOP-controlled legislature.

The Speaker adds that Assembly Republicans agreed to the proposals outlined in the document. But Republicans in the State Senate may not be on board, the Associated Press reports. Senate Republican Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said that senators had “serious concerns” about new spending in COVID-19 relief bills.

The 23-page outline of the proposed bills addresses issues from distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, how classes should be taught in schools, guidelines for state workers returning to work, funding for frontline workers and other aspects of the pandemic.

Evers and Republican legislative leaders have been increasing meetings to discuss proposals addressing the pandemic, following record numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths caused by the virus ahead of the holidays. All of Evers' major attempts at controlling the virus, such as the Safer at Home order and the mask mandate, have been fought by the GOP-led legislature since last spring.

Evers, a Democrat, argues Wisconsin's fight against the pandemic should be led by the state, while Republicans have said local municipalities and counties should come up with their own, local responses to the virus.

Vos issued a statement Tuesday, saying “After working through ideas and discussions with Assembly GOP members, we have created a robust package to address the critical needs of our state."

The Democratic Minority Leader in the State Assembly, Gordon Hintz, wrote on Twitter: "So many extremely politically divisive items at a time when we need the opposite."

"WI Republicans haven’t responded to COVID; have sued @GovEvers over his response on Covid; and now have provisions that would limit the ability of any local government to respond to Covid," according to Hintz.

The GOP lawmakers' summary of their proposals would do the following:

  • Create of a $100 million fund to respond to the public health emergency
  • Double the number of local public health staff working on the COVID-19 response
  • Offer weekly rapid antigen tests for home use
  • Continue the prohibition of co-payments for any COVID-19 tests
  • Establish legislative oversight of vaccine distribution plan
  • Provide guidelines for state employees to return to work
  • Reauthorize state employee transfers
  • Establish limited liability for schools, businesses and local governments
  • Allow for an essential family member/caregiver to visit a loved one in nursing homes in specific circumstances
  • Re-establish personal electronic computing device grants for schools ($9 million)
  • Require teacher instruction from school buildings by end of January, providing exceptions
  • Require school board approval of virtual instruction by two-thirds vote of the board
  • Provide payments to parents of $371 (half of the per pupil aid increase for the year) for students who have had at least 50% virtual instruction since September
  • Allow health service providers from other states to practice in Wisconsin
  • Require UW System to provide credit to students who assist in the COVID-19 response
  • Create of business grants for the hospitality industry
  • Require the Department of Workforce Development to eliminate the backlog of unemployment insurance claims

View the proposal in full below:

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